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    Beware of the stage

    Posted on May 27, 2010 by Paul | 20 Comments | Jump to Comments Box Below

    CMS 2010 reflectionWithin our American Idol/Rock Star culture, often the goal is all about having–and keeping–the spotlight. As Christians, we belong to a least-is-the-greatest kingdom that pronounces the exact opposite, and yet worship leaders must regularly wrestle with the dynamics of being onstage in front of crowds.

    Even the typical “worship service” setup (platform, microphones, spotlights, etc.), for example, forces its leaders to walk dangerously close to those “rock star” elements while making sure the attention stays solely on God. There are many things that we can do to help us from being infected by our performance culture and as always we find timeless wisdom in the ancient text of scripture.

    There is a Priestly model described in 1 Chronicles as “ministry to the Lord”. The Levites didn’t “lead people” in worship but instead were charged with the task of ‘singing praise to God both day and night, in the temple. They sang to the Invisible God – an audience of One. How often do we minister to God in private? Ideally, worship leading is publicly modeling what we have been doing privately. A healthy habit is to “practice” worship throughout the week by creating some alone time with God and by singing songs and prayers to Him. Often I will go into my church sanctuary by myself or with a few core members of my team and we’ll read scripture out loud, especially psalms, which is the vocabulary of worship. We’ll begin to play guitar or keyboard very simply to create a worshipful atmosphere while speaking and singing out psalms and heart-felt prayers. It may feel slightly forced at first, perhaps mechanical, but if you persist in “showing up” to bless the Lord in private, you will begin to sense more of His presence and authority in your outward, public ministry.

    The other aspect of our ministry is Pastoral. Guitar players and singers are “a dime a dozen’ as the saying goes. But those who will give their time and talents in service to God and His people are rare. Jesus asked Peter, “do you love me?” Peter replied, “Yes Lord”. “feed my sheep.” Ask The Lord to give you HIS heart for the community that you serve. Before you dismiss your team from rehearsal, have them come to the front of the stage and look over the empty seats. Ask them to imagine the people who will be sitting there this coming week and encourage your team to pray for the individuals and families who will be showing up in those seats. This is a powerful exercise to help you and your team cultivate God’s heart and love for the people you serve.

    I would encourage you to lean toward more of a conversational tone in your leading style as you begin your service. People don’t like being yelled at, manipulated, or artificially hyped up. Whether you lead fifty people, three hundred, or more than a thousand, aim for being as authentic and sincere as you can. We don’t have to be overly sanguine. People respond best when they sense someone being themselves. In fact I used to always pray something like this under my breathe before I walked on the platform. “Lord, at the risk of being boring, please give me the courage to be ‘who I am in You’– nothing more, nothing less.” We all battle our insecurities in different ways but practicing our ministry to The Lord and praying for the people we serve will take us a long way in distinguishing between performance and effective ministry.

    Let’s determine to finish well by helping facilitate a lifelong conversation and sense of community between God and the people He has called us to serve.


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    Scott Hobbs 27/05/10

    Thanks Paul for reminding me to continue to love God with all and love my neighbor as myself. As lead worshippers we maintain a priestly and pastoral role that is manifested in music. It really is so important to remember that leading worship is a ministry to God and people not a music position. I too am praying to finish well.

    Scott Hobbs

    Andrew 28/05/10

    Excellent words, Paul!

    God bless you as you strive to glorify the One who makes our lives worth living.

    Brandon Baker 28/05/10

    Paul, great article. You are a great source of information and encouragement to guy’s like me who are only a year into this worship leading thing and still trying to figure it out.

    robreed 04/06/10

    This is AWESOME. Paul, I listened intently when you presented the “writing a worship song” seminar in Nashville in late April. Loved your heart then, and love your heart more now.

    Praise God!

    Gonna let this blog entry sink in for awhile.

    Phillip Johnson 04/06/10

    Paul you are dead on, there is a fine line between leading worship and entertainment. I’ve always been careful not to allow pride to sneak in and ruin what God has in store. But for me worship is just simply a connection between me and God and the music or leading it is simply an expression of what I feel. I find it somewhat sad that we have to be that vehicle to engage the congregation. What would it be like if everyone was already connected when they walk in the doors???

