Dancing Pensioners

If you ask God to speak to you, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for his reply. He’s often quite creative in his communication!

Recently I was walking along the Southbank in London, near to where I live and work. As I walked I prayed (one of those thought prayers rather than speaking aloud). I asked God for a bit of inspiration, an idea, a spark, just something to work with and mould that would be beneficial for people to hear and might have a positive effect.

I continued walking along the raised pathway, simultaneously pondering what that idea might be when I noticed a scene unfolding on the walkway below.

A group of mostly pensioners were sitting on the benches looking out across the Thames. Something struck me as odd – on closer inspection the elderly folk were wearing Hawaiian leis, flower garlands, around their necks under their thick winter coats.

Then an unsuspecting member of the public began to walk past the [insert collective noun for pensioners here], and as they did, the old folks stood one-by-one and formed a conga-line behind their newly inaugurated and clearly bewildered leader.

A look at the wider scene would reveal cameras hidden in holdalls and pushchairs with technicians and directors communicating via earpieces.

This sparked a million God inspired ideas including one I’d like to share here…

How many times do we follow someone who has no idea what they’re doing at the front of the line? Or even that they’re at the front of the line at all?!

Particularly in a worship leading sense, I’ve had many many conversations with musicians who have found themselves leading worship simply because they’re musicians. They’ve had no training, no experience, and in some cases no desire to be worship leaders, but because they’ve rocked up to a local church – which is often short of musical resources – and revealed they can play guitar or piano or recorder, they’ve been thrust to the front of the line and expected to lead.

First and foremost we need to remember that worship and music and not words that are interchangeable in the life of the church. Music can be one expression of worship but isn’t worship so much more than music? Therefore, musicians are not necessarily always the best candidates for worship leaders. The role of the worship leader is to gather the congregation’s attention and lead them sensitively to a place where their attention and affection is fixed on God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – so we may express our affection together. If the job description requires no musical knowledge, why are musicians often the only ones we label ‘worship leaders’?

There are clearly people in the Church who are both gifted in leading worship and playing music. But there are also people who are gifted worship leaders and cannot sing in tune or play any instrument whatsoever. We need to provide opportunities and environments for these leaders to flourish and enhance the Church’s worship experience. In a significant number of churches, the musically based expression of worship currently trumps its non-musical sibling quite considerably.

Why not use worship leading partnerships? Musical and non-musical working together, both equally valuable, both equally relevant and equally helpful. The worship leader leading spoken word worship while the musicians provide a soundtrack or texture to support the liturgy. The musical worship leaders leading songs while the artistic worship leader conducts the construction of a community collage displaying the best bits of belong together.

Obviously there are practical issues to work through, but let’s begin those conversations and let our imaginations run wild with the possibilities.

Let’s invite the gifted and willing and passionate worship leaders to the front of our proverbial conga-line instead of forming up behind the unsuspecting muso.

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