“Sing to him a new song; play skilfully, and shout for joy.” Psalm 33:3 (NIV)
It can be tempting to throw all of our musical skills into the mix when leading worship, but this isn’t necessarily the best we can do.
While the psalmist implores musicians to play skilfully, and by implication to be exuberant as they “shout for joy”, I don’t believe this gives us an invitation to over-indulge.
I believe the art of a good and skilful musician is knowing when to hold back, to play less, and to leave space.
What you also need to bear in mind is that, while you may think your guitar solo or keyboard riff is hot stuff, you may have exaggerated just how good it is.
Even if it is excellent, it’s not wise to use it at every given opportunity.
I’ve written about being at one with your instrument. Part of that means knowing what your current skill-set is.
Perhaps you’ve studied at music college, or you may have only been playing a musical instrument for a few months. Or you’re somewhere in-between. If character and calling are not in doubt (remembering that worship leading is not a hobby) then no-one is disqualified from leading.
What is important is that you know you current musical limitations. By all means use your own private and band practice times to develop your skills, but don’t use live worship to do so.
Similarly, you may just have bought a new effect pedal, keyboard, sound module, piece of percussion, or other wonderful gadget or gizmo. My advice would be to not unleash it on the congregation until you fully understand how it works — in its entirety.
As a worship leader, it’s far more important that you are focused on leading people into a place of worship, than it is on getting your new kit into the musical mix. If it’s appropriate, there’ll be time enough for that later on.
If you’re a musician in the band and the worship leader requests that you don’t use a certain instrument, sound or effect, then it would be best that you respect their decision.
There’s plenty of time in private, and when your band is playing together and working through songs and arrangements, for introducing funky new styles and instruments.
If you’re at all in doubt about a particular element, it’s definitely best to leave it out.
Remember, worship is not a performance. Playing skilfully and excellently are things that we should seek, but they are not our primary motivation.
A simply arranged set that enables many people to worship God is far better than a complicated one that may prove to be a distraction or hindrance.