Removing Boundaries from Worship
“This song is going to melt people’s faces off…in worship.”
I may have never said that out loud when I led worship, but I sure felt it. There was always some new song, some new arrangement, something that would change the congregation’s lives forever. They would finally know what it’s like to worship at the feet of Jesus. And I’d finally found the way to make it happen.
So ponder my dismay when I saw blank faces staring back at me during the would-be face-melting moment. No faces were melting. (Well, that old lady in the back…but that might just be her usual facial sag.)
There was something keeping people from experiencing the same thing I experienced on my own, in my office, on the floor, strumming my guitar. There were boundaries. It was discouraging.
I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar. You might not have used my particular vernacular. You were probably using a far more spiritual nomenclature. But you’ve experienced the boundaries that keep people from experiencing the worship moment you’re trying to achieve.
These are a few of the boundaries I’ve noticed from leading worship. See if you identify the same ones.
1. The New Song Mumble
Singing a song on the radio and singing it in front of a bunch of scowling faces…those are two drastically different experiences. While I might be able to rap along with Nicki Minaj in my car, it comes out like the whitest boy’s mumble from the stage. It’s easy to fake it ’til you make it when leading worship. Sometimes you just forget the words. Or you lose your place on the sheet music in front of you. So you mumble your way through it until you remember. (You know you’ve done it!)
Let me encourage you, learn the music intimately. Get the music stand off the stage. Know the words without the help of a prompter or scribbles on your wrist. You’re leading lyrically. And it’s hard for people to follow a mumble.
2. The Puppy Dog Face
I’ve been guilty of this. My band has been worse. It’s the intense face. The tightly shut eyes. The hair over your face emo look. It’s the face that says I’m self conscious and don’t want to be here.
None of us try to wear this particular face. But we’re afraid of looking goofy or we’re just in our own little bubble. We look lame.
Folks take their cues from us. If we’re into what’s going on, they’ll get into what’s going on. But if we look like we aren’t (even if deep inside we are), they won’t be into it either.
This isn’t about putting on a rock show. It’s not about hamming it up like some Branson, Missouri musical. It’s about controlling our emotions and choosing to celebrate, even if we don’t always feel like it. It’s about serving those on the floor by plastering joy on our faces.
3. The Overpacked Set
When I pack for a trip I’m a monster. I roll each shirt as tightly as possible and cram, cram, cram. I leave no corner of my suitcase empty. It’s great, except… When I need to fit something else in. Or when I need to check to see if I packed something.
I plan my worship sets a lot like I pack my suitcase. I jam every second with music. I don’t leave any space. That leaves no room for people. I create a tightly packed worship experience. And there’s no way for people to join in.
We need to leave some space for people to get in on the experience. Sometimes that’s as simple as inviting them and reminding them what we’re trying to do. Sometimes it’s a little stillness after that knee jiggling drum solo. Give people space to cozy into the worship experience with you. They want to join in.
4. The Ego
This is the biggest boundary. And it’s nearly impossible to vanquish.
If we’re honest, we have to admit this worship thing quickly becomes more about us than it does about worshipping God. It becomes about our art, our voice, our instrument, our reputation, our preferences. It becomes about us.
This is and always will be the biggest boundary to worship in our services. This is the biggest boundary to our Christian life.
You know what you need to do. I’m not going to dwell on this. But I encourage you, take up your cross daily and follow Christ. When you get up, choose to die to yourself. When you’re getting ready to rehearse or soundcheck, nail your ego on the cross before you strike your first chord.
Remove the boundaries so people can put their focus where it belongs.