Leading Worship: When Singers S.P.E.A.K.
by Rick Muchow
Speaking, like singing is a gift from God and is a skill developed through dedication and perseverance. Most good singers take lessons, practice, and sing often. Good speaking is a result of good stewardship and intentionality. The first step in improving your speaking is to think of your speaking as a craft worth developing. Many singers fail to reach their musical potential because they think their talent alone will carry them. This is an unfortunate misconception. Like singing, public speaking can be improved with coaching. Not everyone is called by God to be the main speaker at the church but we are all called to share our faith with others. God has given all of us enough gifting to articulate the good news of Christ. Fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment requires some level of communication. God would not ask us to do something he did not create us to do. This article offers five principles to help you S.P.E.A.K. in a worship setting. These principles will be as much benefit to you as you practice them. Before we look at my list, let’s learn from the practical wisdom of a truly great worship leader.
My friend, Charles Billingsley, is a very experienced and successful worship leader. He is a singer’s singer and is one of the best in Christian Music. Charles has mastered the art of speaking during worship. Here are a few practical tips from Charles. “There is a fine line between talking too much and too little. Avoid rambling. You can say a lot in 10 seconds. Transition moments are very important: use them to focus and re-engage the people. Reserve moments of talking for when it’s really needed. When they are engaged, you don’t need to speak. Avoid saying too much. On Sunday, with a sermon coming after music, we (worship leaders) do not have to feel compelled to give the message. Like the Pastor getting up to do another worship set. (Rick M: “I love it when Lead Pastors lead the congregation in singing: the congregation loves it, too. In the same way, when singers speak the crowd tunes in.”) Stay in your lane. Do what God gifted you to do. We are going toward a destination. Use speaking to help push them down the road the service is headed down. Be sensitive to the moment. Moments between songs are more than covering dead time.”
Charles is a successful worship leader because he is called by God, loves God, loves God’s people, loves the local church, is a talented communicator, is obedient to God and continues to learn. I encourage you to begin applying some of his insights to your ministry. Below is an acronym, 5 benchmarks, you can use as you prepare to S.P.E.A.K. in the worship service.
Be Spirit led.
Being Spirit led begins with being Scripture led. Like the lyrics of the songs we sing, be sure what you are saying is scriptural. The most profound messages are true to the Message of God. Our words must be rooted in scripture: not in our opinions or experiences (culture). Worship is God’s idea and he wants us to worship his way. People don’t always listen to God: “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” Isaiah 29:13 To be Spirit-led we must be biblically rooted.
The ABC’s of worship service preparation are Asking God (Pray), Being Brief (Be Polite), Crafting Content (Be Productive). Prayer is foundational to worship and ministry. The Bible says “be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it, with an attitude of thanksgiving. (Col. 4:2) Prayer prepares! Prayer is foundational to Christian communication. Take time to ask God to reveal to you what he wants you to say and how he wants you to say it. Luke 21:14-15 is worth pointing out as it may seem like Jesus is teaching against all speaking preparation: “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” The word meditate, in this verse, refers to “practice”, not prayer. Jesus is clearly referring to worrying about preparing a response for accusers: not about speaking at a worship service. Preparation is absolutely a biblical mandate. Paul reminds us to prepare when he says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Ti 2:15) Brevity requires preparation. Brevity is a sign of mastering a subject. Often, brevity is a result of many hours spent in preparation. Brevity is also a way of showing respect, humility, and kindness to others. Finally, crafting your content will make your speaking more effective. Crafting includes knowing your crowd, knowing your content and communicating it clearly.
Some people are naturally engaging when they speak, however, this talent is also a skill to be developed through practice. The first step in engaging a crowd is having a compelling message. Search no further for a compelling message than the Word of God and God’s presence in your life. Next, it is helpful to know your crowd: their needs, culture, and worldview. To engage your crowd, speak from the overflow of your personal walk with God. Let your words serve the purpose of the service. It is helpful to know the theme of the Service and to incorporate available creative and technical resources to enhance your speaking.
Love God, love others and love to learn. Speakers exuding with authenticity, practice what they preach in their private lives and worship. Paul teaches about speaking in 1 Cor. 2:1-5. In verse one he describes the priority of authenticity over perfect presentation: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.” In verse 2 he describes his speaking content: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” In verse 3a, Paul associates humility with authentic speech: “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling…”. In verse 3b, Paul gives credit to God for the results of the message: “and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Paul’s life and his message embodied authenticity. We learn from Paul’s ministry, it’s better to be authentic than to be eloquent.
Most of the time, kindness speaks louder than words. Always speak the truth in love. (Eph. 4:15) Paul said without love, including his message, he would be nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2) The Bible says, “Do all things in love. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Eph. 4:31-32 Before speaking ask yourself “what is the kindest I can say what I need to say.” A great way to show love, in your speaking, is to be kind in your delivery.