    When the music fades
    And all is stripped away
    And I simply come
    Longing just to bring
    Something that’s of worth
    That will bless your heart

    Because it is all about him Jesus

    malcs 06/06/10

    Interesting stuff Paul. I’ve thought about this quite a lot. My concern has been that while the church used to be a shining light in its use of art and music, we now take our lead from the world, rather than vice versa. Many contemporary worship services look identical to rock concerts, and those that don’t sometimes secretly wish they did!
    I appreciated your thoughts on the priestly role of the worship leader. I remember in my training as a pastor; one of my lecturers encouraging me to be more dramatic as I let communion, ‘showing people how to do it’ he used to say. There’s a sense where our leadership can be permission giving to the congregation.
    Have you ever led worship ‘in the round’?

    Marc Millan 03/07/10

    This is a great article, I love the idea of having the team come up to the front of the stage to visualize the people in the seats, to pray for them, that’s powerful.
    Thanks for always sharing your wisdom and all that you do.

    Jon 17/07/10

    Hi, Paul. I’ve admired your work for a while now, and reading through this blog just made me respect you so much more. Your sincerity, truthfulness, spirituality and know-how are all an inspiration. Thank you. And please keep posting!!

    David Lockard 11/08/10

    I really liked what you said about the conversational style. It’s difficult for me to speak in front of people but everytime I try something that is “conversational” the congregation responds so warmly and it feels more comfortable in the service. A have had a few crash and burn times where I tried to artificially force something in and it actually ended up squelching the worshiping attitude. Hopefully I won’t inflict any more of those artificial times upon our church’s congregation. Thanks for the great article.

    Daniel Nascimento 17/09/10

    Pau, i’m a brazilian worship leader and i woul’d like tosay that your works bless me so much!

    sloan 07/02/11

    Hey Paul,

    I know you are probably super busy. But I want you to know that your blog posts are really encouraging and insightful and I hope we get to see more of them!


    Eric Glover 12/02/11

    Good evening, Paul!

    I am an aspiring full time Lead Worshipper at my my church (First Baptist Church, Weymouth MA) and I am currently in the process of transitioning into this role. I know that God has called me to full time ministy within the church and I have had the radical, definite inner affirmation of that calling.

    I know you probably dig through hundreds of emails, blog responses etc, but I just want to encourage you and thank you for your ministry. God has used you to bless me significantly and inspire the future of my ministry. The resources on are fantastic.

    I had the great priviledge of attending the worship4life seminar that was held here in MA on OCt 29-30 and never got an opportunity to approach you to thank you for the profound ministry you had on my heart. I know that you are tremendously busy and meet and interact with more people than you could possibly remember, but I just want to encourage you and say THANK YOU for your ministry. Your genuine, humble heart for God and God alone is inspiring!

    In Christ alone,

    Eric Glover

    cory stewart 21/03/11

    hey Paul, want to ket you know that your blogs are so inspiring and you have inspired me to keep on playing the guitar. i have also written songs. know that your are busy, so ill let you go.

    cory stewart

    [...] finding the line between worship leading and just being a rock singer and as ever Paul Balouche makes some great points here despite the fact that they appear to slightly disagree with my point about leading I [...]

    Nathan 04/05/11

    The “rockstar” virus is rampant among worship leaders and team members. Thanks for addressing this topic. As a worship leader and guitar teacher, I see a lot of aspiring “rockstars” who flit from church to church looking for the most lucrative gig. It’s hard to find those who are dedicated to serving the vision of their church rather than their own ambitions. Great article!

    Ron 03/10/11

    Yes, I’m a victim of the “rockstar” worship mentality. A few years ago when I was a worship leader I was told by the “spiritual” senior staff that I wasn’t flamboyant enough on stage. I refused to compromise a servant heart while leading worship and I was canned. Yup, replaced by the wife of one of the pastors who tried to channel Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. I left.

    Kenneth 07/10/11

    Thank you Paul for blessing my life with the gift God has endowed you with.

    Elvis 21/01/12

    Thanks have always been an inspiration to me and have learned a lot from you…May we always decrease and He increase! God bless you for your servant-hearted service!

    anne 10/02/12

    I am encouraged by your humility, it is good to be aware and careful not to fall into this trap, after all that is how lucifer fell, desiring the glory that rightfully belongs to God alone,no-one has the right to take God’s glory for himself…I pray we never let our guard down in this area, it is important to know our place when standing before the king…God bless you and your ministry unto Him.

    Brandon 13/02/12

    Hey Paul,

    Great blog! I really appreciate you perspective. I have something to ask you. I’ve been singing and playing guitar since I was little and have always aimed my intentions with music to the kingdom. I don’t “talk myself up” or anything but people from my church say I’m really good. I’m beginning to not like it so much, because I’m only there to worship with them not for them. I have songs of my own that Id like to present to the congregation but I don’t know how to do it without standing out. How do you deal with things like this? I’d like your feedback.


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