By Patrick DeRemer
I believe the primary function of the music ministry is to do our best to create a distraction-free environment where people can experience and glorify our loving, living God and the life-changing power of grace through His Holy Spirit. At our church the mission slogan is: “Evangelize Seekers, Edify Believers and Glorify God,” So how do we accomplish this? Is the answer as simple as having great musicians and singers and then letting God take care of the rest? I think we all know this answer is only half true. Yes, God will take what we authentically and humbly offer and use it for His purposes and glory but every church has the people they have and, unless you hire out, you’re not always going to be blessed with the most gifted musicians and singers on the planet.
The good news is that whomever we have and whatever level of talent they may possess the playing field of worship leading is surprisingly level. To be a “great” worship leader we don’t need to be a great musician or a great singer. The reality is that we don’t ever have to step up to the microphone. There is, however, one prerequisite we do need to have; We need to be a great worshiper with the ability to communicate the love of Jesus and what He has done in our lives to those we are ministering to. I’m sure there are plenty of definitions and opinions of what a “great worshiper” is and there are a lot of people a lot smarter than me who have done a lot better job writing at a much deeper level about the spiritual and theological qualities of a great worshiper such as authenticity, humility, brokenness etc. For our purposes though, I would like to focus on what being a great worshiper may look like on Sunday morning…without a mic.
More and more, it seems, worship teams are singing less. What I mean by this is that although we may have several singers on stage during our worship time, we don’t necessarily need to have everyone singing everything on a microphone all of the time. To me this is a welcomed trend. All too often when we have groups of people singing unison all on a mic during, for example, the verses of a worship song, it becomes homogenous and watered down. To me, the intimacy of any given lyric gets lost in translation when there are too many people on microphones singing the same thing. As a result, the potential power and impact of the song suffers. There are many exceptions to this but, again, that’s not what this article is about. It’s about what to do as a worship leader or worship vocalist when we’re not on a microphone. Following are four things to consider:
1) SING AWAY
I want to emphasize that just because we’re not on a microphone doesn’t mean that we should stop singing—quite the opposite. Praise is praise and God still hears us. When we continue singing off-mic it also cues the congregation to sing too. Otherwise, they may think that whoever is singing is soloing and they shouldn’t participate. If I am the only one singing on a microphone in the company several vocalists I often ask everyone in the congregation to sing along with me. Simple phrases such as, “Let’s sing together” or “join with me” will give permission for the church to sing too.
2) INSTRUMENTAL BREAKS: THEY AREN’T JUST FOR MUSICIANS ANYMORE
During times of an extending intro, outro, transition, or instrumental solo, simply rest in, bathe in and otherwise enjoy His presence. It’s an opportunity to engage in and communicate a spirit of worship without words or notes. Often I will pray out loud off-mic during these times just thanking God for something He is doing in my life. Sometimes I pray for the congregation as a whole or individuals in our midst whom I know personally that need healing, comfort, strength, revelation, revival etc. Sometimes it’s best to just “be still and know….”.
3) BEING HEARD IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS BEING HUMBLE
Leading worship is less about singing and more about communicating. If our understanding is that in order for me to lead I need to be heard, we’re missing the point. The real reason we’re there is to help people experience a meaningful engagement with God, to show what our relationship with Him means to us and offer to take them, through the music, to a place where it’s no longer about us but all about Him.
4) REALITY CHECK
If we behave or express ourselves differently off-mic than on-mic then we need to examine our intentions. “Why am I doing this? Oh, yeah, to show others that the God we serve and sing about is awesome and worthy of our praise!” In fact, I find that when I’m not “on-mic” I am completely freed up from the responsibility of singing well and I can totally focus on worshipping well!
This is just something I’ve been thinking about lately and is only my humble opinion. As C.S. Lewis says repeatedly in Mere Christianity; “if it doesn’t help you, then forget it”
Patrick DeRemer has been the Worship Leader for 15 years at Gold Coast Christian Church, a regional church in Ventura County, CA. He is also the founder of PraiseVocals.com, producing vocal harmony part rehearsal tracks of popular Praise & Worship songs.