I have a confession to make. This past weekend I came to the sad realization that I have become addicted to the music stand. I’ve become more and more dependent on it, not merely using it as a back-up, but using it as a crutch.
While leading “And Can it Be” on Saturday night I stumbled for the right chords, forgot the lyrics, and was too distracted to lead it confidently – all because I didn’t have the chord chart on the music stand in front of me. Usually if I don’t know the words I can look up at the screen, but I was too busy trying to figure out which chord came next to remember to do that!
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a complete train wreck, and since I wasn’t leading all by myself, I was able to hide my blunders for the most part. But as I’ve thought more about it, I’ve realized that it was the result of a growing dependence on always having the music in front of me, leading me to become a bit lazy and unprepared. While I’m sure many people didn’t notice, some did, and they were too distracted at times by my lack of practice to focus on the amazing love of the Savior that the song talks about.
My guess is that most worship leaders struggle with this “addiction” to the music stand as well. It seems unrealistic to be able to memorize so many different songs’ music and lyrics, and risky to lead without both in front of you at all times. But what ends up happening is what happened to me on Saturday night – we sing songs off of a page, not out of our hearts. This is a problem.
It probably isn’t realistic to memorize every single song’s music and lyrics. Your brain can play funny tricks on you sometimes, and you can completely forget how a verse starts, what the chord progression is on the bridge, etc. Because of this, it probably is a good idea to have the chord charts close by.
But having said that, it should be a goal of worship leaders to lead songs from their hearts, not from a piece of paper. We will lead more effectively if we have spent time not only getting familiar with the songs we’re going to sing, but allowing the truth in them to effect our hearts. We can all tell the difference between when someone reads a speech from a piece of paper or teleprompter, and when someone speaks from their heart with conviction. It shows a genuine belief in what they’re saying. The same applies to worship leaders.
If I’m standing before a congregation, I don’t want to send the message that I’m just caught up in a piece of paper. Instead, I want to send the message that I am caught up in a beautiful Savior. To do this, I need to prayerfully and humbly seek God’s help, and devote time and energy to memorizing the songs I’m leading as best I can.
This week I’m going to try:
- Devoting an hour or more to singing and playing through the entire service’s song list once it’s finalized.
- During the services, only have the chord charts in front me for songs that I don’t yet know by heart. This way I won’t be tempted to look at them out of habit, even when it’s not needed.
- Prioritizing memorizing the lyrics to all the songs. The music is less important.
- Going through rehearsal without looking at the chord charts at all. This will show me what songs I need to work on harder.
Paul wrote in Colossians 3:16 to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Memorizing the songs we lead is one great way to do that.