I'm Not a Worship Leader in a Huge Church, and that's...OK

Actually, it's not just ok, it's great. Let me explain:

I'm a worship leader in a church that runs around 250-300 on a weekend. The average church in America runs around 80-100 on a weekend, last time I checked. That being said, we're above average. There are certainly bigger churches. We have Calvary Chapel, here in Melbourne, and they have about 7,000-8,000 on a weekend, from what I understand. I've had the pleasure of leading a service there, and it was great. Then, there are those that run anywhere from 500-3,000. As a worship leader for the last 6 and a half years, I can tell you that when you pack out a room, no matter what size, there's an immediate buzz that comes with the full house. It's really an amazing experience to lead worship in a packed house.

So, what about when the place is not full? As in our case, we just went through a 3-year transition of leadership, style, philosophy, and vision at Bethany. We lost a lot of people, because of the changes, and we've gained a lot of people who line up with what we're doing. So, really, God's rebuilding His church. Naturally, there are still a lot of open seats that are ever slowly being filled.

I once read something that Mike Pivalachi wrote about Matt Redman. He said that he's seen him lead worship for the masses and for a group of just 15 people, yet he still had the same intensity. That struck me and has stuck with me.

Can I be honest? There's "something" in me that desires to lead thousands of people in worship. I would not be so quick to say that every worship leader feels the same way, but I would assume that most do. That "something" in me can be good or it can be bad. The pride and arrogance in me would love to perform and be accepted by the masses. That's bad. That's not what God has called me to do. Praise of self is always pride. Praise of God is always humility. The desire to see the masses proclaim the name of Jesus, and the desire to see people connect to God and see Him alone is good. So, the "something" in me has to be from God, or else it could be from and for me.

Most worship leaders are not in huge churches. Most worship leaders do not have big budgets, paid sound team members, paid musicians, and some are not even paid themselves. So, I have to remember, as the song says, "There must be more than this...".

There is an intensity in our services as of late. The Holy Spirit is moving in our church. People are discovering God for the first time, and they've been in church all of their lives. People are being inspired by our services, and it's the first time they've even been to a church. I love leading worship at our church, and there are many open seats. Do I want to see a full house? Of course, but that cannot be the source of my joy. Jack Hayford has said that God's presence is manifested in the praise of His people. The Bible says that where two or more are gathered, He is there. God is my joy, and showing Him to 2, 3, or 300 people is my mission every week. I'm not a worship leader in a huge church, and that's...OK.


Anonymous said...

Great thoughts my friend. Too much press and attention on the big guys really can skew the reality of how God is working all over the place.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your heart. I appreciate the honesty of your latest post. You are a blessing to me, my family and the church. Thanks for doing what God called you to do.


Matt W. said...

Masses? Is that a fat joke?!?

Seriously though, great post.

Bill Stanley said...

Great thought Gary, thanks for keeping it real.

I love the picture. Pastor Bilbo Baggins!

Unknown said...

I think sometimes there is a pressure that if the room is not packed it's a reflection on our ability - or worse yet - our "anointing". I had someone tell me once that they went to a new church because they could "feel the Spirit" more. Sometimes we equate numbers with anointing and favor of God and that is, in my experience, when it hurts. That pressure is what is hard for me to handle.

And yes, I will admit that I certainly enjoy leading worship more when the experience feels positive. As you say, when the room is full there is an energy that makes leading easier, it's exciting, there's momentum. When the room is half empty it is very hard, especially if we feel down over the circumstances that caused that. We went through two crises in our church - the suicide of our pastor's wife, then the abrupt departure of our pastor a year later. We are in an interim time and it's been really hard.

My prayer is that I will remain faithful. No matter what, that I will serve my church family with respect and joy.