Worship or Lead?
Apologies to those of you who have just found this blog, and are looking for gear reviews and such, but sometimes things take a serious turn over here, as well. Well, kind of serious. It’s me. And it’s really hard for me to do anything serious…without at least one movie reference. There’s just so many good ones (and dumb ones, which are infinitely better to mention) out there. But most of the posts here lately have been gear-centered, and as it has been a very disappointing month for me for new gear, I’m going to slightly shift gears for a bit. (Seriously…ever have those months where it seems every pedal that comes in sucks? My last six new pedals have been found very wanting. Dr. Scientist Tremolessence should be here in a couple days…that’s like, the worst pedal name ever…but it’s my last hope for March pedal try-outs.) But it hit me the other night, as I was playing with a band for a youth retreat. And after one of the evening sets, I’m walking back to the cabin they housed the band in, and it’s pretty cool. It had been a really good set, the road is long and dark, smells like mountains as you walk instead of whipped engines as kids rev up mommy and daddy’s vans at stoplights to race to the next stoplight to show off their ‘I’m a BMX racer’ skills (seriously, living in the Inland Empire sucks), and it’s always nice to be out in cold air after sweating through a passionate worship set. (Okay, I know that sounds really gross…but hopefully some of you can relate…it’s a good feeling.)
And as I’m walking, God’s glory kind of hits me, and I start singing the song we ended the set with, ‘Mighty to Save’. And it’s pretty cool. But as I’m singing, I start to realize that this is the most intense worship I’ve had all night. Better than all the rocking songs, better than all the intimate acoustic stuff, better than all the ripping-off-of Hillsong-United-who-ripped-off-U2 songs……I was worshiping more intimately and more intensely when I wasn’t playing. Even though I felt like I had worshiped pretty intensely while I was playing.
(Gorgeous pedal. Except mine’s purple. Which is even better…it’s right next to my desk, but I was definitely too lazy to take a picture of it. I was so stoked to get this thing…but it’s broken. What a pedal month. However, the builder did offer to fix it for free, even though I bought it used…so many props to Copilot FX. Maybe there’s still some hope for this one.)
So, of course, my next logical course of action is to never use a band again for worship. But that’s selfishness. Yes, my best time of worship that night between me and God was without a band. But when we’re leading worship, it’s not about our best time between us and God. It’s about leading people as we worship. Otherwise, it’s just selfishness. Otherwise, we’re forsaking the ultimate act of worship, loving God by following His command to love others, so that we personally can feel God through some little time of music. It’s not about our feelings…entirely. Feelings are great, and even necessary. It’s also not possible to lead worship properly if we’re focused so much on leading, that we don’t connect with God ourselves. But most of us don’t struggle with that as often as we do with just having our own private little worship sessions on stage, and totally leaving the people, that at that given moment God has entrusted to us to lead, completely behind.
Ya, my best worship experience that night was on my own. But that was my best worship experience. The people not playing instruments? There’s was probably during the worship music. As leaders, sometimes we have to take on a greater responsibility. Here’s what I mean. We all need to have personal worship times where we are just focusing on God, and nothing else. And most of us get that during church services. But once you step in to start to lead worship music, you should no longer be using that time as your personal worship experience……because now you need to worship God by loving others, and helping them connect with Him. Yet that does not let you off the hook of having your personal worship experience, too. As leaders, we can’t be lazy. You gotta know that, ‘Okay. If I decide to use these worship times as my service times to God’s people, then I have to now take on greater responsibility and set aside my own times, apart from when I’m leading, to worship God…either on my own, or at some church where I have no responsibilities. Otherwise, it really is selfishness. People have told me before, that our mentality as we lead worship needs to change; that we need to stop focusing so much on people, so that those of us on the worship team can worship (or, feel good), too. And my response, Im afraid quite unlovingly at times, is always, ‘Oh, so you’re saying that your personal worship time at home is more intense than when you’re here?’ And the response is always, ‘Personal worship time at home?’ Don’t shirk your responsibilities as leaders of people in the church so that you can get the warm fuzzies that you’re too lazy to get on your own personal time.
And then at the same time, it’s not really the point of this particular article, but it has to be said……Don’t be so focused on leading, that you lose all touch with what you’re supposed to be leading them to. It’s like the pastor who got so excited about all the incredible teaching methods that communicate God’s Word so well, He forgot to use God’s Word. But at the same time, most of us worship leaders lead so little and try to ‘worship/feel’ so much, that we become like a pastor who’s up on stage, saying nothing for minutes at a time, because he’s teaching himself new things he just found in the Bible. That’s good, but a corporate setting may not be the place for the one called to ‘lead’ to be doing that. Same thing with the worship music. We’ve got to be totally lost in it; but in the corporate setting where we’re supposed to ‘lead’? Ya, not so much. And, it’s been my humble experience, that the ones who fight against this the most (including myself, when I was one of the ‘have to feel it at all time, congregation can follow if they want’ worship leaders), are the ones who have no personal worship time of their own.
Now, are there times to put down our instruments in a corporate setting and just sing to God? Yes. But usually after the work of leading has been done, God’s used us as much He wants, and He decides to now take over. And of course, sometimes everything I said needs to go right out the window, if the Lord is truly leading differently at the time. But…uh…sometimes it doesn’t need to go out the window.
When it comes down to it, it’s pretty simple. What shows God more worth? Loving His people by leading them in singing songs of love to Him, or leaving them behind so that your ‘worship’ can be intense, because you were blogging during the week, instead of having your intense times of personal worship then? And I say that to myself as much as anybody…because I’m definitely blogging right now, and then about to go watch ‘Unforgiven’. And maybe I should be doing something else. Nah, I’ll just get my personal time in with God tonight at our service, while people are watching.
(Caught a half hour of this on tv last week…really good. So I had to rent it. And say what you want about Clint’s acting…I defy you to find somebody cooler. But it looked like, at least from the parts I saw, that his acting was pretty much tearing it up in this film. My favorite part about Clint is how his mouth never opens when he talks. His lips part and his Adam’s apple moves, but his teeth just stay together in this sort of perma-growl. He is the personification of toughness.)