Long title, I know.
This may be a jumbled mess- so bear with me. Thanks
I've been a worship leader for 7 years at our church. I currently am the only musician we have- been the only musician for years. I've got a pretty involved "rig" that consists of two keyboards and a drum machine. I'm the lead vocalist. There is a lot of stuff going on in my head during a sunday morning worship service (tempos of songs, drum patterns, chords, lyrics, pitch...etc) I've gotten pretty good at balancing all of the necessary components that I have got going on musically and still be able to lead people into worship. It has taken a lot of hard work but it works. It's not what I want- but it's what I've got and I'm making the best of it.
I know that one of my weaknesses is that I do not "engage" the congregation very much during worship. Most of the time the pastor opens up the service and then hands it over to me- and we just dive into worship. (I feel that a second greeting or a second service opener would be awkward and redundant). Recently my Pastor (who is also my dad) made a passing comment in a conversation that really has bothered me and I think would bother any worship leader: "You give a good concert every Sunday". I was kinda devastated by the comment because that's not what I'm about. and if it was- then in my mind- it's not even a GOOD concert (where's my band? where's my lighting?- you know what i'm saying?) and that comment was made because I don't "engage" the congregation.
I find it extremely difficult to do that because there is so much running through my mind to make the worship set "GO"- to make the music aspect of worship happen. I've got drum pattern numbers and changes- I've got 4 foot pedals to deal with, etc. I pray in between transitions (when necessary) and when worship is going on I close my eyes (not the whole time) but it just helps me focus on what I am doing. I don't know what to do to engage people in worship. because at the end of the day- people do what they want: they will either engage in worship or they won't- I can't make them.
and then- I read articles like this one: http://churchrelevance.com/top-10-pet-peeves-about-worship-leaders/ which don't help- because I don't want to turn into one of these pet peeves.
So all that being said- What does "engaging the congregation" look like? How do you engage the congregation on a sunday morning? Where's the line between leading worship and giving a concert? What tips do you have for somebody who can't let the kick drum start off service while we greet people at the opening of the service?
My heart is not in concert performance. My heart is in leading worship.
You give a good concert ever Sunday
Justin, not saying this is what is happening at your church, but do you know the story behind Matt Redman's Heart of Worship? I was lucky enough over 10 years ago hear Mike Pilavachi and Matt Redman explain it live at a conference keynote. A shorter synopsis was printed in Crosswalk here:
You can pick up bits and pieces from the lyrics themselves, but what amazes me was the willingness of Pastor Mike & Matt to drop everything.That they sensed something and gave up months of planning, thousands of dollars of sound equipment, expectations of teams of musicians and vocalists at Soul Survivor and spend a whole season in another room with basically 'nothing'.
When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come / Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart… / I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus
The longer version exists in Chapter 8 of "The Unquenchable Worshipper" (a great little book we've used as a group study with past worship teams during "break"). Matt showed great humility giving up everything. I love his quote from the book:
"If I´m honest, at first I was pretty offended by the whole thing. The worship was my job! But as God softened my heart, I started to see His wisdom all over these actions. At first the meetings were a bit awkward: there were long periods of silence, and there wasn´t too much singing going on. But we soon began to learn how to bring heart offerings to God without any external trappings we´d grown used to. Stripping everything away, we slowly started to rediscover the heart of worship." (p 103)
We learned a lot from that song and it's background story. God brought back the band, instruments, great sound system when the time was right.
I don't know you or your church service well, so I won't be so bold as to make any assumptions there...There is a good chance you and your church don't struggled with this. *But* if I had to be honest, I know I have and even our little team had our crutches, let alone the congregation. It was a very important lesson learned. We (the worship team) and the congregation had in our minds what worship "must be" and "must have". God had something totally differ in store.
Recently my Pastor (who is also my dad) made a passing comment in a conversation that really has bothered me and I think would bother any worship leader: "You give a good concert every Sunday".
Justin, how good is your relationship with your dad? Ever think about maybe asking him to expand on his statement further in a constructive way? Maybe it was 'Good job son' type of thing? Or wow, you're practically a band yourself...
Sometimes the most constructive criticism comes from those we love. Those who see us at our best and our worst and know in-side, out.
Seems like it bothered you a bit... and I was thinking maybe it's best to go to the source? Make sure there isn't any miscommunication or anything you're missing. It seems like it's something that's been on your heart for a bit...
(1) Asking the congregation to do something.
I do this all the time. I ask them to stand every week, also to sing songs along with the band.
(2) Mini-sermons and talking
I also do talking every week. "Let's praise God - would you all stand, please." TBH, I do this as often as #1
I sing with my eyes closed - because I'm worshipping,
(8) Bad Transitions
Sometimes, I use the song titles as introductions. This is because they introduce the song.
So, shoot me!
I don't think his definitions include what you're talking about. Maybe read again...
Well, maybe 6) is poorly defined. I'd agree that one probably shouldn't be eyes closed 100% of the time, but we can't help it at times.
Soz, mate! It was irony (apart form 6 which was incredulity).
