Worship Leading Essentials #2 – Letting Go

At last count, there was at least 25 things blasting through my mind as I led worship. Is my guitar in tune? How is the tempo? Is everyone participating? Is that guy picking his nose? Sounds like the keys missed a note. Are the vocals loud enough? What is the next song? I think I forgot the transition coming up . . . . The list never ends. Let your mind run away and you can fry yourself on the matrix of details, resulting in a less than adequate worship leading experience.

So the real question is: How do you deal with all the details and actually worship while you are leading?

  1. Close your eyes. Sometimes I have to close my eyes just to shut the room out and focus my singing and playing toward God. My eyes can find way too many distractions, which gets my mind running (is that guy leaving or going to the bathroom). It allows me to hear and feel the music, concentrate on the words, focus my attention on God and it sets an example. People see that I am not focused on the music, but on God and the are visibly encouraged to do the same.
  2. Open your eyes. It’s a delicate balance. Part of being a worship leader is loosing yourself in the worship. The flip side is not running so far ahead of people that you leave them in the dust. There have been times when I have not been paying attention and I miss the fact that there are people praying in groups around the room, or people standing, or crying. I occasionally grab a quick read of the room to make sure I am on track, then back to the focus of worship.
  3. Define a successful worship gathering. I have come out of some worship gatherings and heard band members say “Man, that was terrible.” I would wonder why they thought it was so bad. “Man, the tempo was too quick on the opening song, we blew then ending on the second song, the 4th song was sloppy and I was a bit out of tune.” So then what is a successful worship  gathering? According to my band-mates it was a gathering with good music. Not true. Music is a support to the worship experience, not an end in itself. We define a successful worship gathering by answering this question: Were people able to connect with Christ? Defining success allows us to worship. It puts it all in perspective. So, the kick drum is too loud in the monitors? Can I hear well enough to play and lead others? If so, it’s not a big deal and I get back to worship.
  4. Worship from the overflow. There have been times when I have known that I shouldn’t be leading worship. My heart just was not in the right place. I had not spent daily time in devotions, and I was nearly playing songs.
  5. Practice. The more familiar you are with your songs, the more relaxed you are. when playing the songs become second nature, It is just one less thing to worry about.
  6. Relax. The truth of the matter is that you are not in control; God is. And he is bigger than anything that might happen. Do your absolute best and have fun. If you enjoy leading, tell your face.

Realize that this will all take time. The more you lead worship, the more comfortable you get. I’m a worrier by nature and most of what I have worried about happening during a worship set never came true. May you get so lost in worship that you naturally draw other along with you and God finds your worship so appealing that he can’t help but show his pleasure, and you can’t help but smile.

Drop in for the next post as we will explore teamwork and working with a band.

[tags]worship, instrument practice, worship set, leading worship[/tags]

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9 thoughts on “Worship Leading Essentials #2 – Letting Go

  1. More often than not, the biggest problem worship leaders and musicians face is lack of preparation; both spiritually and musically. If your heart’s not right you can’t worship, and if you barely know the song you can’t relax to worship. In the desire for wanting to play every new song that hits the radio we loose the freedom that comes with really knowing a song well enough to relax while performing it. Most church musicians are amatures and can’t always just jump in and play a song well after going through it twice. They need time to get comfortable with the song. If worship leaders want musicians to worship, they have to be willing to do less new material and spend the time necessary to have a relaxed team that is both spiitually and musically ready to worship. As in most things in life, it takes discipline, hard work and sacrifice to achieve anything worthwhile.

  2. I love points 3 and 4 and 6, because the focus is not on the you, rather on God. They way I look at it, if I look at my own life and how worship in the form of music is just an extension of prayer, my best prayers come out of the times that I rely on the spirit to pray through me or for me, perhaps even intercede on my behalf. The same is in musical praise and worship: if I let the Spirit do the singing, if I let the Spirit do the guitar playing, if I let the Spirit do the crescendos and decrescendos, then I have allowed for the best praise possible, none of my own human interference–rather, Spirit praising Father.

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