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5 Caricatures of a Worship Leader

 
 
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Author: Paul Baloche
 
Leadership Category: ,
 


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Posted November 4, 2014 by

W

orship leaders have a position that requires a great deal of sensitivity. Because of that, one of the most important skills to apply is prayerful self-examination of our stage-time to make sure that we don’t use our talents in a gratuitous manner. In our struggle to walk that fine line, we have to remember that more isn’t always better. Overuse of certain leading devices can sometimes be distracting to the people you hope to usher into a place of worship. A couple of years ago we put together a tongue-in-cheek list of some habits that usually come from a genuine desire to lead in devotion, but sometimes end up leading our community astray. We asked Paul Baloche to offer his insights on what may be happening and how worship leaders can do a bit of fine-tuning. If you have ever been one of the below mentioned worship leaders, that’s okay, we all have. We will, likely, all be one of those leaders again. And God’s grace is abundant.

  1. The Vegas Praise Worship Leader:
    The performance-oriented worship leader with over-the-top exhibitions of over-the-top worship and musical virtuosity hitting every vocal pitch and key while the backup dancers shoot bottle rockets that whistle in tune with your voice and explode in glittering letters: G-O-D.

Paul Baloche: Performance can sound like such a bad word, in a sense very unspiritual. But, regardless of what anybody says, we are performing a task. The pastor is also going to perform the task of preaching, and so let’s not kid ourselves—we are performing.

First Chronicles 25 says all the musicians were “trained and skilled in music for the Lord.” So it’s important that we aspire to excellence in our craft. But it also says, “they were trained and skilled in music for the Lord.” And that’s the key. For the Lord.

Our performance is to boast in His name and to bring attention to Him. Talk to people you trust and seek feedback. In humility, ask if there was something that you did that may have distracted from worship—you may want to stop trying to hit your five octaves, or pulling off your Aretha Franklin licks on every song if it affected the spirit of praise.

  1. The Lost in Space Worship Leader:
    Eyes closed, lost in worship making the congregation wonder if, and when, you will ever retrieve your guitar from where you threw it in the Spirit and re-join the congregation in worship.

Paul: That’s usually a person who is attempting to personally connect with God, to really discern things in the Spirit, and they’re trying, on a personal level, to focus their heart and mind on the Lord.

But, it’s important to realize that when we’re leading worship we’re more like a waiter. It’s not our turn to sit down and eat our dinner. We may worship, but we actually have a role at that moment, and our job is to wait on others—to serve others at that point. We have to be willing to give up a little bit of our overwhelming connection with God and connect with Him through serving of His people.

  1. The Sermonizer:
    The worship leader who needs to ad-lib share before after and even during the pauses of most songs.

Paul: Worship leaders—let the pastor preach. Occasionally, you may want to set up the time of worship with a brief, capital “B,” brief Scripture or a thought that sets the tone for that first song. But, be very measured. A little goes a long way. And I am the chief of sinners here. I know that sometimes it helps us connect on a relational level with the people. Saying, “Good morning. Hey, before we get started I just want us to look at Psalm 8; as we begin to steer our hearts toward the Lord let’s just think about what that Scripture says and let’s begin to lift our hearts to Him right now.”       

  1. The Broken Record:
    Each song is a fifteen-minute worship extravaganza that repeats the verse, chorus, verse and chorus about as long as the Spirit is calling you to repeat them.

Paul: Do all things in moderation. There are occasions when you just sense in your gut, or maybe something’s going on in your church where you want to emphasize a particular song or maybe a particular chorus, and you’ll just kind of hammer that one idea or that one chorus—soaking it in like a teabag. But if you find yourself doing it all the time, be aware. It’s not unspiritual to just do the song like the CD and then move on to the next one.

  1. The Worship Aerobics Instructor:
    The worship leader who dictates standing, sitting, clapping, hugging and relay races through the narthex during the service as if you were leading a production of Sweatin’ to the Church’s Oldies.

Paul: This one has more to do with the attitude and the language of respecting where people are at and gently, respectfully encouraging them into certain actions, but you can certainly overdo it. We have to be careful not to be spiritual pushers by making sure our language is respectful and not pressuring people. I like to look at it as if they were coming into my home, where I’d say, “Hey, come on in, would you like to have a seat?” And when I’m in cross-denominational situations I don’t just say, “Lift your hands.” I try to say, “If you feel the freedom to lift your hands to the Lord.”

