Monthly Archives: October 2012

Obstacles to Worship 2: Sick and Tired

Part two of the obstacles to worship series comes on the back end of my sick week.  Last week I had the respiratory bug and lost my voice for the weekend.  I can’t even put to words how frustrating and discouraging this was.  By Sunday morning I felt better except that I was a little tired and my voice  made me sound like Lurch from the Adams Family; only shorter.

I was forced to offer worship to God without using my voice. No Singing! If I tried, very little came out.  I did not feel so bad that I could not attend worship, so I came to worship.  Physically I was present, but I had to engage myself into worship in a different mode.  I believe that scripture is very clear in that we are all to “sing our praises to the Lord.”  Sunday morning I longed to sing at the top of my lungs but it was not to be.  I felt chipper, joyful, but no joyful noise would come forth.  Could I really lead worship without a voice?

I could and I did with the help of my team.  Here’s how;

  • The early service was, in some ways a easier and in some ways more difficult.
  1. I was able to hand of the congregational leading to a faithful choir member.
  2. I could still direct the choir special – (my voice loss hadn’t affected my arms.) However–
  3. In the traditional setting where only two instruments play the accompaniment and the congregation’s only mode of participation is “stand and sing” I was unable to worship out loud.  I could lead the choir and that was it. So I was only actively participating on that one song.  Clapping isn’t a regular practice in that setting, so my hands were useless as a praise instrument.  I stood on the front row and smiled.  If the bass part descended into my range I grunted a few notes.
  • The second service also had it’s limitations and opportunities.
  1. I handed off the song intros to a praise team member. And another praise team member was already carrying the melody. (A team of vocalists is effective at leading worship and is also a built in back up plan when I can’t lead.)
  2. I could still play guitar and lead the band on all the worship music.  This was very close to full participation to me.  I really felt like I was worshiping even though my voice wasn’t a part of the offering.  (Were I not playing guitar I would have been clapping.)
  3. I smiled.  When I think about the Lord, He makes me smile.  I can’t help it.  Smiling leads people in worship.  Even when I’m not singing, I can communicate the joy of the Lord with a smile.  I’m always preaching to the choir that they need to smile, so I made certain that my discouragement about not having a voice didn’t derail my heart from worshiping.

Worshipers and worship leaders, what do you do when you aren’t quite yourself on a Sunday morning?  Do you give up and go home or come and observe as a non-participant?  How do you find ways to join God’s people in praise when you just don’t have it?

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Obstacles To Worship: The Unfriendly Face

Worship leaders face many obstacles when leading worship.  These obstacles can deter us from setting our hearts on Christ.  Obstacles can also derail our focus from leading His followers in worship.  One such obstacle reared its ugly head (pun intended) for me recently. Let’s call it the Unfriendly Face.

If you lead worship or lead a team of worship leaders, you are constantly reminding your worship team to smile, show joy, make eye contact, let your light shine!  I’m sure I make this reminder to my choirs and praise team weekly or at least every other week.  A simple friendly smile from the worship team or choir can melt away the pride that sometimes keeps a congregant from joining the song.  Sure, we should all be ready to jump right in to praise singing on Sunday morning because God is good.  He has commanded us to sing his praises, and we are his obedient and thankful children, right?  Unfortunately, we are seldom ready to just jump right in to singing His praises.  Life is hard, and we get distracted.  We have doubts.  We need encouragement.  This is why we need the friendly smile from our worship leaders.  It encourages us in the Lord – most of the time.

The Unfriendly Face I’m speaking about is not one from the choir or praise team.  Not that we have mastered smiling – we haven’t.  I continue to be amazed at how slowly a smile can evolve on some faces.  People who smile all the time open their mouths to sing, and that delightful smile disappears into the abyss.  We’re working on it, but that’s not the obstacle to which I refer.

Unfriendly Face is a person in the congregation who refuses to participate.  Their posture implies that singing God’s praises is somehow beneath their dignity.  And the look on their face communicates that they wish you would hurry and conclude this silly singing business and get to the important stuff.  I’ve learned over the years that I can’t look at these people and not have it effect me as worship leader.

I’d prefer to look at those who smile back.  The way they sing praises to God and smile encourages me.  I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I often need to be encouraged by psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19.)  Those in the congregation whose praise singing shows in outward enthusiasm often lead me in worship. But then Unfriendly Face…

I’m not complaining.  That’s not what my blog is for, so please hear me. I’m NOT complaining.  We have great participation almost every Sunday morning at my church. I know that I have brother and sister worship leaders who have dozens of those Unfriendly Face worshipers weekly.  I’m NOT complaining.  Also, it is not my place to judge what goes on in the hearts of other worshipers, but sour faces have their effect on worship leaders.  So what do we do about it?  Here are a couple of my things that I do.

  • First, realize that you can not force anyone to smile or open their mouths to sing or stand or sit up straight.  Each individual is responsible for their own action (or inaction) when it comes to worship.
  • Second, don’t get pious and think “Thank You, O Lord, that I am not like that man or woman who refuses to offer You praises.”  This opens a whole other obstacle to worship leading – Humility or the lack there of.
  • Third, pray for that person – by name if you know who they are.  It just might be that their silence is not a refusal to praise but an opportunity to reflect.  God is doing a work in them and it is different than what he is doing in you.
  • Fourth, pray for yourself – you know who you are.  You know the times you have failed to worship through action during the past week.  Confess it.  Repent.  Worship is more than just singing.  Singing loudly and smiling big does not mean that your worship is complete.
  • Lastly, seek out that person after the service.  Perhaps they need a more personal, one-on-one encouragement.  Our broadcast-style worship leading effort is an attempt to lead a large group  from a stage.  Get off the stage.  Go get to know that unfriendly face; encourage them.  Don’t stop leading worship when you leave the platform.

Have you been distracted by  Unfriendly Face while leading worship?  How do you overcome your distraction? As a worshiper do you ever feel like you just don’t want to sing?  When tempted to withhold your praise, what do you do?