My First Time, Scared To Death… Be Thankful for Your Worship Team!
It was Sunday morning, and I felt sick to my stomach from nervousness, much like how a person afraid of heights feels in those first seconds on a rollercoaster as it clicks slowly up the track towards the top.
I was about to play guitar on a worship team for the first time.
Much of what happened next remains a blur in my mind, but I’m fairly certain my shaking hands moved my guitar chords a couple frets too high and suddenly I was playing in a different key than everyone else.
That was an interesting sound.
I also had some very creative tempos going with my right hand strumming. Call them watercolor tempos, if you’d like—sort of a speed up, slow down, come-and-go-as-you-please type tempo.
Somehow the band survived—barely.
And then, a few years later, I arrived Sunday morning with the same sick feeling in my stomach: I was about to lead worship for the first time.
As the first song began, my left hand was so tense that I was about to crush the neck of my guitar as if I were the Hulk. When I sang, my voice wavered with nervousness like an opera singer with too much vibrato. I remember how strange it sounded to hear my voice boom from the house PA speakers.
God help me, I prayed.
Somehow, with God’s steady Hand keeping my heart from beating out of my chest, I made it through the service. People actually stayed and sang along! No one walked out, (though I have had that happen before).
Playing music in front of people as a form of entertainment is one thing, but being tasked with facilitating a sacred time of worship is another. At times, it feels as if you’re bearing not the weight of the world, but the weight of Heaven on your shoulders. Of course, Jesus places no such weight on us; we tend to do it to ourselves. But instead of bearing that weight, we can come to Jesus like a little child and give Him whatever loaves of bread or fish that we have to offer. I’m not a particularly talented singer, I’m not the next Chris Tomlin, and I am certainly not a virtuoso guitar player; but each Sunday I give Jesus whatever I have to give, and I trust Him to multiply my meager offering to feed the people.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years from playing worship, it’s a deep gratitude for worship team members and leaders who go to bat every Sunday for the congregation. It’s not an easy or stress-free task, and there are often hours of behind-the-scenes preparation. In a recent comment, a reader (who is a worship leader) eloquently described their “week long journey” in preparation for Sunday worship—a phrase that caught my attention. It’s actually a beautiful description of the way that worship teams serve their brothers and sisters in Christ. Folks show up to church, enjoy the worship, and then leave to jump back into the weekdays, but worship teams are often jumping right back into rehearsal for next week. Sometimes their preparation begins as soon as Sunday ends.
Not everyone realizes the work involved. I have a confession here: probably the most disheartening thing for me is when people treat worship teams or worship leaders like a commodity to be consumed. Sadly, the poison of consumerism pervades the Western Church, and congregants sometimes treat worship teams like a product that they’re reviewing or taste testing. We’ve all done it, I suspect. I’ve detected the odious spirit in my own heart at times, and it goes something like this: if something in the worship service doesn’t pass the gauntlet of our likes and dislikes, we assume a consumer’s posture inwardly. At that point, we either grumble in our hearts, complain to someone else about what was wrong with the worship, or—worst-case scenario—we leave to go to another church. It’s not unlike the way we assess and shop for products.
The opposite to this attitude of dismissive consumerism is one of extravagant thanksgiving; a heart that desires to worship God more than it desires to be pleased with the style or quality of music. Whether you’re a church that has a huge worship band or a church that has someone leading on a lone acoustic guitar, you have a precious gift. In the end, what makes a service successful is not how well the team plays or leads worship, it’s about whether you—the person in the congregation—are willing to worship God; it’s about whether or not you’ve chosen to give God a sacrifice of praise regardless of the setting in which you give it. I’ve known churches that had to worship to a CD every Sunday because they didn’t have anyone who played an instrument. A worship team of any kind is a precious gift.
So, in that spirit, the next time you see members of your worship team, offer them a word of encouragement and thanks. It will be a blessing to their hearts, and it will give them an extra spark of joy next time they step on the platform.