As a worship leader who truly desires to serve those in our congregation, I struggle with these questions often:
What if they don’t like the new song this week?
What if they don’t like any of the songs we’re doing?
What if they just don’t like me?
I’m not a stranger to non-constructive criticism and passive aggressive comments slung my way, but what I do struggle with and wrestle God over weekly is the question: What if all of the songs we do fall on deaf ears and closed hearts? After all, there is a purpose to the songs we sing, which is to preach the Gospel of Christ through a format that can sometimes more easily penetrate hearts and minds than teaching can.
Let’s face it. We don’t all learn the same way. For some, music makes no sense at all, and teaching helps them feel closest to God. For others, they feel closest to God through a song rather than through teaching. Neither one of these experiences with God is less important. On the contrary, both arts are equally as important in a church service for both types of learners.
For example, a friend of mine used to get absolutely nothing from the music we do at Hope. Then he started to get to know me and my heart for worship better, and things started to click with him during worship. Most likely, this guy didn’t connect through the music portion of the service because he didn’t feel like he was a good singer. Here’s a newsflash for you: I stand in front of the entire congregation each week. I hear you! We purposefully make the music loud so that people, regardless of their singing ability, will worship Jesus at the top of their lungs. Sometimes it’s more of a joyful sound than a skillful sound, but regardless, I LOVE it. Jesus loves it too, so don’t stop what you’re doing.
I guess I’m writing all of this to say this: Don’t let the style of music we do deter you from worshiping. Instead of griping because we don’t do your favorite song, come to worship with an open heart and expect that He has something to teach you even through the song/style you don’t like. And as always, if there’s a song you want me to do, tell me!! I can’t read your minds. I do guarantee you this, if you tell me a song that especially speaks to you, as long as it is theologically sound and scripturally based, you will hear it within 4 weeks of telling me. That’s what I do! That’s how I want to serve you.
Also, if you’re going through a season where nothing seems to speak to you, come talk to me. I’d be willing to bet we can find a solution to that. I also know that there are seasons in life where God is silent. I hate those seasons. I know you do too. So let me pray with/for you in your journey.
Some have asked for us to do more hymns in service and wonder why I don’t do hymns so much. I used to think it was because I really didn’t know a lot of hymns, but that’s not the honest truth. I grew up in a kind of crazy tradition, but we did have traditional stuff…like hymns. I don’t do a lot of hymns every Sunday, because some of them that people grew up with as part of their church tradition are just not grounded in sound theology. (Ouch…sorry if that stings a little). That’s not to say that being grounded in tradition is altogether bad, but when I take a step back and look at the lyrics (which is my forte as a worship leader), a lot of times I don’t see Jesus in them. And more often than not, I find that they are more me-focused than Jesus-focused, and that bothers me truly. (Funny thing is that most of my hymn lovers think that of modern worship, which I totally get)! That’s why I also don’t do every modern worship song! Most people honestly have no idea where I get my songs, because they’re not the ones on mainstream Christian radio, which I pretty much can’t tolerate. I want to do songs that take me and you to the feet of Jesus.
Think, for instance, about Revelation Song. It’s one of the best song examples I can think of that is vertically charged. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Worthy, worthy is He.” It’s all about Jesus and not about me. Praise Him! That’s the kind of song I’m looking for always, whether it be found in a hymn or a modern worship song. If you haven’t noticed, I have been really trying to respond to your cries for more hymns by doing songs that have a chorus of a hymn in them or by simply adding a hymn chorus at the end of a song. Please note that this is my attempt to serve and reach all my hymn lovers. It’s not my intention to make you feel isolated. It’s just that at the end of the day, I have to do the songs that preach what Jesus wants presented for that Sunday. Songs selection is a long, thorough process for me. More goes into it than seeing which songs go with other songs key-wise. I want to hear the voice of Jesus say, “That’s it. That’s what I want preached this week.”
Lastly, I have come to the realization, after almost 20 years of leading worship in some capacity, that I can’t please everyone. I’m ok with that. I am trying to aim to please Jesus. (And for those of you doing the math, I started leading worship in youth group when I was 13 years old, so don’t think of me as an old fart). 🙂 🙂