Hi, my name is Debbie Lee and I am one of the worship leaders at the North Jersey Vineyard Church in the NY Metro area.
“One Thing” will be a series of posts that embody the shared wisdom of various experienced worship leaders, pastors, and other worshippers through their collective experiences of successes and failures in worship leading. We’ll structure it by asking them to answer the question, “If you could impart ONE THING to worship leaders, what would it be?” On occasion, we’ll also be organizing Google Hangouts to further discuss some of the topics.
I’m looking forward to learning with you! We have an amazing immediate and extended family in the Vineyard with such rich experiences, and so many are committed to sharing and investing in others.
I’ll kick things off by passing along something I read that completely changed the way I think about leading worship:
"Short of loving Jesus Himself, the one thing I'd say is to love the Church, His Bride. Carry the Church in your heart - all the different kinds of people. Think about her during your day. Love her. Protect her. Honor her. Don't let anyone use her, abuse her or say anything bad about her. Make your decisions for the betterment of the Church - your songs, your list, your personnel and your training of others." - John Willison
What does this have to do with leading worship? When we love the Church and love our people, when we know the stories of people in our churches, when we do life with them, when we mourn with them and defend them, it changes the way we serve them in every aspect--including the way we lead them into worship. The distance between the stage and the seats gets shorter, and the connection goes deeper. I have always felt that most of worship leading occurs off the stage in how we live, how we love our spouses and kids, how we handle tragedies, how we obey, etc.
When you sing songs that say, “You’re the defender of the weak, you comfort those in need” and you know that Joe Smith just lost his wife to cancer and that Julie Brown just lost her job, you’re creating a space and carving a path for truth to enter into them and out of them in the midst of worship. Then, next week, when you sing those words again, and you look at them (keep your eyes open when you lead!) with the mutual understanding that you’re standing as one and singing truth together - because you sang those very words when you lost your baby last year, you’ve just solidified the Body of Christ. And in those times when they can’t sing because the pain is just too much to bear, you sing it for them, over them, and into them as their brother/sister, fighting for them to belong to and stay in the Body. When they’ve allowed that Truth to enter those dark and tender places, you’ve pastored them into the throne room in love, commitment, and truth.
John Willison was my worship pastor at the Evanston Vineyard when I was in college. I sang BGVs with him on and off for close to 4 years. No one has had more influence on me as a worship leader than he has had. Interestingly, I don’t really remember the way he led worship, how he ran rehearsals, or how he built a set list. I’m sure he did all those things really well. What I do remember and will forever hold in my heart is how he called me when he hadn’t seen me at church for a while, how he challenged me to lead out on a particular verse of a hymn because of how he thought it would minister to my heart and the congregation’s heart soon after my beloved grandmother passed away, and how he invited me to his home to share Christmases and random Thursdays with his awesome family.
If I could impart ONE THING to worship leaders, what would it be? Love your people. Carry your people in your heart on--and mostly off of--the stage.