Last year at the WorshipGod conference I had the opportunity to teach a seminar called, “What Are You Talking About? What to Say When You’re Not Singing.” I wanted to address the age-old question of what to say, if anything, when you’re leading people in congregational worship. What words can inspire people to worship God as we sing, and what words might hinder them?
I began by sharing that our first focus isn’t what we say in public, but what we pursue in private. Saying the right things without having the right heart leads to hypocrisy. We shouldn’t expect the church to be affected by truths that we ourselves haven’t been affected by.
I went on to share some of the common stereotypes I’ve encountered over the years, either in myself or in others. Maybe you’ll recognize some of them.
The Teacher – From the ten minutes of explanation he provides between every song, you sense he wishes he were the pastor or thinks he should be. Wants you to know he’s much more than a mere musician.
The Emoter – You know he’s moved by something but you’re not sure what. At various times he exhibits tears, laughter, changes in volume – if only you knew why he was so affected. “Jesus! He’s just amazing. I mean, it’s incredible, whoa…like I can hardly believe it…you know what I mean?”
The Mute – You don’t know if he doesn’t have anything to say, fears speaking in front of crowds, or just wants you to figure everything out on your own. Sometimes accompanied by long pregnant pauses between songs.
The Reporter- He unemotionally provides you with information, details, stats, facts. Helpful for someone who works at an information desk. Doesn’t work quite as well when you want to direct people’s hearts to worship God.
The Wanderer – You’re not quite sure where he’s going or where he’s been, but you’re hoping he makes sense to someone.”In Christ Alone. Like, a-looooone, man. I’ve been alone. Like, it’s a bad feeling. Aloneness. Don’t wanna be alone. No way.”
The Cheerleader -Wants you to be excited from start to finish and will use any number of techniques to get you there and keep you there – jumping, shouting, waving hands, moving from one side of the stage to the other, prolonged eye contact, etc. “Here we go! Come on! Let’s sing it like we mean it!”
The Philosopher – Likes to consider possible interpretations and implications of lyrics without coming to any definite conclusions. “You know when we sing that line, ‘Light of the world you stepped down into darkness’ it makes me wonder what kind of step we’re talking about. Was it like a stair step or more like a leap? You know, was it really a step? Was it one small step for Jesus but one giant leap for mankind? I dunno.”
The Mystic – Steve has a distinctive “worship leading” voice that differs from has “normal speaking” voice. It might be a breathy whisper or loud shouting. In either case, you wonder if the Spirit is in the business of voice-modulation.
With all the ways to get it wrong, you could think it’s better not to say anything at all. Actually, I think there are good reasons to say something when we lead worship. I’ll share them in my next post.