Dear Worship Leader,
If you were to time travel back to when I was 17 years old in Des Moines, Iowa, you would have observed a boy who was very musical. I played the piano and French Horn, sang in several different choral groups, listened to music all the time on my “boom box,” and was in a band (think symphony, not rock band).
That being said…I’m not a musician. It’s been 25 years since I’ve played any musical instruments for performance, and I don’t have a good singing voice.
That means, I’m pretty normal. And you’re not. You are a singer, you hang with singers, you study other singers, you continue to sharpen your skill as a musician and worship leader. And I’m glad you do. But there are some things I want you to know as a “normal” non-singer guy in your crowd…
1. When you don’t sing melody, I have to stop singing. Any chance of me finding the note is out the window when you aren’t singing it.
2. Even when you are singing melody, it’s difficult for me to find and stay on the note. It takes energy to try, which pulls me away from the experience. So sometimes, I just stand and listen.When I don’t sing, it doesn’t mean I’m not worshiping.
3. Sometimes the words get in the way for me. When your team of musicians jam for an extended time, without singing, that is when I enter into worship more than any other time. Do this more!
4. I know you have to stand on your feet the whole time–but that doesn’t mean I want to. I think three songs is the limit. If you are making me stand much beyond three songs, then I may be standing on the outside, but I’m sitting on the inside.
5. I know you can’t do much about this–but it’s so annoying when you have asked us to stay seated (or haven’t asked us to stand yet)–and someone in front of me decides to stand up and throw their arms in the air toward God. Suddenly, I can’t see anything. Then, of course, three more people stand, then ten, then 100. Then I’m left with the dilemma: Do I follow the direction of the worship leader and stay seated and thus look like a spiritually-cold-rebellious-dude? Or do I follow the crowd just so I can see the words? Or do I shoot a rubber band at the back of the head of the guy who put me in this position? Don’t worry, I promise not to make a scene.
6. When you tell the whole crowd to do something (i.e. “everyone raise your hands” or “everyone clap” or “everyone turn to the person next to you and say…”), it shuts me down. As a worship leader, it makes you feel good to see the whole crowd engaged in the activity of worship. But for me, it pulls me away from worship and feels rehearsed and inauthentic to respond as a puppet rather than to be who I am before God.
7. Seeing your eyes helps me worship. In a big venue, that means the cameras are getting tight shots. I know that some worship leaders believe that is man-focused and takes the attention away from our worship of God. I disagree. God resides in every follower of Jesus–I see God best when I see Him through and in another follower. If I know you, like I do the singers and band members at my church, then I am reflecting on the work of God in each of those individuals. And it helps me worship! Even if we’ve never met, I can read the authenticity and humility of your life through your eyes…and it helps me worship!
8. I know it’s a ton of work, but when you don’t know the words, it pulls me out of the experience. If I see you trying to look worshipful, but constantly relying on a screen or cheat sheet to find the next phrase–then it makes me think these words are not in your heart.
9. Your appearance matters. The appearance of the other singers and band members matters. Sometimes I’m distracted by tight clothes. Clothes that would be 100% appropriate to wear if you were in the audience–can become a distraction on stage because of spotlights, the height of the platform, or close-ups with HD cameras.
In closing, I am so grateful to you. Week-after-week you put it all out there. You know you will be criticized and looked down on, and yet you continue to come back to lead us to God. Worship is such an intimate and personal act. Every time you get up there, you dance the line between entering into personal worship and delicately leading a crowd of hundreds of different people to do the same. Every time you pick a song, you know a bunch of people will love it and a bunch of people won’t. Every time you pick an outfit to wear or decide how to comb your hair, you know a few people in the audience will be critical of your choice.
Thank you for pushing through all of the noise and making an effort to lead us to God. It is worth it.
P.S. This comes from reflections of my worship experiences in hundreds of different settings and churches. I love the way the men and women at Granger, some of them among my closest friends, lead us into worship–and these rambling thoughts are in no way directed at them.