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To Speak Or Not To Speak

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from our friend Tim Lucas, a worship leader near Seattle, USA. You can follow Tim on Twitter at @worshipdeeper or catch up with the latest worship resources at his blog. Many thanks to Tim for sharing this post with us!

I’ve always struggled with knowing when to speak when I’m leading worship.

After all, I’ve heard that worship leaders are like pastors and should direct the congregation, sometimes even using words.

This is bad news for someone like me who doesn’t like words.

I mean, I don’t mind when other people speak them, but when I try sometimes it comes out all wrong. And it’s not fun when that happens on the stage. I’d much rather be playing new worship songs than speaking.

So I endeavored to find out how often and in what circumstances the worship leader should speak during the musical worship service.

Too Much, and People Tune Out

Have you ever heard a worship leader who spoke for more than five minutes?

Or can you pretty much guarantee that a certain worship leader will stop in the middle of the set every Sunday to share a word?

Chances are, these worship leaders are speaking too much.

The thing is, the congregation hears a sermon during, well, the sermon. They want to participate in musical worship during that allotted time.

Predictable mini-sermons often make the congregation tune out. That disrupts the flow of worship.

It can be a real drag when a worship leader likes the sound of his or her own (speaking) voice.

But that doesn’t mean all talking during worship need be disruptive.

Worshipful Words

There’s a difference between sermonizing and speaking worshipful words.

Worshipful words are very short phrases that move the congregation to deeper worship, such as:

  • Prayers
  • Phrases of scripture
  • Phrases of praise
  • Encouraging one liners (like “Let’s lift him up”)

These shorter messages propel the worship service instead of derailing it. They are almost always appropriate.

Still, refrain from throwing in words just to avoid silence or to cover for a transition that isn’t going so well. And, these phrases are not necessary between every song.

Have a Single Main Idea for Longer Messages

Sometimes it is appropriate for the worship leader to share a message.

The Spirit leads the service in an unforeseen direction, or gives the worship leader a special word.

If this is the case, God probably wants you to speak, and it will facilitate deeper worship.

The key here is to make sure you have a main idea around which to build your mini-message. God does not speak in generalities or without a theme. Nor should we.

For instance, your message shouldn’t sound like this…

I really had a hard week and I think we should just praise God because remember what he did in Israel? Something about the Red Sea. God is gracious. He loves us and that means we can lift him up. I think we should really appreciate the sunshine.

I’ve actually heard worship leaders give this kind of “message.” There’s no substance. No one has been encouraged.

If we speak, it needs to be concise and around a solid idea. For instance…

The song we just sang was about how God meets us where we are. You might think that you’ve done so many things so wrong that God can’t quite reach you. But that’s not true. He accepts you, imperfections and all. You’re never so far away that he can’t reach you.

When God really has a word for your church, you should know what it is first. After that, let God take control.

Don’t Sweat It

You shouldn’t fret over coming up with something to say because you feel this is a duty of the worship leader.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

When God has something to say through you, you will know it. It will come out intelligibly because you are no longer relying on your own abilities. Are you so prideful to think you are a worse public speaker than most of the people — and animals — that God spoke through in the Bible?

So don’t sweat it. When it’s time to speak, God will give you the words and the ability.

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