It was a dark and stormy night...I found myself in a church in central Michigan, with my friend Brian Graham,on the first of several ministry trips I took with him. Brian was an Evanglist (by calling and trade) from Darlington, England, who was living in Celina, and serving at the church I had just recently started to attend. As we were sitting in the church waiting for our ministry time to arrive, Brian leaned over to me and said, "when it's time I want you to come up and sing with me". I recoiled in horror! "Brian," I said "I can't sing." "Nonsense," Brian replied, "everyone can sing, just follow along when I start." The look in his eye told me that further discussion was pointless. The time came for us to start our part of the service, and as he always did, Brian greeted the people and then struck a chord on his old guitar and started on one of the old standard hymns he liked. Dutifully I joined him. The look on his face was priceless, 'cause you see, I really can't sing...I am unable to carry a tune, I am either sharp or flat (sometimes at the same time) and the effect is very unpleasant. It's kinda like someone is torturing a cat on a microphone that is distorting, badly. Anyway we struggled through a very short rendition of Nothing But The Blood Of Jesus, and Brian let me go sit down as he continued... And that was the last time he ever asked me to sing with him in public. Now don't misunderstand me, I love to sing in church, I sing along on the old songs, and the new songs, and I really enjoy doing it. I just don't (and shouldn't) lead, and that's where this tale is going.
Lots of things have been said and taught regarding performance vs. worship. Most of the ones I've heard kinda lean toward the side of worship first and performance second. I agree with that statement in principle, however in practice it is not always the correct path.
I have seen worship leaders who were so hung up on the mechanics of their performance that it bordered on obsessive, and it took away from the worship they were attempting to lead...the focus was on them and their performance and the people were just watching and not involved in it at all...on the other hand I've seen worship leaders get so involved with the worship aspect that after a couple of verses of some "obscure but anointed worship song, they took off and ended up just "jammin' with Jesus" for the next half hour...really cool if you are alone and are having some personal time with the Lord, but not to effective for a worship service. Again the focus was taken away from God and pointed at the worship team, the people ended up just watching and were not involved in it at all... Neither example displays much leadership. Remember the goal is to get the people to join in the worship experience.
If I was leading a group of people on a trip in the wilderness There are several things I would need to consider. One would be the relative ages and levels of fitness in my group. I wouldn't want to travel so fast that only the young fit men could keep up...and just leave the weaker ones to the wolves and bears. What would be the point if when I came to a river I just jumped in and swam across using three different strokes that were each preformed perfectly...maybe even had a couple of others join me and all of us swam across in perfect unison. It would be nice to look at and maybe even fun to watch, but it would be poor leadership because the group I was supposed to be leading would still be stuck on the other shore. I would be a much more effective leader if I set a pace that everyone could keep up with, and if I helped the weaker ones cross the river. Remember you are only leading if there is someone following you when you get to your destination.
So where does this leave us? We are not supposed to focus on performance we are not supposed to get all "spooky spiritual" and lose our focus entirely. So what are we supposed to do? My opinion is that as leaders, and this would apply to any leader in the church, not just worship leaders, I think we are required to find a balance between the two. We need to focus on performance enough that our worship is pleasing to the people and easy for them to follow and join in. We need to focus on the spiritual aspect of worship so that our worship is focused on God and not us. Not an easy task but leadership never is. Think about this, scripture says that we will all be judged on every word we speak...that one is for everybody..Scripture also says that leaders will be judged on their words, and on the fruit of their leadership...and they will be held to a higher accounting than the people they lead. Ponder this as you plan your next worship service.
On a lighter note, who can tell me which old hymn talks about a cross-eyed bear? Till next time, Randy