What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up… But all things should be done decently and in order.
1 Corinthians 14:26, 40
THOUGH SOME HAVE PURSUED TO AN EXTREME THE MYSTIFYING ART OF “INVISIBLE” WORSHIP “LEADING,” PERHAPS A BALANCED APPROACH IS MORE EFFECTIVE. The worship leader is a minister for a people and a purpose greater than himself; his role and responsibility is to lead the people of God into the presence of God. He must never allow his public position to so much as hint toward self-promotion. Yet some have perhaps gone too far in their noble attempt to be humble.
At issue is the concept of biblical leadership: is it unbecoming for a Christian to take a leadership role? No doubt, cultural bias abounds even among the scrupulous family that is the brotherhood. It is unpopular in post-modern society to be a strong leader. The ideas of equality and identity have become confused. We are all equal, but we are not at all identical. And that’s a good thing! Diverse communities enjoy the richest fruit of their collective labor. Large singing groups perform best with a leader and a blend of many different voices. The Christian virtue of humility may also be misconstrued to the detriment of the design and function of the church. Taken to its logical conclusion, to advocate for an invisible worship leader one must essentially do away with any kind of visible, influential role including preachers, elders, and deacons. Perhaps the utopian church for some would be a house church with no formalities. We must not become so skeptical of human intentions that we cripple the church in order to protect her from pride.
Biblical leaders lead. They are not arrogant or self-seeking, yet they are also not afraid to be out front when necessary for the good of the kingdom. It is a responsibility they assume knowing full well the risk and and the weight of it. They know the selfish choice would be to shirk the difficulty of leading, but they hear their call to serve and answer it. Wisdom discerns the time to sit or stand, and each time they stand they must determine whether they will seek their own glory or that of the Father.
Here are 7 essential audible and visible cues from worship leaders that amplify your praise.
1. The pitch. For the church to sing together, especially in part singing, they must know the pitch of the song. This may be given by the worship leader briefly before each song or medley by first using a pitch pipe to find “Do,” and then by giving the church “Do” and the starting lead note (usually “Mi” or “Sol” in the major scale).
2. The tune. If your goal is congregational singing, ensure the leader is just loud enough so that the church can follow along with the melody. He may need a wireless or handheld mic to dynamically increase and decrease his volume and be free to move in the pulpit to keep the church’s attention. Some have developed a strategy of mixing in and out of the mic strategically to keep things moving, and singing “off mic” when the church is doing just fine. Others have sought to mimic this technique without the handheld mic by not singing some of the time. But shouldn’t the worship leader be worshipping too? Why should his voice be silenced?
3. The tempo. Listen to what often happens when the leader cannot be heard. Often, the church begins to hesitate and slow down dramatically. He must set and maintain the tempo with his voice and standard conducting beat patterns that are clear and simple. It is advisable to lead with the whole body including visage, arms, hands, movement, etc. Do only what is necessary to maintain the attention of the church and aid the worship. Let the simplest effective method be your goal; if the church is following, then it is effective.
4. The rhythm. Being able to hear the leader sing with the correct rhythm also helps keep the church together, especially on more challenging contemporary songs. The more complex the song, the more the leader must work to keep the church together. Contemporary music often demands the most from the leader; it simply doesn’t work well without strong leadership, whatever your style.
5. The spirit. Perhaps the most important role the leader plays during worship is that of setting the mood and tone in order to evoke spirit-filled praise. The church will rarely step outside the box and sing with passion without a leader who goes first. If he isn’t smiling, the church will not smile. And without meaningful interpretation, the church may drag every song or punch every note which only serves to muddy the message of even the best-planned service.
6. The look. Apparel and grooming should be appropriate. Something reverant, simple, and culturally neutral is best. Try to blend in with the local culture as much as possible while being true to your own style.
7. The remarks. Brief remarks that will help the church focus in the moment and worship better are welcomed. Brief instructions may be appropriate if they are needed to prepare the congregation for something unusual that require a heads up to ensure it goes smoothly. For example, if you are going to significantly vary the arrangement of a song from the version the church is accustomed to singing and do not think the church will pick it up on the fly without a heads up, give a quick remark and move on into the worship.
Our next posting will be 7 unnecessary distractions by worship leaders that impede your praise.
Lord, Speak to Me
Lord, speak to me that I may speak
In living echoes of thy tone;
As Thou has sought, so let me seek
Thine erring children lost and lone.
O teach me, Lord, that I may teach
The precious things Thou dost impart;
And wing my words, that they may reach
The hidden depths of many-a heart.
O give Thine own sweet rest to me,
That I may speak with soothing pow’r
A word in season, as from Thee,
To weary ones in needful hour.
O fill me with Thy fullness, Lord,
Until my very heart o’erflow
In kindling tho’t and glowing word,
Thy love to tell, Thy praise to show.
FRANCES R. HAVERGAL, 1872