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A Worship Leader who plays the vocal chords

September 7, 2010

Sometimes I feel like the loneliest, most ill-equipped leader around.  I have been leading the worship music at my church for nearly a year and a half now.  And I’ve done so playing no instrument, except the vocal chords.  Leading a worship band with no instrument may not sound all that difficult; kind of like the latest secular band whose leader only sings.  In fact, probably half or more big name bands have a leader that primarily sings and plays no instrument.

What makes it difficult for me is that on top of leading with no instrument (compared to most worship leaders who lead with guitar or piano), I also haven’t had formal music training in nearly 15 years.  That’s a decade and a half since I’ve had to read music, learn musical theory, play from memory and know my scales forwards and backwards.  This can prove for a very difficult time of leading on Sunday mornings for services but also during rehearsals.

Thankfully, God has humbled me and taught me a great deal of lessons in this adventure.  Especially as He has surrounded me with an extremely talented team of musicians.  My acoustic lead guitarist is incredible.  He can pick up a new song on a dime and plays rhythms that should place him in night clubs.  My pianist is extremely talented.  She is very flexible, quick and can play some amazingly smooth transitions.  My female vocalist is naturally talented, creates some original harmonies and does a great lead.  My bass player can dig some great riffs and plays powerfully and fast.   You can imagine with little musical training and rusty hinges, it’s pretty intimidating and surreal leading a team like this from week to week.

I never thought leading without an instrument could be done.  I am challenged constantly from knowing chord progressions, how each instrument sounds, to tuning, rhythms, strum patterns, beats and temp to crescendos, acapella and transposing.  I always thought that unless I had an acoustic guitar or piano in front of me, I had no ability or business leading.  God proved me wrong on that and fast.  Somehow through my rustiness and lack of confidence I was able to lead my team fairly well.  Of course, I couldn’t do it without the team.  The team plays an integral part in helping me lead and be who I am.  They pour into me confidence, strength, encouragement and trust like I’ve never seen.

Sometimes I feel like the CEO who is just too young to be such.  The board of trustees and advisors is made up of experienced, well-seasoned chickens.  This new young buck CEO has to prove himself to them even though he’s now the head honcho around town.  Only my board of trustees totally trusts me, believes in me and enjoys my leadership.  That’s empowering and freeing.

So to all the worship leaders who feel inadequate, lame or awkward leading with no instrument, don’t.  God doesn’t need a piece of equipment that makes noise in order for you to lead your team.  He just needs you and your faith in Him to equip and empower you as you lead.

As a result I’ve learned more about music, worship and my own leadership than I could have ever imagined.  I look forward to the future until God leads me to an instrument.  Until then, I’ll stick to mastering the vocal chords.

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