I can’t sing (my wife just said “amen”). I can’t play keyboard or guitar. But I’ve learned that not all the people who call themselves “worship leaders” really are one. I’m more and more convinced that it’s a calling.
I don’t necessarily mean skill or ability, though knowing your way around the strings of an acoustic certainly helps. But not every great singer or musician makes a solid leader of praise. I also don’t mean having a certain style, pedigree, or training. Those are fine, but even “trained” worship leaders can leave the congregation behind and run off on their own worship excursion.
Leading worship means guiding a group of people into deeper awe of their Creator, pushing them emotionally, mentally, and spiritually into a need to praise. It means drawing us in, engaging us.
According to Pastor Jeremy Armstrong in an article at WorshipLeader.com, that’s exactly what worship leaders can learn from a very unexpected source—talk show host Jimmy Fallon:
“I’m engaged through him. All the sudden I find myself interested in the guest / the subject / the conversation. Through Jimmy’s excitement & passion, I find myself involved. I never knew that I could become such a fan of some random C-list celebrity, but seeing Jimmy as such a fanatic about this person, here I am. Participating.”
So, how is it that Fallon can show worship leaders a thing or two about their craft? Armstrong suggests 5 points:
1. He’s always smiling.
If there’s one thing Jimmy Fallon is known for, it’s his infectious smile. The guy just brings it. His beaming countenance pulls us in, disarms us. And worship leaders can do the same by inviting us, the congregation, to consider Jesus. After all, we’re singing about grace, and that should make us want to smile.
2. He’s got great energy.
Fallon loves his job, and you know it. The energy just bubbles up like an Alka-Seltzer when you watch even just a clip from his show. Worship leaders, shouldn’t you love your work as much as a talk show host? We need your energy and excitement.
3. He’s humble.
No one would ever say that they can’t stand Fallon because he’s full of himself. His humility is part of his charm. Worship leaders can easily be sucked into their own hype, especially if God has gifted them musically. What we need is a person who knows that it’s not about him, but about Christ.
4. He’s prepared.
Every night of the week, Fallon is ready for his skits and conversations. It shows. An unprepared worship leader who hasn’t spent time practicing and praying shows, too. We need you to come ready so that you’re not just trying to figure it out as you go.
5. He’s relevant.
Fallon knows his audience and what their interests are. He knows how to speak to them and engage them where they are. As a worship leader, we need you to know your audience as well. Show us that you care about who we are and care to lead us into praise.
Another pastor and musician, Bob Kauflin, seems to agree in principle to these points, but he would also throw in a caution for every worship leader who feels the weight of not being named Chris Tomlin or Kari Jobe:
“Overemphasizing or consistently focusing on technology, skill, and excellence can leave most us with a nagging feeling that our musicians, our leaders, our equipment, and our songs are never quite good enough. We resign ourselves to the thought that we’ll never be as successful, used, or important as the people we see on YouTube and at conferences. Or we breathlessly pursue the trappings and externals of ‘modern worship,’ attaching biblical authority to very cultural practices.”
Have you ever experienced a worship leader who wasn’t really leading? Have you seen some exceptional examples? What would you say to your worship leader? Worship leaders, what would you say to us?