We all struggle at times as worship leaders, musicians and techs on the right balance between presentation and performance, humbleness and showiness, reverent yet engaging. There are a hundred words to describe the point where a worship service crosses our proverbial red line. In many ways our creativity is at war with our conscience. To aggravate things, musicians and techs are often called out as being too slick or showy – much more than teachers and preachers are – even though we implement many of the same techniques to communicate with our audiences.
Let’s start with the basic things we can agree on:
1. We are leaders. And if you are a leader, then others must follow you. I was in a church recently that had no singing worship leader. The songs were led by the organist from the back of the room. Guess what? The organist was the worship leader that day. Without them, we would have had 15 minutes of free worship! Not a bad thing, but it’s important for us to sing the same song when we gather. We have to get over the reality that when we step up in front (or back) of our churches and begin singing, we are leaders.
2. People respond to engaging leaders. Think about your teaching pastor for a moment. How many people do you think would attend your church if your pastor stood up every week and read the Bible mono-toned for 30 minutes without passion or vocal inflection? Zero. His family would probably leave as well! Seriously, we are humans and God made us to be sensitive to one another’s emotions, facial expressions, vocal inflection and body movements. This isn’t bad. This is how God made us! Think about how Jesus taught. He used relatable stories, hyperbole, humor and intensity. We should do the same.
3. Presentation should be within context. There are things that can happen during worship at a Passion event that would be totally ridiculous at my church on Sunday morning. Moving lights with a light haze look magnificent in a large room with high ceilings. Fogging your 200 seat auditorium might be a distraction. It’s easy for me to jump and dance at a large event when everyone is joining in, but if I did that at 8 am on Sunday morning, people would think I’d lost it.
4. The “red line” is different for everyone. We really, really need to understand this. It’s easy for us to see a video from another church and instantly get critical about the way they lead or their sound and lighting. Our sinful nature makes us believe that we somehow have the perfect balance that pleases God and that everyone else is wrong. Even within our own churches, there will always be disagreements on what is appropriate. The sooner we understand this and offer grace to one another, the better we can move on with the important things.
This is such a big topic, I could go on. If you make it out to one of the National Worship Leader Conferences this summer, the Worship Together Band will be hosting a workshop on this topic. We’d love to see you there!