We worship leaders are in a strange place; we have the privilege of creating a space of surrender for people to offer their hearts over to God yet our position also carries responsibilities that require our hearts to be in a place of worship before Sunday morning. And just like everyone else, we deal with the stuff of life. We deal with allergies, missing our taxes, paying bills, the emotional needs of our families, and every other thing that comes with real life.
One recent revelation that I’ve had is that if we expect to effectively lead worship every week, we have to keep short accounts with God. We cannot allow our sins to fester un-confessed and un-dealt with. Failing to do so jeopardizes our “sense of closeness” with God and hinders the excellence of worship that we are offering. While that is a great responsibility, it is also one of the great blessings of serving the Church. The fact that I have to deal with my stuff each week has been a literal lifesaver.
When we get in front of a group of people, week in and week out, who know us, who can almost read our facial expressions, who can read our hearts, we must deal with the sin in our lives. We have to cultivate a 24/7 conversation with God, turning our hearts toward Him a thousand times a day in order to be real worshipers, which in turn makes us authentic worship leaders. Whatever we’re doing, mowing the lawn or picking up the dog’s mess, we should build the habit of being preoccupied with the Lord – working at being one with Him by keeping a conversation going with Him at all times. That happens not just on Sunday morning, but everyday in our normal lives.
Worship has more to do with “relationship” than it does with “music.” And when we worship God with music, we are simply using music as a tool to help us connect relationally to a living God, to a person, a Being. It is impossible to express honest worship to a living God – sacrificing our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and our hearts to Him – and not have it affect our other relationships. Of course, we will go through seasons where life is hard or relationships are difficult. There may even be an occasional Sunday where you stand or sit before your church and you are just going through the motions. But we can’t do that for any length of time.
Prayer and Penance
In a perfect world, we would always be completely inspired and full of God and full of the Spirit, but if we lead worship on a consistent basis, there are going to be days when we struggle. That is part of life. Unfortunately, there are probably more days than we would like to admit when we didn’t take the time to get our hearts in the right place. There have been many times where I’ve been getting ready to go on the stage and thought, “Wow, this is gonna be hard” – days when I’ve come to the sanctuary spent. But those are also the days to remember that our first job is to be centered in the Father. That is our top priority. Our job is to try to help people find that place in their lives.
Of course, realizing we need to be centered and actually doing it are two different things. I find that when life has sapped me dry, right on cue at 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning, I need to grab a couple of people on the team, even if it’s last minute, and ask them to pray for me. We have to let our community know when we’re struggling – that we need to be held up in prayer. It is of utmost importance to acknowledge our emptiness to the Lord. To say something to the effect of “Lord, here I am – about to lead others in worship, and I feel so far from You at this moment, and yet I have a job to do. I don’t want to get in the way of what You want to do in the lives of these people.” I my experience, when I have brought myself before the Lord, shared my brokenness with my team, God shows up. Sometimes even in the middle of the first song. There have been times I’ve had to back off the mic because tenderness of the Lord has come upon me and filled that emptiness with His presence.
Say these words our loud – conversation and community (selah).
Lately, I’ve been chewing on those two words and asking questions like “Did our worship time feel like a conversation with a Living person – with God, or did we just contrive a precise performance? Did our time of worship foster a sense of community within the church, or are we just enabling people to have a solo ‘experience’ with God?” At the end of the day, our primary role is to help facilitate conversation and community between God and His people.