My weekend of worship leading

(Photo courtesy of Randi Algin)

(Photo courtesy of Randi Anglin). Our church is experimenting with the idea of worship leaders co-leading for the weekend assemblies (translation for non-Belmontians:  church services).  Basically, a worship leader with experience teams up with a worship leader with less experience.  I think that the idea is to invest in the future leadership of the church.  Also, our leadership is under the impression that folks like to hear more than one lead singer sing the songs. It’s a great idea, especially if approached with the intention of mentoring / being mentored, but it does present challenges for us volunteers.  The whole song selection / musician wrangling process gets much more time intensive and the potential to cross lines of communication increases substantially. Nonetheless, it was a joy to me to lead worship this weekend with my friend Cathy Carter Heiser.  I first got to know Cathy as a student in The Crucible and she remains one of my favorite people at Belmont. Two things occurred during the services that were a real stretch for me.  I’ll share one of these moments in this post, I’ll save the other one for later.

Communion is a weekly tradition at our church.  Typically, the person leading communion shares some sort of teaching or devotional thought related to the observance.  I was asked to this.  Now, I’m getting more comfortable leading worship, playing my instrument, and singing, but speaking still causes me a bit of anxiety.  I knew I should do it, however, so I accepted.  Here’s what happened and what I learned.

Lesson oneBe specific with communion instructions.  We do communion differently throughout the different assemblies over the weekend, so we have to be mindful as to what service we’re in.  Are ushers waiting for their queue to distribute the elements?  Should folks come down front and get bread and wine themselves?  Most importantly, should the people take the bread and cup in their own time or are we taking it together?  I did pretty good on this part except for the last question.  I invited folks to come down front and to the aisles to receive the elements.  But then I stopped.  Our worship pastor came down to the front while he was getting is his bread and wine and asked me if I wanted them to hold on to the bread and cup.  Oops, I forgot that part.  I got back on the mic and asked them to hold on to the elements, which set me up for a later mishap.

Lesson twoDon’t take the bread (at least not until after the whole affair with the congregation).  You see, I decided that I should hold the elements and demonstrate when to take the bread and the cup.  I don’t regret this, but after singing a good 25 minutes, followed by speaking in front of all the people, I found that I was pretty thirsty.  What better thing to do then, than put a dry piece of bread in my mouth?  And once it was in, I thought I would never get it down!  In this interim time of quiet reflection thanks to my inability to swallow, Cathy, who has continued to softly play the keyboard, thinks that I must be through and starts singing the next song, which was “Overcome” (“seated above, enthroned in the Father’s love…”).

“Cathy.  Cathy,” I try to discreetly say.  “[throat clearing] … we still have the cup.”  But she has her eyes closed and is totally in the moment (or at least in her moment).  So, here I am.  It’s obvious that I still have the cup in my hand.  Everyone else, of course, still has their cup in their hands, because I made a big deal about not taking it yet so we can all take it together.  I glance down at our worship pastor on the front row who is cracking up just waiting to see how I’m going to handle this.

I thought about taking the cup without saying anything.  The good folks would probably follow my lead.  I also considered gesturing to the congregation a sort of sheepish, “yeah-let’s-just-go-ahead-and-take-it” motion, but decided that this would be too flippant.  (This post notwithstanding, we take communion pretty seriously).  I did the only thing that I could think to do.  I waited until the interlude before the pre-chorus and stepped in front of Cathy’s vocals to say “likewise, when He took the cup ….”  Of course, this momentarily freaked Cathy out until she opened her eyes and put two and two together.  Looking back on it, it’s pretty funny.  We all recovered and the Lord was honored.

At the end of it all, the discovery was made that taking communion this way with this song works.  Take the bread, sing the verse, which speaks of the sacrifice of Jesus, take the cup, and sing the pre-chorus (“all authority, every victory is Yours”).  Maybe it was divine intervention.  Maybe we’re just keeping it real.  Maybe it was a bit of both.

What about you?  Do you have any funny stories about lessons learned leading worship?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Oh, yes.  And here was our set.


About Jonathan Riggs

Singer, actor, songwriter, and entrepreneur. And I like vanilla bean.
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5 Responses to My weekend of worship leading

  1. Abbie says:

    Haha, I’m sad I missed it Sunday, but I heard good things.

  2. Abbie says:

    Oh, and my lesson from last time was being completely clueless when Rob Frazier broke a guitar string, and making Adam come all the way down from the sound booth to hand him my spare guitar that was right within my reach! Then, once I figured out what was happening, not knowing what to do and making a comment about how “We rock too hard at Saturday night, breaking guitar strings.” Haha. That was a really professional moment. 🙂

  3. Your thoughts on what Frank Viola and George Barna say in chapter 6 of Pagan Christianity? –

    “Those who lead worship select the songs that are to be sung. They begin those songs. They decide how those songs are to be sung. And they decide when those songs are over. Those in the audience in no way, shape or form lead the singing. They are led by someone else who is often part of the clerical staff – or who has similar stature.

    This is in stark contrast to the first-century way. In the early church, worship and singing were in the hands of all of God’s people. The church herself led her own songs. Singing and leading songs was a corporate affair, not a professional event led by specialists…

    A worship leader robs God’s people of a vital function: to select and lead their own singing in the meetings – to have divine worship in their own hands – to allow Jesus Christ to direct the singing of His church rather than have it led by a human facilitator.”


    • greentub says:

      Interesting thought. I’d like to read about this in context of the rest of the book. I have been in services where spontaneous singing has occurred (started by someone in the congregation), but I’ve never experienced a whole service of this. I don’t even know what that would look like.

  4. Reading in the context of the rest of the book is a great idea because when you do church the way it is done in most of the Western world, a worship leader is necessary in a spectator/performer environment.

    I have been to meetings where Christians worship together without a leader. You really feel like everyone’s focus is truly the Lord.

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