Remembering How to Follow

I usually take December off of everything but my home church. That way, I can reserve a month of ‘less’ so that I can spend holidays with my wife. Too often ministry kills marriages, and I’m not so sure God intended it that way. So this month is me getting back into playing for other worship leaders…and remembering that following is way harder than leading. When you’re the one leading, it’s quite simple to follow yourself. (Uh…hopefully.) You jump back into the following role, and suddenly you have to think about things like, ‘Are we jumping back into the chorus, pre-chorus, or bridge? Because that’s either a C, Am, or F…okay, I have no idea, so I’m just going to hit an overdriven C5 high on the neck because it’ll pass in all 3 chords.’ 😉 Or, ‘Why does that sound off? Oh. Maybe I should play in the same key as everybody else.’ Rather than, when leading, you can just look at everyone around you disgustedly for not following ‘the Spirit’ as closely as you are, when ‘the Spirit’ suggested you play in Ab, when you wrote the music for everyone else in A.

And for you leaders out there, it’s a good exercise to worship with other bands and teams…without leading. You’ll find yourself going, ‘Stupid worship leader! Why can’t they just……oh wait, I just did that to my team this morning.’ And you’ll gain a bit of a new respect for the team serving under you. As well as putting yourself in a position to simply worship through your instrument, without the responsibilities of leading a team. Most refreshing. (‘Refreshing’ is a gross word, isn’t it? Just reminds me of ‘Refreshments will be served in the fellowship hall.’ Ugh!! Can’t you just say ‘You can have some watered down juice and cookies left over from last year out in the lobby’? Sorry, I get passionate about the over-usage of flowery words. ‘Organic’ and ‘transparent’, though…now that’s okay. 😉 )

It’s just a cool thing to break out of the bubbles that inescapably form around us wherever we camp out at. Even if it’s jumping up at an open mic at a coffee shop. Something to get new perspective. To appreciate your teams more. To live…for reals. And maybe to worship a little more freely. And of course, just another place to experience your tone. hehe Provided you happen to be on the upswing of the ever-changing ‘I hate my tone/my tone kills all the pros’ schitzo.


22 thoughts on “Remembering How to Follow

  1. Amen to that…and I love my tone…for now.
    Us worship leaders have to be on the other side of the mic from time to time, otherwise it’s easy to forget how to be a worshiper when you don’t have a guitar in your hands. The guitar should be a tool for enhancing worship, rather than a crutch – you know the old, “I can’t get into the presence of God without a transparent OD and dotted eight delays.” I tend to feel a bit weird not being on stage during worship. Plus, it’s easy to get critical about other people’s tone, playing, mannerisms etc. Have to tell myself to focus on God in those situations and be humble (if that’s really possible for a guitarist). Had a great worship experience on New Year’s eve not being on stage – and the guitarist didn’t use any effects, only a Les Paul Special into a Marshall DSL Combo. He still sounded pretty good (couldn’t believe it) and once I got past there being no delay (took some doing), I really got into God’s sweet presence.
    Not being on stage is something every worship team member should do regularly IMO.

  2. Quite often when I come to this site I find myself thinking “I should have been a keyboard player.” I prefer to sit in the background and just play but, more and more I find myself leading the musicians (I can’t sing) and bringing them along to where the worship leader wants them to go. I play way too often and always find my most intense worship (in a corporate setting) with God is when I’m not playing on Sunday.

  3. Karl-

    I’d love to get some insight into you playing outside your home church. I’ve heard (well, read 😉 you mention that often…how do you arrange that? I don’t know any other worship guys close to me (we live in a small town) and we’re the only church I know of within 45 minutes that does anything close to “contemporary music”. I was asked to lead our community thanksgiving service this year. It met @ a local Methodist church. It was a great experience in getting out of my comfort zone (just acoustic leading of hymns, although i did through a Tomlin song in there for fun 😉 LOL
    but not really what you’re talking about…plus I was leading.

    I would LOVE to get the chance to “sit-in” with another church. It would help me see things from a different perspective and as you say…give me some extra time to tweak my tone 🙂 HAHA

    I thought about getting some time in coffee shops..but again, not one close. We have several bars in town, but I’ve been told it would be a bad idea for me to play there…although I personally think it’s WWJD 🙂

  4. I had the opportunity to return to the church where I grew up over the holiday. This is where I started playing for worship and was a regular for 15 years. I found myself engaging in the critique thing as far as some of the technical aspects of the music. The 2 electric players were indistinguishable (tonally) from each other. I do think it’s hard to just let go and worship when you have been on the other side for so long. Some of it comes from a genuine desire to help others improve, and some comes from “I could do better”. I do agree that getting out from behind the guitar is healthy, and that it should happen more often.

