Sing, Play, Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not LOVE, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

Charts learned – check.
Guitars tuned – check.
Standing in the right spot on the stage – check.

And so it goes every weekend, Wednesday night, and every other time we lead our church in worship – we look good and we sound good. But do those 2 things alone equal effectiveness? Way too often we overlook the most basic concept of worship: LOVE. We don’t do it on purpose. We are here to serve, right? Nothing wrong with that. But service alone isn’t enough (remember the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10?). I like to challenge my team before we hit the stage to consider their motives – why are they here, why have they rehearsed, why have they sacrificed their time? Pulling off a great worship set is more than just making great music, it’s about LOVELOVE for our God and LOVE for His people.

Have you ever stood right beside a crash cymbal as the drummer beats the life out of it? If you are a musician you probably respect that crash cymbal and understand why it was created, but more than a few seconds of that crash cymbal next to your head and you’ll move to another location far away. That’s the mental picture I get from 1 Corinthians 13:1. If what we do as a worship team is not motivated by LOVE, then we will eventually become nothing more than that crash cymbal, no matter how good we sound and look.

Here are a few ways we can help our teams focus on more than just the nuts and bolts of the worship set:

It’s important to take a few minutes before we hit the stage and think about whom we’re leading in worship. The men and women who enter the auditorium for each service have jobs and families, needs and burdens, questions and doubts. Church is a refuge for them – a place where they can make a joyful noise and connect with the God that loves them. They don’t need a group of musicians in front of them going through the motions – they need honest worshippers reminding them of the hope they have in Christ. With that in mind it’s important for us to tear down the wall between the chairs and the stage. They need to feel as though they can reach out and connect with us as we sing and play; that we truly desire to lead them before the throne of God. That alone will make the difference between a “worship set” and a “time of corporate worship.” And how do you tear down the walls? Here are a few things to try:

  • Smile – You’d be surprised how many people don’t smile when they lead worship. It should be the most natural facial expression given the subject of our songs: “GOD LOVES US!!!” And a smiling face goes a long way towards putting the audience at ease, ready to hear what you have to say.
  • Make eye contact – Show them that you know they are there and that we are on this journey together! Closing our eyes or looking up to the ceiling all the time gives the impression that we are closing ourselves off, we’re unapproachable. Pick a few people out every service and invite them to sing with you.
  • Memorize the lyrics – I’ll be the first to confess that I blow the lyrics at least once a weekend, but I refuse to keep my head down, looking at the lyrics monitor. This gives the crowd a sense that you haven’t cared enough to prepare for the worship service. They want to know the words are coming from your heart, not from a screen or a sheet of paper.
  • Let them take the lead – My favorite part of a worship set is when I can back away from the mic and let the congregation take it. Those are awesome moments! And those are moments that are about them, not about you.

Take a few moments before you hit the stage and pray for those whom you will be leading in worship. Better yet, ask God to lay specific people and/or situations on your heart. That way you’ll be more in tune with how the words and messages of your songs will impact those in the room.

Ok, answer honestly – how tired are you of the same old songs week after week after week? If we do “Mighty to Save” one more time I’m gonna scream! It seems like we’ve done that song 4,000 times. Funny thing, though, is that when we do it the 4,001st time our congregation still brings down the house with their voices! To them it’s a song they can relate to; they can close their eyes and sing without looking at the lyrics on the screen; it’s a no-brainer. As musicians we want to continually introduce new songs, to change it up, and keep what we do feeling fresh. And we should. At COTM we introduce 1 or 2 new songs a month. But at some point you have to give those who came to worship a break and allow them to sing songs that are near and dear to them. Don’t disrespect your audience by taking away precious worship time and forcing them to learn new songs every week. And if a song isn’t connecting with them after the 2nd or 3rd time you’ve tried it, chunk it and move on, no matter how much you may love the song.

It is important that the worship leaders are on the same page with the senior pastor. You know and I know that not every worship song out there is Biblically accurate nor do they line up with the convictions of your pastor (which should be your convictions, by the way). Do not sing these songs! Songs are powerful memorization tools that will stick in the worshipper’s heart long after they leave the building. On that thought, carefully measure what you say between songs and exhort during songs. LOVE the people you serve enough to line up everything you do on stage with the heart of your pastor.

Those are just a few thoughts on leading worship not only with excellence, but with LOVE. I look forward to hearing your thoughts…

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Andy Chrisman
Worship Pastor
Andy came to Church on the Move in 2005, having been in the music industry for over 25 years. He's dedicated to raising up the next generation of worship leaders, and even though he spent many years with the group 4him, he says he's "having more fun now than I ever did on the road."