 


16 Comments


  1.  
    Jacob
     
     
     
     
     

    Only one scripture in all this advice. I understand that a lot of these thoughts and feelings of Paul’s probably come from the many many years of leading but without the infallible scripture backing up his points, it just falls flat. In the end he can be completely wrong about each one of these and offers little beyond “human understanding” of what it means to lead people.




    •  
       
       
       
       
       

      My impression is that contemporary worship leading technique is not something you’ll find the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament discussing at length. And this article is about technique. You probably won’t find too many scriptures being referred to in an article about voice delivery for sermons or a manual how to drive a car either. Though I’m sure there’s a special How to Drive Cars For Christians that makes copious use of 1 Peter 3:1 etc…




  2.  
    Bonnie
     
     
     
     
     

    Thank you~ Excellent and wise counsel!




  3.  
    julie

    thanks for this…admittedly I’m an “eye-closer” lol…not seeking spiritual revelation but worshipping whilst I’m singing…but I have to be conscious that I don’t shut anyone out…think I do it as sometimes it’s a bit intimidating when some people from congregation are just staring at you and not singing, clapping or doing anything else!! looool 🙂

    Great post though and some helpful tips – thanks.




  4.  

    I agree with all of these.. However, I must say we need to clarify number 1. There is a fine line you are speaking of here Paul and we need to make sure we are very careful. We may be performing but the key you stated was “for the Lord.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of individuals who are way over the fence of performance and that is what drives me crazy.




  5.  
    jim j

    thanks, Paul….i’ll use your tips next time i.m leading!




  6.  
     
     
     
     
     

    Thank you Paul. That really helped and a good reminder of areas to focus.




  7.  
    Erin

    What a great article!! Thanks so much. I also, felt the part about serving like a waiter was so helpful to me! I also wanted to say, Paul, I have felt every time I have had the chance to be in the audience while you are leading, that you do an amazing job of ‘inviting’ us in, as though we are sitting in your living room! I have actually said those very words to people about your worship ‘concerts’. You have been an amazing teacher to me, the way the Spirit ‘oozes’ out of you is an amazing thing to watch. I pray I can have an impact as you have had! Thank you!




  8.  
    Carrie Piercy
     
     
     
     
     

    Thanks so much for posting this. I am one who is probably not your typical worship leader. I love to sing. Oh! How I love to sing! And especially to and for Him. But… I am also petrified of public speaking, so when God called me to lead this small congregation in worship, I naturally thought He was out of His mind. I have always felt like I wasn’t doing a good enough job because I didn’t talk quite as much as other worship leaders (I talk some, but more than just a little bit and my nerves kick in and I’m a babbling idiot. That’s not useful to Him.) After reading this, I feel like, even though I have much work to do and need to continue to grow and improve, my work for Him is good. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement.




  9.  
    Biji Samuel
     
     
     
     
     

    Thanks for this article Paul. Many don’t know this or realize what they’re doing. Over the past few years, I’ve gone from 1 to 4. I could never see myself do a 5, too strenuous. I’ve come to realize that it’s not about me..it never was..it’s all (and only) about Him. Love your songs and use them a lot in our worship. God bless you and your ministry.




  10.  
     
     
     
     
     

    Leaders, musicians and plain folks like me appreciate this type of writing …honest, transparent and straight to the point.

    Thank you Paul!




  11.  
     
     
     
     
     

    Thanks for sharing this, Paul.

    The section about treating yourself as a waiter, with a task to serve others at the table, especially spoke to me. I heard John MacArthur say something similar: “I am not the chef; I am the waiter, and my job is to get the meal to the table without messing it up!”

    Interesting that the word deacon means “table servant” or “waiter”… am encouraged to strive to be the best waiter I can be for the sake of serving my brothers and sisters at the Lord’s table.




  12.  
    Robin Bayles
     
     
     
     
     

    Good article. As to #3 I heard once that “the only thing worse than a singing preacher is a preaching singer!”. This article is a good encouragement to us all.





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