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Worship Leaders: Learn when to be quiet!

mouthshutThe song is over and there is a harsh transition coming.  The key of your next song would clash too badly if you tried to seamlessly transition the two – and you need to position a capo on your guitar.  How do you work it all out?  You tried the old standby of having your keyboard player give you a light pad underneath…but you realized in rehearsal that you picked two songs that simply cant fuse in any volume of music theory.  You are at a standstill.  So…what will it be?  How will you save the day?  Easy!  You say something that sounds spiritual, right?  Let’s digress for a moment…and come back in just a minute.

A few months back, our friend Bob Kauflin over at wrote a great article about "What Do You Say When You Lead Worship?  I encourage you to go read his article because it came in multiple parts and because all of his material is not covered here.  (Not to mention the fact that Bob always has very worthwhile stuff to say.  He is worth a bookmark!)

I urge you to look at these few bullet points that I knabbed from Bob…and see how many fit you.  When you are done, we will discuss the strereotypes, how they effect worship, and how to overcome them.

  • The Mute – You don’t know if he doesn’t have anything to say, fears speaking in front of crowds, or just wants you to figure everything out on your own. Sometimes accompanied by long pregnant pauses between songs.
  • The Reporter– He unemotionally provides you with information, details, stats, facts. Helpful for someone who works at an information desk. Doesn’t work quite as well when you want to direct people’s hearts to worship God.
  • The Wanderer – You’re not quite sure where he’s going or where he’s been, but you’re hoping he makes sense to someone.”In Christ Alone. Like, a-looooone, man. I’ve been alone. Like, it’s a bad feeling. Aloneness. Don’t wanna be alone. No way.”
  • The Cheerleader -Wants you to be excited from start to finish and will use any number of techniques to get you there and keep you there – jumping, shouting, waving hands, moving from one side of the stage to the other, prolonged eye contact, etc. “Here we go! Come on! Let’s sing it like we mean it!”
  • The Philosopher – Likes to consider possible interpretations and implications of lyrics without coming to any definite conclusions. “You know when we sing that line, ‘Light of the world you stepped down into darkness’ it makes me wonder what kind of step we’re talking about. Was it like a stair step or more like a leap? You know, was it really a step? Was it one small step for Jesus but one giant leap for mankind? I dunno.”
  • The Mystic – Steve has a distinctive “worship leading” voice that differs from has “normal speaking” voice. It might be a breathy whisper or loud shouting. In either case, you wonder if the Spirit is in the business of voice-modulation.

Bob punching any of you in the gut?  Sadly, I fit two of these categories.  Why do we do it, then?  I think part of it stems from the feeling that empty space has to be filled – so we say whatever we can to fill it.  The problem is…this usually leads to prayers that are not heart-felt – and a congregation will catch on to the lack of being genuine very quickly.  Many times, it turns to useless babble.  While it may seem to occupy the space between two songs, it becomes more of a distraction from what God may actually be working on during the songs.

I once had a ringing in my ear that would not stop during a prayer.  It was so bad that I could not even hear myself pray nor think clearly about what I was saying.  I had just started my prayer that would transtion us to the sermon.  During this time, our stage crew is prepating to assist the band to get off stage and move instruments, cables, etc. during our video bumper.  We strive to make this as seamless as possible.  To cut off a prayer is to shorten the time to transition.  Here I was, though, not able to concentrate on what was being said.  What would you do?  I stopped.  I had no clear idea even where I was in thought or in sentence…so I stopped…and said "Amen."  The stage crew took over…the sermon went on.

What I did caused a few people to say "that was a little quick and strange".  What I didn’t do was lead a congregation in meaningless prayer and cause their focus during such a beautiful time to be on "wait…what did he just say?"

Should you talk between songs?  Absolutely…if you have something relevant to say that truly relates to the worship and advances the worship.  If you find yourself praying just to speak or merely to "figure out what to do next"…don’t.  Pray when led.  Speak when led.  Be honest.  Be yourself.

So, what do we do when we have nothing to say?  We say nothing at all.

Here is another example, this time in video, of a a transition.  There was no awkward transition of key changes.  The only change between the song that needed to be made was a quick capo change – which could have been done seemlessly.  This was merely a case where I wanted to take a backseat to what my lips may say to a whole congregation and exchange them for what God may have to say for each individual in the congregation.

Take a look.

I encourage you to transition with silence from time to time in your worship service.  The impact can be great because the Spirit can work freely and speak clearly when our own thoughts, words, and actions may otherwise disrupt.

Above all…pray this week that God will expose to you areas that you may need to improve in.  Do you talk to much?  (I, myself, am guilty of mini-sermons from the stage) Do you talk too little?  Seek God’s counsel on what is appropriate and find yourself becoming stronger in those areas.  Ask Him how to improve…then be silent………

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