5 Caricatures of a Worship Leader
Worship 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.”