  5. MikeZA–great point about not being on stage…and even then having to turn our brains off! haha I know for myself, I either need to prepare myself beforehand, or find somewhere where the music is so good, I can’t criticize it. lol It’s tough, but we gotta learn how to do it, I agree. 🙂

    Sam–and leading the musicians, or being a music director of sorts, is often times harder than being the worship leader. I know that I too, need to sit more often. My wife and I are actually looking for somewhere right now where we can not serve. I tend to let myself get sucked into it wherever we go, which in some ways is good. But we need somewhere to sit as well.

    Steven–wow, that’s a tough one. See, I have it way easier being in Southern California, where everything is so close together. I’d suggest seeking out other worship leaders to make relationships with. The nice ones will probably be humbled and more than happy to have a worship leader who wants to actually lead worship by backing them up rather than coming in to do a ‘special concert.’ hehe I know if you were closer to my church, I’d love to have you come play with me! (And you could do a special concert if you liked, too. hehe)

    As for the bars thing, I totally agree with you. I think it’s very Christlike. I used to be in a band where we had a song called, ‘Wasted.’ One night we were playing in a bar and we said, ‘This next song is called ‘Wasted’!” And this drunk guy goes, ‘F— ya!’ And then we said, ‘And it’s about wasting your life away without God’s purpose.’ And the same guy goes, ‘Huh?’ Interesting times, but I feel that’s where we need to be.

    Craig–I totally hear ya. Usually I’m either getting smug with myself because my tone is better, or frantically re-arranging my pedalboard in my mind because their tone is better. haha Neither of which is really conducive to helping me focus on God.

  6. Focusing on God???

    Oh that’s right… that’s what this is all about…

    Got my Carvin V16 back with the mods. It is a completely different amp. Cant wait till you try it.

  7. From where I am the whole thing about playing in worship teams from other churches just seems a bit strange…. not saying that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not the sort of thing that happens here. We seem to have this big focus on being “loyal” to your own church. I remember once we were having a worship leader who was good friends with our ministry leader who was going to “guest lead” worship at our church one sunday and there were a few eyebrows raised. Similiarly, a couple of our team members who have been visiting other churches services, have felt the need to keep quiet about it… probably that’s a bad thing but it’s not localised just to our church – seems like a pretty common attitude in all the churches here.

    Personally I think cross-pollination is a good thing – it’s good to work with other musos who can help you see things differently or go in other directions.

    I know what you mean about leading – although I see myself as primarily a guitarist and singing is a distant second, I like the degree of control having a microphone gives me some times. My journey is taking me further in that direction. Prior to now I’ve been lead guitarist and occaisional leader – this year I’ll be the team leader of one of our two teams so will have a lot more input.. and responsibility. Instead of just concentrating on my own parts I’m going to have to be more aware of what I want the keys and bass and drums and other singers to do… and also manage the various personalities involved and various skill levels. It’s going to be an interesting and challenging experience, but I’m looking forward to it.

  8. Sal–haha Ya. And too often I can lose that in the preparation. Getting out can be a really good thing! 🙂

    Stoked about your Carvin. Can’t wait to hear it either!

    Baggas–no, there’s some of that mentality here as well. I think it’s kind of weird personally, as we like to talk about being one church, but then get weirded out when there’s some cross-pollination, as you put it.

    And I’m totally a lead guitarist first, too! The whole worship leading/singing thing is something I’m not as comfortable with, nor do I consider myself to be very good at it. Yet, for whatever reason, that’s where God has put me at my home church. It definitely is a lot more difficult mentally sometimes, because there’s a lot to think about. And then getting out somewhere and just worshiping through playing guitar and not leading, can be hugely invigorating and worshipful. Although, then you actually have to worry about where the worship leader is going. That’s the nice thing about leading worship…you know the next chord is a D, because that’s what you’re going to play! haha

  9. Lol Well…if someone’s actually requesting U2…I would be remiss if I did not oblige. 😉


    You were totally right. That’s exactly what this post needed.

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