I, too, have been the victim (and the perpetrator) of comments during corporate worship that are more distracting than helpful. That’s why I want to list ten practical aspects today that hopefully will keep a well-intentioned, zealous leader from misinterpreting what I’ve been saying.
1. Recognize that God’s words outlast ours.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16)
If I say something, I want to direct people’s attention to the unchanging truth of God’s Word, rather than my own creativity or insights. Sometimes simply reading a Scripture is the best thing to do. Have a Bible with you when you lead, and don’t read Scripture casually or quickly. It’s also helpful to memorize, or at least be very familiar with, any Scripture you refer to.
2. Plan the progression of songs so you don’t have to say that much.
I’ve found that speaking sooner is usually better than later. It’s helpful to consider how last lines and first lines connect. If a song doesn’t need an introduction, don’t give it one. Starting with the chorus sometimes makes a better transition from the last song. While there’s no “rule” that says we can’t say something between every song, it’s generally not a good idea. You only need a road sign when you turn.
3. Behold the beauty of brevity.
Say what you need to say: one thought, one Scripture, one application. If you have trouble following what you’re saying, your listeners won’t fare much better.
4. Brief phrases (spoken or sung) between lines of a song can accomplish the same goals as longer comments.
Rather than speak between songs, you can say something during a song. But don’t interject phrases so often that people grow immune to your comments. A few ideas:
Repeat a line (“This the power…this is the power“)
Contrast a line (“I am not skilled to understand…but you know it all“)
Expand on a thought (“How deep the Father’s love for us…displayed at the cross“)
Add to a thought (“How great is our God…you rescue sinners“)
5. Varying the length, timing, sources, etc. of what you say can keep people from checking out mentally.
Simply put, don’t do the same thing every time you lead.
6. Don’t underestimate the value of preparation.
Two minutes of speaking might take two hours of preparation. It can be helpful to write down what you plan to say. That will help you to organize your thoughts, avoid rambling, run it by your pastor, and keep it from going too long. But don’t read it! I’ve found that the more time I’ve taken to prepare, the easier it is for me to share spontaneously and from my heart.
7. View testimonies, personal illustrations, and non-biblical quotes like spices – use them sparingly or they ruin the meal.
8. Don’t assume you have to play your instrument while you’re speaking.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t require musical accompaniment to do his work. Ask someone else to play, or talk without the music.
9. Prayer is speaking, too. The same principles apply.
Consider thinking through how you’ll pray. Root your prayers in God’s promises, not simply our responses. Remember you’re praying for the group, not just yourself. It can be helpful to use phrases from songs to deepen their impact.
10. Ask others for feedback to find out how you can grow.
Your pastor, your spouse, your children, and a good friend are all good options for finding out whether what you’re saying is helpful or not. And remember that every mistake is an opportunity to grow.
One final point. It’s not necessarily the lead musician’s job to talk. It could just as well be the pastor, and in some cases, should be the pastor. But every worship leader could benefit from thinking more carefully about how, when, and why to say something when they lead. Sad to say that after 30 years, it’s something I’m still learning.
Nic Cross has some great thoughts on this topic. You can check out his post here.