This post is about conversations that happen while corporate singing is happening. That may sound strange at first, but I think there are three conversations happening at the same time while a worship leader is leading that he or she has to be mindful of.
- Individual - between him and God
- Leader and Congregation - between leader and congregation
- Corporate - everyone and God
1) The worship leader must first and foremost be a worshipper. If he is not a worshipper, he will not be able to lead people in worship of God. One trend inside our churches is that we find someone that can play a guitar and kind of sing and we ask them to lead. There may actually be a place for that for a season in a church, but the goal for our churches should be to find a worshipper to lead worship. That sounds like common sense - a worshipper leading worship - but that means that your best musician and best vocalist might not be your best worship leader. A church needs someone that first wants to worship Jesus more than they want a stage.
2) The leader must be able to connect with the congregation to know how they are responding. They also must know when to speak and when not to speak. This is one of the hardest conversations to evaluate. As a leader you cannot stand on stage with your eyes closed so tightly that you are clueless about what is going on with the people you are leading. Nor do you need to be so tied to a chord chart that your eyes never look up. There must be a connection with the people you are leading if you intend to lead them somewhere.
3) The final conversation is the one united voice of the congregation making much of Jesus together. It never fails that when people are in a room with other folks singing and they can hear everyone they say, “I loved that I could hear people singing!” So as songs are led, something magical happens. (You can substitute any word you like for magical. The one thing I do know is that when people sing together something unexplainable happens.) I don’t think it has to do with the lighting, nothing to do with people’s clothes on stage or the amount of people in the room. I believe the “magic” is that at least for a moment we understand that we are not alone when we sing. We sing “you are the everlasting God” not just to tell God he is everlasting but to remind each other. We sing “It is finished, hear the dying savior cry” to let our fellow believers know that because of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, they have been declared righteous and their sins are atoned for. We sing as a body of believers and we grow from that; we grow from each other. This is encouraging to the nonbeliever and believer.
When all three of these conversations are happening well at the same time, the most genuine worship happens.
As a worship leader, you are one of the few musicians that doesn’t perform. A worship leader plays weekly, but not just for people to listen. It is not for the worship leader to feel good about themselves or their musical gifts. A worship leader plays to lead people in singing songs with lyrics that have one single Person as the focus. Our lyrics tell the story of a Savior that has come to be our “great salvation”.