“I just worship better when I’m on stage.”
If you’ve ever that (or something like it) from one of your worship team members, what went through your head?
Maybe immature? Or spotlight-grabbing-narcissist? Or something in between?
How about normal? I used to get worked up when I’d hear this “I worship better…” statement from a team member. I labeled them shallow, immature or even self-absorbed. But the longer I’ve worked with musicians and artists, I realize it’s pretty normal.
Unfortunately, normal isn’t always good.
Rarely is this statement spoken because the person is a raging egomaniac who requires a 5-foot high stage and wireless microphone to properly worship. But there is something about the platform that does make “worship” easier.
And that’s where we need to start: what people really mean when they say “worship.” They’re probably saying it’s easier to feel, express and emote when they’re on stage and part of the live music team. I would say that’s true for most worship musicians.
I think there are three big reasons why musicians “worship better” on stage. All three of these reasons are natural by-products of the way most churches structure corporate worship, but they all need to be kept in check. Why?
They make good idols.
The first reason why people feel drawn to the stage is because it makes them feel special.
Just recently I attended a newcomers reception after one of our services and started chatting with a couple. At one point in the conversation, I found out the husband is an accountant. We got to joking about how bad both of us would be at the other’s job, since my math skills barely allow me to figure out the tip for half-price appetizers at Applebee’s and he can’t sing his way out of a paper bag (by his own admission).
Paul hammered home the whole “one body, many parts” thing pretty well in 1 Corinthians 12. But the accountant or bookkeeper serving in the church doesn’t get the stage and the bright lights, and people don’t fawn over him after a budget meeting telling him how blessed they were by his “ministry.”
God has made each person to be special and to serve in a way that fits that uniqueness. But unfortunately, we see the upfront ministries like worship musicians as “more special”. And our definition of “special” too easily migrates from “unique and different” to “privileged and entitled.”
Let’s be real: how many nursery workers have a “green room” to relax in between services?
To help combat this on your team, it’s important for musicians to occasionally serve in behind-the-scenes ministries. And we as leaders need to keep reminding our team of the servant nature of our role: our talents and gifts are suppose to build the church, not our egos.
Another reason why worship musicians claim to worship better onstage is because of the validation they receive. When a person is able to use their gifts and talents to edify the church, there’s an affirmation of her gifts and talents. It also validates what she’s worked so hard to achieve.
But affirmation and validation are too often used to prop up our self-worth, rather than finding our true worth in Jesus. Here’s where it turns ugly. Since our self-worth is being bolstered by the platform, we start to need it. For some personality types, the stage is crack-cocaine.
The cure for this one is to keep leading my team (and myself) back to Jesus and to drink from him. The well of the stage is a shallow, broken cistern (Jeremiah 2:13) that will only leave us thirstier than when we started.
Even if we keep the first two issues in check, this third reason can still lead us to love the platform more than the pew.
There’s an intangible dynamic that happens when we play or sing with a live band. I find it’s easier to be expressive and move around when I have six strings under my fingers and the band in my ears. It’s tempting to confuse the energy of the stage with true worship.
And when we’re part of the congregation, it can tougher to worship. Let’s face it, if the energy level in most of our congregations could actually be measured, it would be a negative number. When we’re out there, it’s easy to get sucked down into the vortex of apathy.
But maybe (just maybe) a group of embedded, expressive worshipers scattered throughout the room could lead people in worship better than those on the platform. So when we’re not scheduled on the team, we need to fight the gravity that pulls us down to the lowest common denominator of expression: hands-in-pockets, eyes-on-screen and lips-mouthing-the-words.
So when you hear the words, “I just worship better when I’m on stage,” don’t freak out. Ask questions of your team members who say that. Find out why. Shepherd and guide them towards a more mature understanding of biblical worship and leadership. And to get the conversation started, here’s a team devotional that deals with these three issues.
Jon Nicol trains and coaches worship leaders and team members at WorshipTeamCoach.com. He’s also a full-time worship pastor at Heartland Church in Lexington, OH. Connect with him on Twitter (@jonnicol) or on Facebook.