I NEVER thought I would be a worship leader.
I taught myself to play guitar in high school, drawn to the acoustic sound and romantic images of songs strummed by the campfire. As I mastered more chords, I would occasionally play for a small bible study group — but that was just a couple of songs to help us get started.
But play guitar to lead people in worship on stage? NEVER.
That was for people with talent, people with ability. People who know how to transpose a song and how to harmonize with their voices. People who know how to move seamlessly from one number into the next. I simply make a joyful noise from the heart and hope others can sing along.
Several years and three children later, we live overseas and attend a small international church. One day my friend approached me. “I heard that you play guitar.”
“A very little,” I answered.
“Would you consider leading worship for church next week? We have no one available to lead.”
My rational brain said that this was surely a way to embarrass myself. However, my desire to serve was stronger than my fear of humiliation. I agreed to lead if I could get another friend to accompany me on piano. I figured if the congregation didn’t have anyone else available, I could help out this time.
Confronting Vulnerability And Fear of Failure
Playing guitar and singing on stage instantly increased my vulnerability and made me feel open to failure. I was:
Afraid to fail.
Afraid to disappoint
Afraid to look ridiculous.
Fortunately, humiliation did not land upon my shoulders. That one time turned into a few more times. With each occurrence, I felt fear, trepidation, and a desire to lead well. In my mind, “leading well” meant good songs and good chord playing.
Still, the opportunity for vulnerability embarrassment lingered.
Five years later, I am still helping to lead worship at our international church on an occasional basis. I rotate with a few other volunteer leaders, each of us taking on what we can according to our schedules. I have grown in my ability to play guitar. I’ve also grown in my ability to sing, to choose songs, and to adapt them. But even more, I have grown in my understanding of leading worship.
Sometimes the impression can be that leading worship is about pulling emotion from the congregation with the right songs, the right skillful playing, the right prayers. However, I learned that when I view worship as a conversation with our God, an opportunity to come with our praises, our concerns, our confession, and our delights, I have the responsibility and honor of leading our congregation to this conversation.
I serve them by offering songs as a way to open their hearts to the Father. And I serve them by helping them lay aside the burdens of the week and be ready to receive from the Father.
Overcoming Vulnerability and Fear to Find Joy
This past week I woke early on the day of our service. As I got ready, I realized that I was joyful. I was not feeling nervous about what I would say between songs or concerned if I could hit the high note in the bridge. I was joyful about the opportunity before me that day.
Sometimes, I still feel a pang of vulnerability. I don’t have the resume or the technical knowledge of a music leader. I am still easily embarrassed by my lack of ability to play bar chords or transpose them to another key.
But I have the heart of a worshiper. I bring my talents before the one who created me, and he uses them in a similar way that he used a little boy’s fish and loaves. What I offer he multiplies to meet his purposes and bring him glory.
This is the joy of watching God turn my NEVER into a YES.
It is the joy of watching him work through me, change me, and draw me closer to his side.