I have the privilege of periodically being in the position to mentor and help encourage young lead worshipers. Here is a segment from a recent email dialogue we had.
"I'm sending this because I wanted to pick your brain about something. I
> wanted to know how you balance leading people into worship and being an
> artist? I'm struggling with that in the sense that I either want to grow in
> being a better lead worshipper, or just quit entirely and form a band to be
> able to express myself creatively. I'm just having trouble finding that
Here is my initial response -
"I don't think those things are mutually exclusive. I think you can be both an artist and be a worship leader.
First of all, I believe that being a lead worshiper is a calling. Personally, I would much rather see a group of people engage with God because I set the table than to sing them a song. It's not that performing can't be a valid expression of worship. It definitely is. It is just a different form and serves a different purpose.
When you write a song and/or lead a congregation in worship, you are trying to give them a voice to express themselves to God. In other words, you are trying to give them the song they wouldn't otherwise be able to write. It's a complete act of service. I'm not trying to express myself so much as I am trying to find that ground where they can authentically meet with God through the medium of music (or whatever art form you might be using). At the same time I want to model authentic worship as a servant leader. It can be something of a balancing act. I need to be able to worship with credibility.
When you are writing for more of a performance medium, you are generally trying to express yourself and your own particular point of view and experience. You are trying to find and express your own voice. It can go other directions than that, obviously, but most of the time it is meant to be a more passive experience on the part of the listener.
I have found it to be a really rewarding thing to be creative in the congregational environment. There are few sounds in this world, other than the sound of my family laughing, that I love to hear more than a group of people offering their praise to God. That is hugely rewarding for me. When I write, I am often trying to expand their "worship vocabulary" creatively. That usually means exploring musical or lyrical ground that isn't typically used in that context.
At the same time we can't get so personal or esoteric, musically or lyrically, that it alienates the worshiper. I'm not going to be writing my speed/jazz/electronic/metal/hip-hop worship song about how "delicious the rainbow of God's winter solstice" is. Joe Blow congregant is just going to scratch his head and stand there looking at me going "Can we sing Shout to the Lord again?"
So, there are a certain amount of limitations in the congregational context. And, if you really feel creatively unfulfilled in that space you might really need to do the side band thing. If I am all about hip-hop and I am ministering to happy baby-boomer white bread America, I will probably have to go somewhere else to scratch that itch. It doesn't invalidate it as a form of worship. It just means that the people I am called to serve need a different musical environment in order to effectively engage with God."
Any thoughts? I'd love to hear some push back on this.