Thoughts from a recovering worship leader
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Worship pet peeves

January 30th, 2012 | Posted by jamie in Thoughts

Lights dim, an energetic drum beat begins, and the congregation is on their feet. I’m starting to feel the music, let go of my week, and worship.

Then out of nowhere I am ripped out of my reverie.

“LET’S ALL PUT OUR HANDS TOGETHER! WE LOVE YOU, JESUS!”

Y’know what drives me crazy during worship? Too much instruction. I hate being told to put my hands together or raise my hands in the air. In fact, if you tell me to do any of those things, I’m likely to be stubborn and stuff my hands in my pockets. I’ll show you

In all seriousness, I really don’t want to be told how to worship. I just want an atmosphere created that will allow me to worship. Get us started, then step back and let the Holy Spirit work. Let the music (or rather the Spirit) move me, not the words of your mouth. If you want to clap because the song is upbeat and energetic, then by all means, clap. I might even join in. If you feel the Spirit moving and want to raise your hands, go right ahead. Just don’t tell me to. Raising hands is not a way I worship. I’m not any less of a Christian because of it. Now I just look like a rebellious heathen because I’m the only one with their hands not raised to the heavens.

I was reading Stuff Christians Like recently; about raising your hands in worship. I was chuckling my way through the post and comments. I ran across a comment from a worship leader that stated that she was one of “those” worship leaders who rarely talked.

Another commenter posted this in response to her comment:

“Rarely talking is great! I am there to be in communion with God, not me and God and the worship leader. Ours thinks he is contributing when he is really interfering. His heart is in the right place but Jesus is our priest, we don’t need anyone else to lead us to His presence. I prefer a Music Director, The Spirit is the worship leader.”

I remember years ago, first starting out as a worship leader. I was young, naive, and impressionable. I took my lead from other worship leaders and did what I saw them do. I felt like I was supposed to spout out worship directions; or at the very least, some thoughtful, holy words, such as, “We love You, Jesus… we worship You, Jesus…” But anytime I tried, it felt forced; unnatural.

A dear friend of mine and fellow worship leader introduced me to the “strong, silent” type of worship leader. During the music, she didn’t say anything. Not one word. She would invite the congregation to stand and join in worship, and that was it. Then she merely played the music and sang. No instructions, no holier than thou words. Just the music. She led the congregation by example.

At first, this felt a bit weird. There are awkward instrumental parts where it felt like there needed to be some filler. I got so used to being told what to do, and now there was silence. It was uncomfortable. Soon, I realized I was being given freedom to worship as I wanted to.

This is the kind of worship leader I evolved into. It’s not my style to shout instructions. I merely introduce the song, sing it as simply as I can (I try very hard to control any vocal aerobics that emerge from my vocal cords), and let the congregation worship as they desire.

It just seems more natural that way.

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  • Vicki

    I so agree. Just let the silence BE.

    • http://rebootingworship.com/ Jamie Kocur

      Well put.

  • Aunt Eileen

    I am one who worships with my hands in the air, sometimes, other times, not. I worship by going up to the altar and kneeling with my head bowed down to honor the One I am worshipping. I, too, don’t need instructions in how to, but sometimes even the leader is caught up in the worship and I think words just come because of it. If we need “instructions” every time we meet, then I wonder who is really in charge…the Holy Spirit or the worship “leader.” Thanks for your honesty, Jamie. I love you!

    • http://rebootingworship.com/ Jamie Kocur

      Thanks Aunt Eileen.

  • http://cherylbarker.blogspot.com/ Cheryl Barker

    Yes, let everyone worship as the Spirit leads.

  • Bri DuPree

    I would tend to agree with you. But what is the purpose of a worship leader then? If we aren’t willing to follow him or her what is there purpose? It’s a question I’ve been wrestling for a while now because I enjoy being able to worship freely but I also think that part of the worship leaders role is to instruct us. Thoughts?

    • http://rebootingworship.com/ Jamie Kocur

      I believe their purpose is to help facilitate worship and then get out of the way. Congregations need someone to help lead the song; someone singing strong on the melody, otherwise we’d all go all over the place. But I believe when worship leaders begin spouting instructions and telling everyone how to worship, they’re trying to take the place of the Holy Spirit, even if they don’t realize it or mean to.
      Just my humble opinion and preferences. I know some have no problem with the instructions but personally it drives me crazy and creates an atmosphere that is impossible to worship in.

  • MarkAllman

    I think the best leaders are those that inspire others to “lead themselves” …….

    • http://rebootingworship.com/ Jamie Kocur

      Well put!