Our church is experimenting with the idea of worship leaders co-leading for the weekend assemblies (translation: church services). Basically, a worship leader with experience teams up with a worship leader with less experience. I think that the idea is to invest in the future leadership of the church.
Also, our leadership is under the impression that folks like to hear more than one lead singer sing the songs. It’s a great idea, especially if approached with the intention of mentoring / being mentored, but it does present challenges for us volunteers. The whole song selection / musician wrangling process gets much more time intensive and the potential to cross lines of communication increases substantially. Nonetheless, it was a joy to me to lead worship a few weeks ago with my friend Cathy Carter Heiser. (I first got to know Cathy as a student in The Crucible and hold her in very high regard). Two things occurred during the services that were a real stretch for me. I’ll share one of these moments in this post, I’ll save the other one for later
Communion is a weekly tradition at our church. Typically, the person leading communion shares some sort of teaching or devotional thought related to the observance. I was asked to do this. Now, I’m getting more comfortable leading worship, playing my instrument, and singing, but speaking still causes me a bit of anxiety. I knew I should do it, however, so I accepted. Here’s what happened and what I learned.
Lesson one. Be specific with communion instructions. We do communion differently throughout the different assemblies over the weekend, so we have to be mindful as to what service we’re in. Are ushers waiting for their queue to distribute the elements? Should folks come down front and get bread and wine themselves? Most importantly, should the people take the bread and cup in their own time or are we taking it together? I did pretty good on this part except for the last question. I invited folks to come down front and to the aisles to receive the elements. But then I stopped. Our worship pastor came down to the front while he was getting is his bread and wine and asked me if I wanted them to hold on to the bread and cup. Oops, I forgot that part. I got back on the mic and asked them to hold on to the elements, which set me up for a later mishap.
Lesson two. Don’t take the bread (at least not until after the whole affair with the congregation). You see, I decided that I should hold the elements and demonstrate when to take the bread and the cup. I don’t regret this, but after singing a good 25 minutes, followed by speaking in front of all the people, I found that I was pretty thirsty. What better thing to do then, than put a dry piece of bread in my mouth? And once it was in, I thought I would never get it down! In this interim time of quiet reflection thanks to my inability to swallow, Cathy, who has continued to softly play the keyboard, thinks that I must be through and starts singing the next song, which was “Overcome” (“seated above, enthroned in the Father’s love…”).
“Cathy. Cathy,” I try to discreetly say. “[throat clearing] … we still have the cup.” But she has her eyes closed and is totally in the moment (or at least in her moment). So, here I am. It’s obvious that I still have the cup in my hand. Everyone else, of course, still has their cup in their hands, because I made a big deal about not taking it yet so we can all take it together. I glance down at our worship pastor on the front row who is cracking up just waiting to see how I’m going to handle this.
I thought about taking the cup without saying anything. The good folks would probably follow my lead. I also considered gesturing to the congregation a sort of sheepish, “yeah-let’s-just-go-ahead-and-take-it” motion, but decided that this would be too flippant. (This post notwithstanding, we take communion pretty seriously). I did the only thing that I could think to do. I waited until the interlude before the pre-chorus and stepped in front of Cathy’s vocals to say “likewise, when He took the cup ….” Of course, this momentarily freaked Cathy out until she opened her eyes and put two and two together. Looking back on it, it’s pretty funny. We all recovered and the Lord was honored.
At the end of it all, the discovery was made that taking communion this way with this song works. Take the bread, sing the verse, which speaks of the sacrifice of Jesus, take the cup, and sing the pre-chorus (“all authority, every victory is Yours”). Maybe it was divine intervention. Maybe we’re just keeping it real. Maybe it was a bit of both.
What about you? Do you have any funny stories about lessons learned leading worship? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
(re-posted from Jonathan’s personal blog).