I’ve been given a few pieces of advice over the years from other worship leaders and pastors, and there is one thing that im really holding onto at the moment in particular, to embrace the space. Those spaces in worship that are just that, space. Im aware that when I was a little more wet behind the ears as a worship leader, my nerves would sometimes get the better of me, and I would find myself rattling my way through a worship set. I know that I’m not the only person who has had the tendency to do this. I have been in services where the worship time has left me feeling somewhat windswept, and not in a good way!
I dont think I can over emphasize the importance of leaving some breathing space in our worship times. These spaces when the songs we sing transition are very valuable, and if we rush them by we might rob our congregations of a time to find their individual songs to God, to pray out those prayers, to simply stop and listen. We as worship leaders need to embrace that space!
It can be a very vulnerable place, and can sometimes feel a little awkward as people get used to the prolonged times of not being ‘led’ by the person standing in front of them, but you know what, once your church gets past that awkward feeling and has learnt that they have the freedom to bring Him worship in their own way, that’s when our times of worshipping Him tend to find new depths.
We must keep in mind, that we need to lead the congragation into and through these spaces. You cant just expect the church to know what to do when you are circling through that chord progression. Sure there is probably a number of folk in your church who are familiar with how these times work, and may sing out, or pray out a prayer, or bring words etc, but every church is full of people in different stages of their walk, and there should hopefully be people who have not yet made that first step to follow Jesus.
Its simply a case of telling them what you’re doing. Verbal prompts are great. Simply giving the congregation the heads up that you are going to wait in a section of a song, and that there is no rush to move on. Again this may feel a little awkward the first few times you do it, but once your church embraces it, its amazing! The culture of your worship times will change, and people will open up to it more and more. But the verbal promts will still be necessary for the same reason as before. Any good and growing church will have people coming who need these promtings.
I think the more you lead people in worship, and the more experience you gain, the better you will be equipped to know when its right to open these spaces up. Sometimes they will be fruitful, and sometimes they may be less so, but keep with it, there are songs laying just below the surface waiting to be sung!
Here is a little story of the beauty of these spaces in our worship…
God is always moving and always speaking. I was in a time of worship at my church in St Albans one Sunday back last year when one of these spaces opened up and I was healed of a broken rib.
My friend Sam was leading, and from memory I believe we had been singing Our Father. He told us that we were going to wait for a while, and one of our strings players just spent some time soloing over a section of the song for a few moments. In that space the spirit moved in an amazing way. I was standing over to the left of the building when the spirit moved visibly. From the front to the back, just in our section of seats people began sobbing almost in a mexican wave style as He rolled over us like a wave. In that moment I heard Him say the word ‘healing’ to me.
I actually misread what He was saying because there was a girl sitting in front of me who I knew was unwell, and I thought I should be praying for, but it was only then that I realised I was being healed and was in no pain. I actually hit myself a number of times in my ribs to see if there was any pain, and I was completely healed. It was amazing!
I had chickened out of praying for the girl, I’m ashamed to say, but a few weeks later she had obviously heard about this, and came up to me to tell me that she had been healed in that same moment! God is just so good…. Embrace the space!