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.)
This was posted on YouTube a couple of weeks ago, but I just found it today — and as one who appreciates barbeque in most all its forms, I found the rundown of different styles to be a delightful tribute to one of my favorite foods.
I particularly liked the bit about whether or not Florida is a Southern state* — down to using the outline of California.
*To most of us who consider ourselves Southern, it isn’t.
Father’s Day weekend, so I’ll get right to the point: I’m really proud of my young-uns.
Today we picked up our daughter after four weeks as a production assistant on an independent film. That’s four weeks in the farm country of northeast North Carolina, in the middle of which she went to the emergency room for heat exhaustion. And they liked her work so much they changed her unpaid internship to a paid position.
And as I type this, our son is performing at his first paying musical gig: he’s playing violin at a wedding with some other members of the high school chamber group. He’s done some charity gigs before with the band he formed at church (Clantannin), but this is his first time driving to an out-of-town gig and coming home with money.
My kids are cool. Pity I can’t take the credit for their coolness.
But I’m proud of ’em.
For the last four days I puzzled over what song to sing in church today.* By this morning I’d narrowed it down to four choices:
– “Big Enough” by Chris Rice — “I hope you don’t mind me asking the questions”
– “Trinity” by Jennifer Knapp — “Where do I stand, on the rock or in the sand?”
– “Pray Where You Are” by the Lost Dogs — “In our hopes and fears and struggles, great or small”
– “Beautiful Scandalous Night” by the Lost Dogs — “At the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree”
I like each one for different reasons; they all speak to me, but I wasn’t sure which one to do. I was leaning away from “Big Enough” because it’s the hardest to play; I need to practice a lot more to get the chord changes. And I wasn’t sure how many people would appreciate the whole of “Pray Where You Are.”
Then, stopped at a traffic light on my way to church this morning, I thought, “I’m a little hungry” … whereupon the song “Hungry” popped into my head: “Hungry I come to you for I know you satisfy.”
I thought, No way. (I didn’t even remember what chords it had in it.)
But when I got to church I figured I had to at least try it, so back in the music room I found it in my notebook and gave it a go. It was rough, and awkward, and I still thought hard about doing “Beautiful Scandalous Night,” but in the end I went through with it and nobody threw anything at me. It helped a lot that Pastor Mark played along on the piano (without any music, of course, the show-off 😉 ).
And all the time I think God was chuckling, pointing at me and saying to the angels, “Look what I made him do.”
* I wasn’t asked to sing until Tuesday evening, after choir practice.