We are honored to have another guest post on a topic that may help you and your ministry. This week, Justin Tweito discusses how leading worship can be like walking a tightrope, and makes a few suggestions on how to keep your balance.
Leading from a Tightrope: The Ministry of Balance
Everyday as a worship leader, I’m walking a tightrope. As I lead the congregation, I’m high off the ground. Off to my left side are the depths of hyperfocus on the mind. Off to my right, a hyperfocus on the heart. At any moment, I could step off the left and fall into the depths of dogma and legalism. Or I could step off the rope to the right and fall into relativity and emotionalism. But if I stay the course and walk straight on the rope, I’m leading the church to worship in mind and heart.
In his book, Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin calls this idea “healthy tensions”. He lists many different tensions that tug on a worship leader every day: head and heart, vertical and horizontal, planned and spontaneous, rooted and relevant, to name a few. I face these tensions everyday. Does this song focus too much on my emotion and not enough on God’s character and works? Are we singing too many heady songs and losing the ability to simply respond to the Gospel with affection? We all have tendencies to lean one way or the other. Some of us may lean toward the mind, others may lean toward the heart. Some of us may lean toward spontaneity, others toward carefully planning every moment of liturgy.
So what is our response to these tensions?
A good response to these “healthy tensions” is to have a healthy balance of both sides. We may lean more toward spontaneity, but if there is no planning whatsoever, it is easy to fall into emotionalism. On the flip side, if there is no room for spontaneity in the service, we may be hindering what the Lord is doing in the heart of the church that specific morning.
Kauflin gives good guidelines for us to think about with three “guiding principles”:
- Do what God clearly commands
- Don’t do what God clearly forbids
- Use scriptural wisdom for everything else
For example, God’s Word clearly commands us to sing. In fact, the command to sing in scripture is only second in frequency to the command to pray. That’s why we sing in our congregational gatherings. Most all of Christendom and its Denominations may do this differently, but we all do it!
God’s Word clearly forbids us to “[neglect] to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25 ESV). So, we know we’re not to end our congregational gatherings. But, do we only meet once a week? Is it okay that not everyone is together as we have multiple service times? Where we fall with those tensions is left up to wisdom we gather from scripture as a whole.
Scriptural wisdom is more of a case-by-case analysis. The Bible doesn’t command or forid us to use a choir on stage in our congregational gatherings. You may not have a fully robed choir on stage, but knowing the importance of singing we see in scripture, only having one person with a vocal mic on stage may not be what you choose either. So you may look to balance those two tensions!
Many churches without traditional choirs will have multiple vocalists at the front of the stage with microphones. This balance may be the best option for your church, because seeing and hearing many people singing to the Lord holds up singing as important, just as scripture has ordained. In this case, you wouldn’t be scripturally wrong to not have a choir, or to have the largest choir on the planet. But a balanced approach may be the most helpful for pointing your church back to God’s word.
How do we walk the tightrope of ministry everyday?
We study God’s Word. Colossians 3:16 (ESV) says: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” This command starts with letting the “word of Christ dwell in [us] richly.” It all starts with our heart and mind being in tune with scripture. Everything we do is built on a foundation. Our foundation will either be the Word of God or it will be something else.
We pray through God’s Word. We have to seek guidance in areas that the Lord has given us freedom to operate in our congregational gatherings. In fact, the Bible tells us that “we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” So, as we seek scriptural wisdom, we pray!
We work together. If we are trying to plan and lead services on our own creativity and thinking, we are missing out on the treasure of partnering with our lead pastors and others on our worship teams. We all lean toward different tensions of balance, so it often takes each other meeting in the middle of the tensions to do what’s best for our church.
We don’t have to walk the tightrope alone. We have God’s Word to guide us. We have the Holy Spirit to lead us in ways we don’t even understand. And we have God acting through our other leaders to help keep us balanced as well. So let’s walk slowly and humbly as we balance on the tightrope of ministry.