Read Part 1 here.
Let’s look at another common fixation that can hurt worship leading. It’s wise to remember that in most cases, the thing we fixate on is probably a good thing on its own. It’s when we elevate that object to more importance that it’s worth that it becomes a problem.
What It Looks Like: This unhealthy fixation happens when you’re expecting your crowd to behave the way some other crowd did. You might be imagining the sort of response you heard on a CD or possibly the reaction you witnesses at another worship service or church. For example, that CD of yours has Song 1 in the key of B and Song 2 in F. You dig it because as soon as Song 1 (B) ends, the crowd goes bananas for 22 seconds and Song 2 (F) kicks in. It works, because the applause and shouting has created a natural decay for that first song. Now, go try those two songs in your service and see if it’s sounds as smooth.
Or perhaps you love a worship song that has a long, extended spontaneous singing break in the middle where people begin to lift up their own words and phrases. This is a powerful thing when it happens in worship, but most people have never done it. Unless you’ve talked about it or modeled it in a teaching format, you just end up having a free-from band jam while your folks stare at you. Expecting your crowd to behave exactly like another never quite works out.
What It Does: Expecting a specific response backfires on you in the worst way because it creates the opposite effect. You’re expecting/wanting this response so that worship will feel connected and memorable and powerful, but it will often cause your crowd to feel disconnected from what you’re doing. You’re wanting them MORE engaged, not stepping back thinking, “Oh, this part isn’t for me. I’ll just wait a minute before I join back in.”
In fact, this whole response issue tends to be the secret answer for a lot of worship leaders who are unsuccessful. I meet worship leaders all the time who are frustrated with their ministries and can’t seem to figure out why they leave each Sunday feeling like a failure. Often, it’s because they’ve had some expectation of what the crowd will (or should) do and it hasn’t happened.
What To Do: Realize that applause and shouting and lifted hands and dancing and spontaneous singing are Biblical. Those are good responses according to Scripture. But folks have to be taught that. They need to know what scripture says about it. We all could do a better job of instructing our people. The important thing is to kill this idea that certain responses MUST happen at certain times in a song based what somebody else has performed or recorded.
Killing this unhealthy fascination with response happens, of course, with how you value a song. Chances are, if you’re picking a song for worship because of the cheers or the audible prayers from the crowd, you’re using a wrong criteria for song selection. Each and every song must have a value…as a worship leader, you have to know at least ONE benefit to singing this song. Does it teach something about God that we are prone to forget? Does it help us to identify God’s power in the light of political or social strife? Does it encourage gratitude among us? Knowing a song’s inherent value allows you to perform it without out any of that response pressure.
Know what the song is supposed to do.
And let the rest surprise you.