When I first began to lead worship, my overwhelming feeling when standing on stage was one of panic. Is everything going to fall apart? Is everyone staring at me? I broke a string! How do I play that chord again? How do I turn the page on my music stand and still hold onto my guitar pick and still strum when I’m supposed to strum so the whole band doesn’t stop playing?
Eventually I gained enough confidence and got enough experience that my beginner’s anxiety wore off. What came next was an overdose of intensity. THIS is the set that is going to BRING DOWN THE FIRES OF REVIVAL. Or THIS SONG has to be EPIC. Or I am going to MAKE these people WORSHIP no matter HOW LONG IT TAKES! The harder I strummed, the higher I sang, and the louder I hollered, the better the worship. Or so I thought.
Over the last 13 years, as I’ve had the privilege of leading one or more worship services every weekend, I’ve learned that my fears are ungrounded and my intensity is overrated.
Because fundamentally, the panic of a rookie worship leader and the overzealous intensity of an experienced worship leader both have the root: and it’s insecurity.
Insecurity whispers in the worship leader’s ear: this is all on you! And when you’re a rookie, that freaks you out. But when you’re more experienced, that puffs up your ego. You actually believe it is all on you. And that you can make the worship soar to glorious heights of heavenly awesomeness.
But the whisper of insecurity is a lie. It’s a tremendous lie. To rookie and experienced worship leaders alike. The success of worship isn’t all on us. It isn’t all on us at all. We have no reason to panic, and no grounds for pride.
Worship is God-initiated, and God-oriented. Worship leaders are placed where they’re placed by God himself, and he’s working through them, in them, around them, in spite of them, and for them, every minute of every song. And this is the God honest truth that helps a worship leader finally realize he or she can just relax and be themselves.
And that’s where sincerity comes from. From a deep-seated confidence that God initiates worship by shining “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). And he receives all worship and glory to himself, for “…from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36).
When I remember those truths: I can enjoy worship with my congregation, choir, worship team, singers, and instrumentalists so much more. We don’t need to panic over making every detail perfect, lest we chase the Holy Spirit out of the room. And we don’t boast in our excellence as if God is impressed and therefore likes us more than the church down the street.
Relax and be yourself, worship leader. Use your gifts, sing with your voice, and join together with your people, to glorify God together. You don’t need to worry and you don’t need to wear yourself out. Thank God!