I’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 issues.
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 through music.
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
OR 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 really just become noise?
singing worship ISN’T so different than POP songs
(Hang in there with me)
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)
Thinking about good you are (or aren’t) might get you through a gig but it’s thinking about your audience that turns attenders into fans…and fans drive a career.
Can you imagine going to see a singer perform only to watch them get distracted by every face entering the back, feedback, and people moving around on the stage?
We might think we wouldn’t because it would be “unprofessional”.
But the truth is, it’s because we wouldn’t be getting the root level benefit of music: a feeling – a moment – an experience.
A distracted artist can’t get out of their own way long enough to let that happen.
What does that have to do with worship music?
CONNECTION has more power than TALENT.
We are all inherently built to seek connection.
The deepest connections in worship, both personally and corporately are rooted in the times when we STOP thinking about our faults, our fears and our issues.
WHY IT’S SO EASY TO GET DISTRACTED:
Our brain is built to protect us.
And when it comes to singing, embarrassment equals harm to the brain.
(If you’ve ever been really embarrassed on stage you know it totally feels harmful!)
Given it’s natural tendency, no matter HOW much we PRACTICE, when we ask the brain to choose between thinking of ourselves and thinking about our audience, it’s gonna say ‘me, me MEEE!’.
THAT’s why just having more experience won’t keep us from distraction.
It’s not a tool for the brain.
Understanding the obstacles we face vocally, physically and situationally and having a concrete plan for success should those obstacles knock on our foreheads while we’re trying to worship.
That’s why so much of what I do with singers is ‘brain training.
Training the voice the right way (for maximum health and vocal potential) is HUGE….
…but no matter how much you think you can DO, your brain still gets to determine if it can let you enjoy worship or be on guard the entire time.
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.
BONUS TIP: how do you get a ‘joyful NOISE’? Forget steps 1 & 2!
Knowing how to overcome obstacles allows us to refuse to be distracted.
That allows us to give our full attention to our audience of One.
Remember the last time you were ‘caught up’ in God’s presence during worship?
It’s not meant to happen every once in awhile when everything goes ‘perfectly’.
We have the ability to create that environment every service!
Examples of true worship are in the seats right in front of us.
In my case, he was just behind me.
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 with gratitude.
It must have emboldened him.
At the closing hymn, he sang twice as loud.
And twice as badly.
I imagine God was probably winking to drive home His point.
And joined in.