Listening (an introduction)

Statement: Your primary responsibility as a worship leader is to listen to the Spirit and do what He says.

This is an introduction. I’ll spend a few future post reinforcing this statement for worship leaders. Hopefully it’s helpful.

Two disclaimers and then I’ll jump in:

  1. I know you have to do a lot of other stuff. Planning, practicing, emailing, calling, fixing, scheduling, writing, etc, etc. It’s all necessary. But it’s not your primary responsibility.
  2. This is not about planning vs spontaneity. I’m not suggesting you throw plans away. I am suggesting that the discipline of listening should become an underlying part of everything you do, from the start of your planning through the end of your time on stage.

End of disclaimers. :)

To simplify the above statement further, I’ll narrow it to two words:

LISTEN : RESPOND

It’s basic conversational etiquette. You talk, I listen. I respond, you listen. This is the way things work. The position of the moon impacts the tide. The seasons change, the trees change in response. A friend says a kind word, you respond kindly. Someone cuts you off, you honk (or whatever). God says a word, creation comes into being. Apparently, things have been designed to operate according to this interaction - listening and responding. It’s the way the world works. It’s a description of life.

Why is this relevant to worship leaders? Much of the time our worship services lack life. Instead they feel forced and stale. I believe it’s because we set aside the concept of listening and responding, and we opt instead for simply planning and executing. It’s easier. We have something to say to the world. So we write up a plan and execute it. Much like writing a list of points we want to argue with our spouse, reading it to them out loud, then walking away.

But the value in relationship is in the interaction , not in the successful exchange of information.

So in a worship service, the song is important. The message is important. The gospel narrative is obviously important. But none of it has value outside the context of relationship. None of it speaks outside the context of interaction. And not “please shake the hand of the person next to you” interaction, but “I’m listening to you, you’re listening to me, we’re listening to the Spirit, and we’re responding to what we’re hearing”. We listen. We respond. In life and in worship services. This is how the same old song can mean something powerful this time. It’s why the same old bible verse can mean something relevant today. It’s why the same old words, spoken by one person who genuinely cares for another person, can bring life.

This is what people come to your church looking for. They’re not there to be impressed.

If your worship services feel stale, don’t start looking for new songs or video clips or sermon illustrations. Don’t focus on reducing mistakes. Instead, ask whether or not any real interaction is happening. Then address that. Start with listening.

Over the next year I’ll do some more blogging on this topic in different practical areas. Next one will be on listening to bandmates on stage. I’ll also do one on listening to the Spirit (realtime communication during a service) and one on listening to the crowd (sensing where they are and responding).


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