Nervous isn’t quite the right word, but whenever I lead worship I get a little bit concerned. There’s a certain level of angst present leading up to our time together. Maybe there shouldn’t be, maybe it’s a sign of a distracted, fragmented mind that should be better focused. At any rate, last week was that kind of week, since I was leading worship Sunday while Shane was at our couples retreat (which I’m hearing was a great weekend).
It’s not that I don’t like to lead worship, or that I haven’t done it much… Most Wednesday nights include a significant worship time with our students. I’m not delusional enough about my musical ability to have any kind of performance anxiety… But as I sit down and pray and try to craft a service that will leave people wanting to step out of the sanctuary and worship with their lives, I often lose track of who will actually be in the room and the musical preferences they bring with them. (I can also cause people to run out of the sanctuary covering their ears, but that’s not really the same thing is it?)
I’ll study songs, scriptures, videos, & other service elements and then, often too late to do anything about it, I’ll realize I’ve picked a bunch of stuff that will be completely unfamiliar to half the people there. For the most part, I’m ok with that – but with a caveat; too many times, when people don’t like the songs, they project that on the song leader. I don’t like to be disliked, so that puts me in a bit of a bind – my therapist says it’s because I was coddled as a child and rewarded too much for being so likable, but I think he’s just making stuff up to make me feel better. Thus, the concern.
An older gentleman told me that he really enjoyed the music, and his follow up comment really caught me off guard. “It’s fun doing those old songs.” Totally not what I’ve ever been accused of… He put the whole service into the “those old songs” category. He’s not a musical guy, not a song critic by any means, but he liked it. Now, “liking it” isn’t the point of a worship gathering, I know, but it’s not supposed to be torture, either, so I was glad he left with a favorable disposition toward the experience.
Here’s the kicker-fact to his comment, though: 1999, 1939, 2000, 2010, 2010, 2005.
Those were the copyright dates of the music this week – 1 song that legitimately qualified as old, 2 that can’t even walk yet, a kindergartner, and a couple slightly awkward tweens! As I pondered that between Thursday night after practice and Sunday morning, I was a little apprehensive. Too many songs. Too many new songs. Uh-oh… people are gonna get mad… pot-roasts will be dry… But the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced the selections would be used. We prayed, the service went well, I’m sure there were some that would have preferred a more familiar palette of music, but God is being worshiped.
I received an encouraging e-mail Monday morning regarding the way the service was being used by God to reveal a glimmer of hope and a salve for someone’s loneliness. Part of the e-mail was worded in almost carbon copy language of what we prayed backstage just before beginning the service.
A few, final thoughts:
- His grace really is amazing. I love it when my efforts are maximized by a team of people who draw together for God’s purposes and He steps in and moves beyond what we imagined.
- We need to pray for our worship leaders and thank them for what they go through week in and week out to musically inspire, comfort, challenge, correct, rebuke, teach… Don’t let this be a thankless, can’t-ever-please-everyone job in your church.
- If you lead, be sure your attempts to appease the worshipers don’t get in the way of pleasing the one we worship. When it comes to music – someone’s always going to prefer something else.
- And just for the record, a good gravy and a can of pepsi will do wonders for a dry pot roast.