Tom Lane/Article from Worship Musician Magazine:
We are blessed to live in a time when so many resources are available to us in the Church. Not only in the way of technology but leadership and talent. I’m amazed at the level of gifting especially among young people. I know there have always been gifted people in every generation but it seems to be present at a much younger age than I remember in my youth.
When I step back for a birds-eye view of the last 30 years, I see a story that has repeated itself in the history of the Church. God is always preparing ahead, as one move is sweeping the world and shaping the Church for a current generation, the groundwork for the next is being laid concurrently. Times are always changing but He is never void of a plan. The hope is that God’s people will recognize the Joshua’s and Caleb’s among us, and help them fulfill the purposes of God for them.
It’s one thing to plan things that we think are relevant and appealing to the generation we’re trying to reach, but in most cases we are far more effective when we make room for those who speak the language of their own generation. Historically that can be awkward, because in essence it means moving over and letting others do what we’d like to be doing ourselves.
For my wife and I in the ministry we’re involved with, younger voices are something we not only value, we have come to need them our lives as they keep us young, reinvigorate, and inspire us. Instead of posing a threat to anything we do, they give us purpose to keep doing it! They also hold pieces of the puzzle we don’t that are critical for reaching our generation with the Gospel— the bigger picture.
One such voice is Jillian Harding; a gifted artist, writer, worship leader and our friend. Thought you’d enjoy her thoughts on leading worship.
When The Set List Runs Away With You
There have been times when I have led worship and it felt like I was on a runaway horse. That horse was going where it was going and it was taking me with it. In hindsight, the problem was due to a lack of flexibility. Our band hit the first chord and we were off running from verse to chorus, instrumental build to bridge, final chorus and on to the next song we rode. The fault was not in the song selection or arrangements. Our problem was that we were galloping on from one song through the next without being fully present in the moment.
Being present is a matter of focusing our hearts toward God in worship instead of being consumed with the job of leading songs. A great set list is not worth anything if it has run away with us and become only fleeting words on our lips. It is important to take the time to have our hearts and minds present in each moment instead of always having our minds set on where we are going and if we are going to get there in time to meet the thirty-minute deadline. When we have lyrics, and chords, and arrangements to remember it can be easy to forget that our responsibility is not primarily to lead a song, but to lead worship. Leading worship requires us to be attentive to the position of our hearts and the Spirit, not just the technicalities of making it through a set list.
There is more to leading worship than following a script. Songs benefit from us allowing them to breathe. Scripted worship leading makes it easy for us to play as individuals instead of as a community. When our only responsibility is to know our lines and cues forwards and backwards our worship can become a little like a karaoke play-along. This makes us inflexible because we have our noses in our charts and are not prepared to do anything except gallop through the script.
The band I most often play with at my church has found that we can take the reins and be more fully present by being attentive to each other as we play. We are taking the time to recognize that we are a community in worship, not just individuals. By interacting with each other while we play it allows each song to breathe. The songs come alive when we learn to read each other’s mannerisms and respond to each other’s worship. There is a give and take that happens as we move through the songs together, and we become more acutely aware of how we are together composing our worship. Instead of being driven by a script we are driven by our corporate worship expression.