A couple of years ago I wrote an essay entitled, “Ignore the Tour Guides, If You Can,” in which I decried the tendency among some worship leaders, praise bands, etc., to distract the congregation’s attention from God instead of helping them focus their attention on God.
Then, in a supreme bit of irony, in January of this year I took over as the worship leader in our church (North Cary Baptist Church, if you’re interested). Which means now I have to remind myself of my own words:
How does a praise band, formed to lead the congregation in worship, become the center of attention? How do singers become vocalists vying for the congregation’s attention instead of leaders helping the congregation to sing the songs? It is, I believe, a natural human tendency to want to be recognized and appreciated for whatever form of expertise we have. And we may convince ourselves, if we believe our talents to be gifts of God, that the applause after a song is somehow directed at God rather than at us. But the human ego still appreciates it, and so the temptation to grandstand is very strong . . . .
For the worship leader, and especially the very talented worship leader, there is a distinction between relaxing into their own worship experience . . . and remaining conscious of the duty they accepted to lead the worshippers in the group setting. Too far in one direction and the other suffers, but the proper choice would seem to be always in favor of the congregation rather than the worship leader or worship team.
The only thing in my favor at this point is that my under-developed musical talent — I rarely even pick up a guitar any more, and my callouses are almost gone — means that I feel singularly unqualified to be in this position. As a result, I try to make myself invisible even in front of the congregation.
And maybe that’s as it should be.
P.S. That essay is still available, if you know of a venue that might be interested. (Although I’m thinking about just posting it on my web site and being done with it.)by