Pet peeves by their very nature are PETty and most of the ones listed are just that. There's no record of Jesus moaning to third parties about Peter's big mouth, about Judas's untrustworthiness, about Thomas's unbelief. When he did have a problem, he directly addressed the person with the problem. So, surely, if people have a problem with the worship team, they should address it directly to their worship team. Maybe then, some of the people being moaned about will be able to explain their reasons, or indeed improve what they're doing.
Provided that the worship leader is aware of what's going on in the congregation, eyes closed or eyes open shouldn't be a problem. If I can't belt out the chorus of a great praise song with my eyes shut giving it my all for God then TBH, I don't really think I want to be on the team any more.
I'm not fantastic at engaging the congregation either. I just don't have the cariama to engage a large audience. A small one, sure. But not a large audience.
Thankfully, worship isn't about engaging the audience.
The thing that sucks about the word worship is that we have only one whereas Holy Scripture uses many words to describe all the different kinds of worship we do. Even more challenging is the fact that the english word "worship" isn't well defined, ANYWHERE except for English dictionaries. Sadly, this means we don't know what we're talking about when we talk about worship (most of the time).
In the English language, worship (the verb) essentially means to give reverence and respect to somebody or something. WOW - that almost blows me out of the water when I consider that we're always respecting something: God, ours desires, the desires of others... Make God your first motive for worship as others and us are sinful.
Holy Scripture essentially has two primary displays of worship: The first is our work (Romans 12:1). The work you do in preparing for our worship offering to God is worship of God if your doing that work for God. This is latreia worship, or worship through acts of service. Verse 1 ends with "which is your spiritual service of worship" service and worship and both words are the word Latreia so you could say that the text says "which is your spiritual "latreia of "latreia".
Then there is the actual worship offering of music that we give. This is akin to proskuneo worship which is displays of homage. However, with every musical worship offering of proskuneo there is somebody, or a group of somebodies who have to do some kind of latreia to make the music happen. This is the sacrifice that some absolutely have to make for our corporate worship offering of music to happen.
There is nothing anywhere in holy scripture that I have ever seen that requires us to engage with the congregation. Furthermore, if God himself thought that this was a need for your body, he would give you that gift or he would give you somebody with that gift.
This doesn't mean you can't try - but we have to remember, engagement is a luxury add-on like many aspects of our worship offering through music.
The truth is, brother, some of us have to focus on what we are playing and singing or we start making mistakes. God never calls us to bring him a half assed worship offering. Rather, I see him calling us to bring our best, at a cost. So focus on your best gifts, give those first, and USE THEM TO THEIR FULLEST POTENTIAL and then as God sees you being a good steward with the gifts that he has provided you - he'll provide more... if he thinks your body needs to give more.
To another end of this conversation, we have been doing worship lessons in our church. The worship staff have been intent on telling people that it is OK to physically express during worship - that we don't have to be deadpan when we worship. This has done a lot to help people become more expressive during their proskuneo worship offering to God.
When you put it in this context- it really makes all of the "other" stuff unimportant. Thank you- that helped tremendously. Because when I am focused on making that offering the best that I can- I FEEL like I am doing what I am called to do. When I try to be a cheerleader- it just falls flat and takes my focus off of what I am supposed to be doing.
I have thought about doing worship classes- for people who just want to know more about worship- I think that it would benefit our church
I don't know that "other stuff" is unimportant, because for people with those "other skills" those things will certainly be important and we need to recognize that.
People are always going to try and tell us how to worship God. It's all over Holy Scripture and it never pans out well for the people or the leaders. When it comes to our worship offering to God, be it an offering of music, sacrifice, obedience, taking out the trash, etc, doing what God wants us to do is the only solid policy. If God doesn't give you explicit instructions - then look at what God has given you. In the end, you can never give to God what he never gave you in the first place. So that is always your starting point.
This said: perhaps your pastor sees something in you that you're not seeing in yourself. I've had this same situation a few times (you can read one such story here: http://brainlog.coryzipperle.com/?p=562). So don't totally discount what your father is suggesting. As leaders in God's church - it is extra important to look for ways to improve and build skills. As your looking for ways to expand your worship offering, and as your listening to what people say to you, file ideas in the back of your head and take time to pray to God about them. If they are really important ideas to God, He will make certain that you know. If they are not important ideas to God... well, then it simply isn't important for you to worry about.
The worship class thing is a great idea. I did one in a previous church. I took an exegetical approach and really took a lot of time with people on word studies of the various expressions used in Holy Scripture to talk about worship. It was hard for a lot of people because, once you really get into what the Word is really saying about worship, you'll find that most of the time it has absolutely nothing to do with what we actually think worship is about.
The class was 90% scripture with respectable commentaries from Bible scholars, not worship leaders. That was intentional as worship leaders tend to have the same theological disconnect about what worship really is as most common folk. This is starting to change, some, but still - taking it from an academic angle really introduces a lot of different thinking about worship, what it meant then compared to what it means now is really eye-opening.