Criticism can be hard to swallow. Regarding criticism, it has been said, “Your friends have everything to lose, and your enemies have nothing to lose”. In other words, listening to criticism can be a helpful thing, if the criticism is true and accurate. Your friends take the risk of you getting angry at them, so they take a chance in sharing a criticism with you. Your enemies don’t care if you like what they say or not, so they can be blunt. In either scenario, there may be things to learn.
But I think I have a better idea than listening to critics, and it is this: Critique yourself. Examine yourself. There is Biblical precedent for it.
The Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged”. (1 Corinthians 11:31)
The church at Corinth was mishandling the Lord’s Supper, and God had judged some of them. That was the immediate context of the passage, but there is an application that can be extracted from that verse. We ought to judge ourselves in regards to how well we are doing as worship leaders.
I’d rather be an honest critic of myself, than be surprised by the words of another. It just makes sense to me that worship leaders ought to examine how they are doing regarding the ministry that God has given them.
Here is what I suggest:
Listen to yourself. I regularly listen to the recorded worship sessions from our church. I am often disappointed in my playing and singing, but I am able to identify mistakes that I regularly make, and have an awareness of what needs to be worked on. There might be a certain note that is consistently off pitch. Maybe a phrase could be sung better. Sometimes during the worship leading, I am ‘really feeling it”, and it seems to be “right”, until listen back to the recording, and discovering that I rushed the song, or played it too slowly. Listening to myself has helped me identify problematic areas of my playing, singing, and leading.
Sometimes the recording off the soundboard may not be a good representation of what the church is hearing. I suggest that the serious worship leader use some kind of recording device to record the sound of the room. The Zoom H1 digital recorder can be purchased for about $125, and gives the worship leader a clear representation of what the worship experience sounds like. It is a great investment for the serious worship leader. Older models can be found for $60-75 on Craigslist or eBay.
Better than listening to yourself, is watching yourself. The congregation watches us for at least part of the time. What they see can affect them positively or negatively. We all have funny idiosyncrasies. We might have poor posture, and that makes us look lazy. Some people have distracting facial expressions when they play or sing. I regularly watch myself both play and preach. We are fortunate to have a good video system, so I see “every little thing”. :-/
Have a friend video record you with their iPhone. Set up an inexpensive video camera, and have the band examine itself. I would rather discover visual distractions and correct them, than to force the congregation to endure them until I figure them out.
Worship leading is a platform ministry. We are in front of people. How you stand, sing, play makes a difference. Some clothes may not be flattering to you, and might be a distraction. Certainly, modesty in dress should be practiced. We look in the mirror before we leave the house. I think it is a good idea to “look in the mirror” regarding our worship leading.
So Mr./Mrs./Miss Worship Leader….critique yourself. Listen, watch, and make adjustments as needed. Your church will appreciate it, and the worship experience will be enhanced.
There are those who lead songs at church, and those who lead worship. There is a huge difference. Leading worship songs is something that somebody does. Being a worship leader is something that someone is.
Familiarity With Worship Music
Worship leaders listen to worship music. They listen to a lot of it. They learn songs, and can sing or play many songs from memory. At the very least, there is a familiarity with many songs. They understand different styles of worship music, and though they may not be able to play all those styles, they know how a style of music ought to sound.
Knowing a lot of music allows the worship leader to be spontaneous during a worship gathering. He/she might include a song that wasn’t planned for, but is perfect for the moment. Sometimes a worship leader will think of a song that would be perfect for the moment, but cannot play it for lack of familiarity with that song. That is a lost opportunity. Worship leaders need to listen to a lot of worship music. They need to have a big repertoire. They need to be able to play dozens of songs by memory.
Music charts should be there as a reference, not as a lifeline. The worship leader ought to be able to play most of his/her songs by memory, which allows for freedom of expression as opposed to a desperate dependence on the written music. When the worship leader is struggling with a song because of lack of familiarity, the congregation feels it. Know the music, and practice it frequently.
A preacher needs to be able to spontaneously quote any number of scripture passages as the Spirit leads. The same is true for a worship leader. He/she needs to be able to bring up a song as the Spirit leads. The band needs to be able to follow.
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(Editor’s note: I have a lot of stuff bouncing around in my head regarding worship leading. Check back soon for more. Blessings.)
Worship leaders need to realize the holiness of the activity they are involved in. They stand before people, and sing to the Creator of the universe. They stand before God, and sing directly to Him. They use their God given gifts and talents to worship God in such a way that inspires others to join in. Leading worship must be viewed as a holy endeavor. God is holy, and our worship of God must be holy as well.
Consider the worship of God that was offered by the seraphim in Isaiah 6:1-4. We read, “ 1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”
These mighty angelic beings cover their eyes and their feet. It has been said that they covered their eyes, because they were not worthy to look upon God, and that they covered their feet as a sign of humility. Their worship of God was a result of their clear view of His holiness, and their actual giving of worship reflected their understanding of God’s holiness. There was humility and adoration because they had a clear understanding of the holiness of God.
As a worship leader, do you think about the holiness of God? Are you in awe of God’s holiness? He is completely above and apart from anything common, mundane, unclean, or immoral. Holiness means to be separate, different. God is infinitely higher than the most holy man on Earth.
Is your view of God is that He is “a lot better than you”, or that he is infinitely better than you? Do you experience any reverential fear of God as you ascend to the front of the church to offer Him praise? Is there any sense of your own unholiness? Is there a deeper desire to grow in holiness, that you might more rightly represent God, and be sensitive to His Spirit?
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