worshipersI’m going to share a secret with you: I’m uncomfortable singing in the church.

Don’t get me wrong; I love singing in the church. 

But between my inbred-midwestern-Nazarene-born fear of the fine line between ‘swaying for God’ and ‘ungodly swaying‘ and that time when my well meaning brand new husband told me I sing so loud in the congregation that it makes other people uncomfortable, I have to admit I have a really hard time just freely worshipping when I’m elbow to elbow in the seats.

God knows I have an issue.

So I imagine He must have chuckled to Himself that Sunday as I was ‘self monitoring’ my volume and trying not to move enough to inadvertently touch the stranger next to me.


THIS is worship

We had moved and were settling in to a new church.  Some of the songs or arrangements were new to me, and Lord knows the only thing worse than being heard when you sing something right is singing something wrong, so I was….well, ok.  I’m just going to come out with it: I was lip syncing.

It was nice.  It was peaceful.  Then band transitioned into a hymn. 

Without warning a booming, shrill, angry sounding male voice blew past the back of my head. 

My husband reacted before he caught himself.  I hoped the man hadn’t seen our surprise.

The voice knew every word.  Not many notes, but every word.  And he sang them each with the gusto of an Irish drinking song at final call.


The problem with worship singers (like me)

Between my work in Christian radio, as a worship leader, guest vocalist and workshop speaker I’ve had the opportunity to worship in a good number of churches and talk candidly with a whole bunch of singers who serve in worship.

We all take very seriously our job to remove distractions so other people can worship in song.  That’s why we learn the words, memorize the notes, try to stay awake through rehearsals at hours no self respecting singer should even be awake yet and train to increase our vocal skill.

But many of us are distracted too: distracted by not sounding ‘good enough’, not being loud enough or being too loud, and not sounding as good as the singer next to us.

Put us in a room of other singers who know (or think) we can sing (can you say ‘worship conference’?) and we are even more tempted by the distraction of our perceived imperfections and what the singers next to us think.


What we’re afraid to tell worship leading singers

‘It’s ok if you can’t hold a tune in a bucket’

‘God does say to make a joyful noise

‘It doesn’t matter what you have as long as you give it to God’

These are the things we tell non-singers in the church all the time.  But what would happen if we said them as often to our worship teams, leaders and choirs?  Would everything might really become noise.


Is singing worship really so different than cover songs?

There are the 3 steps I teach every professional/gigging singers I work with:

1) You build your skills (ongoing personal training)

2) Then you fit those skills to a specific purpose (rehearsals for a show)

3) Finally, when you hit the stage you stop thinking about you (show time)

Why the last one?

The goal of a great singer/performer is to grow a fan base to start or build a career.  Thinking about good you are (or aren’t) might get you through a gig but thinking about your audience turns attenders into fans.

But if our brain is forced to choose between thinking of ourselves and thinking about our audience, it will inevitably choose ‘me’.

When a singer has taken the personal prep and group rehearsal steps seriously, the quality of what they studied and what learned will kick in (aka, they’ll become good), leaving the brain free to focus on the audience instead.  


By verse two of that hymn God was reminding me that the same is true for worship.  But many of us (guilty) forget step 3.  (By the way, how do you get a  ‘joyful NOISE’?  Forget steps 1 & 2)

To refuse to be distracted by anything is to have the ability to give our full attention to our audience of One.


This IS worship

When the hymn finished we were directed to “shake a hand next to ya”.

Thinking about how wonderfully un-distracted this man’s worship had been I turned around to put a face to the voice behind me.

“I really enjoyed your fervent worship”, I said.


It must have emboldened him.  At the closing hymn, he sang twice as loud.  And twice as badly.


I smiled.

And joined in.


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