This article has been written by Paul Baloche who has been a worship leader and songwriter for 20 years. He has a wealth of experience that we can learn from. He shows us how to keep worship center stage.
Within our American Idol/Rock Star culture, often the goal is all about having--and keeping--the spotlight. As Christians, we belong to a least-is-the-greatest kingdom that pronounces the exact opposite, and yet worship leaders must regularly wrestle with the dynamics of being onstage in front of crowds.
Even the typical "worship service" setup (platform, microphones, spotlights, etc.), for example, forces its leaders to walk dangerously close to those "rock star" elements while making sure the attention stays solely on God. There are many things that we can do to help us from being infected by our performance culture and as always we find timeless wisdom in the ancient text of scripture.
There is a Priestly model described in 1 Chronicles as “ministry to the Lord”. The Levites didn’t “lead people” in worship but instead were charged with the task of ‘singing praise to God both day and night, in the temple. They sang to the Invisible God - an audience of One. How often do we minister to God in private? Ideally, worship leading is publicly modeling what we have been doing privately. A healthy habit is to “practice” worship throughout the week by creating some alone time with God and by singing songs and prayers to Him. Often I will go into my church sanctuary by myself or with a few core members of my team and we’ll read scripture out loud, especially psalms, which is the vocabulary of worship. We’ll begin to play guitar or keyboard very simply to create a worshipful atmosphere while speaking and singing out psalms and heart-felt prayers. It may feel slightly forced at first, perhaps mechanical, but if you persist in “showing up” to bless the Lord in private, you will begin to sense more of His presence and authority in your outward, public ministry.
The other aspect of our ministry is Pastoral. Guitar players and singers are “a dime a dozen’ as the saying goes. But those who will give their time and talents in service to God and His people are rare. Jesus asked Peter, “do you love me?” Peter replied, “Yes Lord”. “feed my sheep.” Ask The Lord to give you HIS heart for the community that you serve. Before you dismiss your team from rehearsal, have them come to the front of the stage and look over the empty seats. Ask them to imagine the people who will be sitting there this coming week and encourage your team to pray for the individuals and families who will be showing up in those seats. This is a powerful exercise to help you and your team cultivate God’s heart and love for the people you serve.
I would encourage you to lean toward more of a conversational tone in your leading style as you begin your service. People don’t like being yelled at, manipulated, or artificially hyped up. Whether you lead fifty people, three hundred, or more than a thousand, aim for being as authentic and sincere as you can. We don’t have to be overly sanguine. People respond best when they sense someone being themselves. In fact I used to always pray something like this under my breathe before I walked on the platform. “Lord, at the risk of being boring, please give me the courage to be ‘who I am in You’– nothing more, nothing less.” We all battle our insecurities in different ways but practicing our ministry to The Lord and praying for the people we serve will take us a long way in distinguishing between performance and effective ministry.
Let’s determine to finish well by helping facilitate a lifelong conversation and sense of community between God and the people He has called us to serve.
Paul is the worship pastor at Community Fellowship in Lindale, Texas, and is married to Rita. His songs include ‘Open the eyes of my heart’, ‘(Hosanna) Praise Is Rising’, and ‘Our God Saves’. For more info, visit www.leadworship.com