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The Musician As Worship Leader

The Musician As Worship Leader

Editorial Team

I spent time visiting a church in Kiev one year. They were featuring me as a guest soloist on trumpet for the week, and I was thrilled to learn that their musicians were indeed very fine players.They not only knew their instruments well but they rehearsed all week as a team.

For me this meant I could look forward to a fun musical experience. The stage in their auditorium, however, was too small for the number of musicians playing. The second keyboardist was forced to set up behind the curtain, out of sight from the audience and to most of us on stage. During worship services I would be in the spotlight and in direct contact with the enthusiasm of the audience.

They were a very worshipful, but they were also very appreciative of the effort by all the musicians. Then, one night, I happened to catch a glimpse of the second keyboardist out of the corner of my eye. This 20-year-old girl was behind the curtain, right hand on the keyboard, left hand in the air, mouth open and singing loudly, eyes closed and body jumping to the beat—wholeheartedly worshiping her King.

It didn’t matter to her at all whether anyone was looking—she was truly playing to an “audience of One.” I’ve heard that phrase a million times in Christian circles, but never before had I seen it displayed so visibly.

The end result, for me, was that I found myself more led by her example than by any of the singers at the front of the stage. The fact is, being a worship leader is not a matter of geography—where you are on stage. Instead, it’s about who you are on stage. It doesn’t matter what you are holding, a microphone, a guitar or a bassoon. While music style, great performers and well-known names may attract a crowd, what attracts people to genuine worship is, first, a true relationship with and understanding of their Creator, and second, being around others who are genuinely worshiping. Relationships with God are attractive—when yours is on display, people will want what you have, and people will tend to follow you.

The problem most musicians on a worship team have is the “back-up band” mentality. Since the congregation is watching the singer, they feel that what they do isn’t all that important. It’s a wrong mentality. Not only is it important musically, but it is important spiritually. Leaders need to remind their teams that they model who they are, and then leaders should ask their teams: When should apathy be our genuine response to a risen Savior? Of course, it shouldn’t ever.

Furthermore, let’s remind our teams that we should never show up to worship so that we can be seen. Our goal should always be that we are prepared, playing our best, genuinely participating in the worship, and doing all this to such a high and reverent degree that we become invisible. The congregation should, if we are doing our job well, never really notice us, but rather notice our genuine love of Christ.

Singer, director, musician—it doesn’t matter who is appointed to lead. What’s important is that all of our hearts are directed toward God. After all, no matter a person’s “position” in life, if they are truly following God, they have a lead worth following.

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