Seven Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Worship Leaders

by | Feb 16, 2011 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

We would honor God if we applied these principles to our
praise.

I
consider myself open-minded about worship. My tastes in music are eclectic, so I
love everything from Hillsong choruses and black gospel anthems to classic
hymns and Spanish worship artists Marco Barrientos and Jesús Romero. My
playlist even includes Native American, Nigerian and Iranian worship.

I love
any music that stirs my soul and points me to heaven, so worshipping the Lord
with other believers is one of my favorite pastimes. But there are a few things
I’d like to say to worship leaders. Please don’t take these comments as
criticism but as encouragement from a brother who has “seen it all” when it
comes to the Sunday morning drill.

“In poor countries where people struggle from
hand to mouth each week, praise is so energetic that the congregation quickly
moves into the aisles to dance. Yet here in the United States our worship is
often stiff and way too sophisticated.”

 1. Give us something to
shout about!
In most countries I visit, worship is an exhilarating workout.
In poor countries where people struggle from hand to mouth each week, praise is
so energetic that the congregation quickly moves into the aisles to dance. Yet
here in the United States our worship is often stiff and way too sophisticated.
What we lack in genuine zeal we substitute with technology, orchestration and
hype. It’s a pitiful tradeoff.

  Worship leaders must stoke the fires
of spiritual passion. Don’t let the people’s hearts remain cold or stale.
Exhort them to go higher. Say like the psalmist, “Praise the Lord! …Let the
sons of Zion rejoice in their king. Let them praise His name with dancing. …Let
the godly ones exult in glory. …Let the high praises of God be in their mouth”
(Ps. 149:1-3,5,6) NASB.

2. Please give us content. Most of us packed away our
hymnals 30 years ago and discovered the liberty of free-style choruses. Yet I
get tired of singing the same phrase over and over—especially if that phrase
has questionable theology. And we are cheating people if half of a song
consists of lines like “Ooh, Ooh, Ooh!” or “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”

There’s a reason “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross” is a
classic. Its words inspire deep worship in a way that simpler songs can’t. The
best solution is to mix up the playlist with both new and old songs—as well as
old songs with new arrangements. If we only sing today’s trendy Top 40 we will
forget where we came from.

 3. Spare us the concert. True
worship leaders lead rather than perform. We want you to play
skillfully, but we don’t want the focus to be on you. Point us to Jesus!

 Some
worship leaders shift into extended periods of spontaneous worship. That’s
great until you look around and realize that the congregation is sitting down
while the worship leader has his eyes closed—oblivious to the fact that most
people got lost 10 minutes ago. That’s not corporate worship. That’s a stage
show.

 4. Don’t run a song into the ground.
Maybe this is just a pet peeve of mine: When a worship leader announces, “Let’s
sing it one more time!” and then proceeds to sing a chorus again and again and
again and again (and again and again), this is a form of lying. This happens
especially with certain choruses that are like broken records—they never
resolve.

If a song is so repetitive that it’s annoying, or if
you can’t figure out when to stop it, just retire it. No one will ask why you
don’t sing it anymore.

  5. Please don’t burst my
eardrums.
I have a high tolerance for noise and I love rhythm. But I have
been in churches where the music was so loud that my head rattled for the rest
of the day. God can open deaf ears, but I don’t think we should manufacture the
deafness. Have mercy on us. God doesn’t want us to drown out the sound of the
people’s voices with bass guitars and subwoofers.

 6. Show us the lyrics. Memo
to the technical crew: We don’t have hymnals, and we don’t know the words by
heart. Please don’t wait until we have sung the second verse of the song to put
those words on the screen. (It would also be a good idea to have someone
proofread the song lyrics. I was in a church where we were supposed to sing
“Praise Him for His mighty acts,” but the Power Point slide said, “Praise Him
for His mighty axe.”)

 7. Honor the Word. There is
nothing ruder than a worship leader who walks off the stage after the last
chorus and then disappears to a side room to eat donuts. When the praise team
vanishes from the church and never comes back, it sends a message to the
congregation that these people don’t need to listen to the sermon. Not! Worship
does not end with the last song; the last song sets the stage for the next act
of worship.

  I’m not a worship leader, and you
wouldn’t want to hear me on a keyboard. But I believe we would honor God if we
applied these principles to our praise. 

J.
Lee Grady is the contributing editor of Charisma.
You can find him on Twitter at leegrady. His latest book is 10
Lies Men Believe
(Charisma House).

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