I was asked, “If you could impart one bit of advice to worship leaders about worship, what would it be?” Well I guess I’d tell them: “Less is more”…
The way I look at it, my job as a preacher and theirs as a worship leader is not that much different. We both serve others not ourselves and because of that it takes more than knowledge and talent to do our jobs. Both are very visible, up front work. Both are influential. Both work with the congregation’s imagination, putting thoughts, words and dreams about God in their consciousness and on their lips. And to do this right takes discipline and sacrifice.
My job is to preach the gospel not to cheerlead or entertain (although I’ve been prone to a bit of both from time to time). It’s communicating the good news in a way that’s accessible and relevant while remaining accurate and truthful. If my preaching is over my audience’s head or if it’s unlivable, I’m not doing my job. In order to pull this off there are times I need to be willing to simplify and edit out what (in my mind at least) is some brilliant stuff. Or if I find there’s something about me that’s drowning out the message, I need to be willing to get out of the way and perhaps tone it down. I’ve found that in preaching, less is more. It’s possible to keep it short, simple and sweet and still be smart and inspiring. It just takes more preparation, some humility and sacrifice.
Now I think the same goes for worship leading. Somehow today we’ve come to believe that more is more. I know I might come off like some old crank here but in my opinion contemporary worship in a good number of churches here in America has become showy. If the congregation can’t hear the people around them singing or can’t keep up because the songs are too complicated or the band keeps straying into endless solos and repetitive mantras, they get lost, stop singing, and eventually quit and become spectators. Worship is not a spectator event.
Often in my preaching what I don’t say is just as important as what I do say. I think the same goes for worship leading. The Jazz great Miles Davis said, “the more important notes are the ones that you don’t play”. Even in music, less is more.
So my big tip to worship leaders would be: Discipline yourself. Stay attentive to the Spirit. Pick your spots. Know where and when to play and sing and when to hold back. Less is more. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. You might have a great solo that needs not to be played. Not playing or singing can also be a sacrifice of praise. John 3:30 contains a great principle: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” So be willing to decrease so that the life-giving connection between God and congregation through worship can increase.