Staying Focused on God Amid Distractions

Featuring Toby Baxley Posted on March 22, 2008

Leading worship has been over-romanticized to the point that we expect it to be a completely sublime experience, where we as leaders are transported from our solid human form into a vapor floating around in the heavenly places, only to condense back into solid form after "worship" is over, metaphorically speaking, of course. While that might happen sometimes, more often, it is like spinning plates while riding a unicycle. We're usually just trying to keep our balance while keeping all of the elements of worship from crashing to the floor.

Obviously, the larger a program gets, the more elements we have to complicate the worship experience: congregation, pastor, tech, singers, choir, band, banners, dancers, etc., etc. On top of all this, we still have to be sensitive to God and the movement of the Holy Spirit or we'll miss the point altogether. With all of these things going on, the natural tendency is to let our focus shift each time something happens that requires our attention: a singer or player is out of tune, the drummer is rushing, or the graphics person is on the wrong slide. A former pastor of mine once said, "No matter how hard we try to keep him out, Murphy always finds a way show up."

Not all complications are bad, however. There can be some exceptional musical, visual, or even technical moments that, if we're not careful, can also distract our focus from the sublime worship experience we desire.

In my experience, there is no way to avoid being distracted by elements that vie for our attention. After all, we are human beings entrusted with divine responsibility. In order to stay "centered", however, we must understand that leading worship is a service unto the Lord and the needs of the corporate body are more important than our own worship experience, and that when we step out on the stage (however large or small the stage is) to lead, we're not leading into uncharted territory. The weekly service should not be our first and last encounter with God for the week. Our daily time in personal worship should be the map we use to lead the people of God to the throne of God. When that personal time is lacking, we can easily find ourselves groping around in the dark, looking for the door to the throne room, all the while tripping over the trappings of worship, but not really worshiping.

Obviously, we have all experienced those times when God has blessed our worship in spite of our lack of preparation. However, we should try to error on the side of preparation, both musically and spiritually, as if it were possible to error in that direction. Our attitude should be like that of David when he said, "I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." (2 Sam 24:24)