One of the more influential moments in my life thus far, as a worship leader at least, happened in 2002 when my church was hosting a Pastor’s Conference and I was asked to lead worship for the 300 in attendance. Our sanctuary held 2,100 so only having 300 people in the room had me a little nervous about how it was going to feel.
Evidently these pastors were hungry to worship, because never has that auditorium been so LOUD! We had absolutely incredible times of worship. I felt free to sing louder, to smile, to laugh, to interject spontaneous words of praise in between songs and even within the songs. I raised my hands in worship when my acoustic didn’t need to be strummed, and sometimes when I probably should have been strumming. We were truly in God’s Throne Room. Afterward someone in charge smiled at me, placed his hand on my shoulder, and offered a word of encouragement; “You got it, kid. You have what it takes.” And for a moment I believed him.
Then the Spirit stepped in and whispered to my heart, “You didn’t lead those pastors to the Throne, they led you.” I was convicted. Those pastors were actually the worship leaders leading me in worship. They led. I followed. I didn’t feel like much of a worship leader. I knew that the next morning, Sunday, I would stand on that same stage with the same musicians and lead a packed house full of regular church attendees who, in many cases would only be there because it was Sunday morning. Many of them with their arms folded, standing only because I asked them to, but anxious to sit down again. Many with no intention to sing…
It can be easy to become discouraged when a crowd does not appear to engage in worship. As leaders, we can become hesitant and disengaged ourselves, never truly worshiping but simply playing and singing. (At that point the people once again lead our worship, but in the wrong direction).
The challenge, as a leader from the stage, is to worship our Lord in spirit and truth. To keep Him as the object of our attention and efforts and invite the congregation to follow us into His presence… Whether or not they do is between them and God.
For me, it is a matter of integrity. Can I worship on stage in front of a disengaged crowd the same way I would worship in front of a vibrant one?