As a worship leader, there has been a definite lesson to learn along the way and one that I am still endeavoring to work out in my own life to the point of mastery. It is that of not getting caught up in the performance of the “show”.
A team practices songs each week and someone arranges these songs and brings the band and vocals together to make an excellent musical masterpiece to present to God on service day. The trap is the same though for the team as well as the congregation. That trap is to get our focus somewhere other than God. If you are a musician or vocalist, you are playing or singing the songs and you want to present your best to God as well as make no unnecessary distracting bumps in the road for the congregation so that they can enter into His presence uninhibited. It can really get to the point that you find yourself so worried about getting it all right until you get the most important thing wrong. If you hit every note on cue and in tune but miss TRUE worship from your heart, you got it all wrong.
The same is true for the congregation, in that the song service has been prepared and is being performed. When the band hits those cool breaks and solos, that is not your cue to think about how much you are enjoying the “show”. It is your cue to begin to pour out your heart in an unadulterated fashion, abandoning everything around you, and focusing on His goodness. If you notice how good the band is but miss a true experience of God’s presence, then you got it wrong as well.
So what do we do about this scenario? We want to do this in excellence right? We want the congregation to enjoy worship right? Of course we do, but not at the expense of the vision to escort people to God. Here are couple of things that I recommend to keep our focus during a service:
For the Worship Team, this is where skill comes into play. It is very important for each team member to improve their skill on their instrument. You will not be able to focus on Him if you are not able to play or sing without having to give all of your mental attention to your instrument. I believe that is a reason why David was so effective on the harp as a worshiper. He was skilled. I do understand that everyone can not be at an advanced skill level on their instrument, but that is where we have to step back and say, “Am I trying to play or sing above my skill level?”. This responsibility partially relies on the leader of the team to not overload their team members, but it also lies on the member to be honest with themselves to say, I cannot pull this off and keep my focus where it belongs. There are plenty of things that I can “pull off” and make it sound well, but many of those things would require that I sweat mental bullets the whole time I am doing it and have no worship in it. That is the trap. I recommend that at whatever level you are, challenge yourself to get better. Then have the self discipline to worship within that until you can increase your skill. Team leaders, be disciplined enough to not arrange yourself right out of His presence and into a place of constant attentiveness wondering if you or your band will “pull it off”.
For the congregation member, work on developing your participation skills. “Huh?”, you may ask. Yes, become better at taking the opportunity to worship God freely from your heart instead of getting wrapped up in how good the music or vocal sounds. It is hard, especially during instrumental solos and breaks, to stay in the realm of a participator instead of picking up the hat of a spectator and placing it on your head. It is a discipline that you have to develop as you mature in worship. The key word here is opportunity. During those breaks, it is your opportunity to forget about trying to sing words from a screen that someone else has written and release your own heart in a raw state that exemplifies your love for an awesome Creator. Do not miss that opportunity.
To wrap it all up, I encourage you to all to practice these principles in the weeks to come, and see if you notice a difference in your services and lives. Reach for Him and you will not be disappointed with what you draw back in your hands.