Sometimes inspiration can come from the most unusual places… I wouldn’t consider myself a huge Metallica fan, but as a child of the 90’s, I certainly have some appreciation for the band and particularly that specific era of their music. So earlier today while mindlessly scrolling Facebook, I came across a video of the guys playing the National Anthem at a San Francisco Giants game and stopped to watch. I would encourage you to take 2 minutes and watch the video (if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, at least skip to the end of the song and the moments afterward).

Do you see the joy on James and Kirk’s faces? I honestly wasn’t sure at first why I even watched the entire video to begin with, and then it dawned on me: I enjoyed the performance because THEY enjoyed the performance! I’ve been leading worship professionally for over twenty years, and it seems like every week I see another article or book or blog post reminding worship leaders that “it’s not about the lights, or the smoke, or the musicianship, or your pedals… make sure you sing simply and don’t do too much… remember the seriousness of your position… keep your playing simple… it’s not a rock and roll show… remember not to make it about the people on stage… be careful it’s not a performance…” You get the picture…  And while these are all valid points and there is a certain amount of spiritual weight to the position we carry as worship leaders, I’m a little worried that we may actually be inadvertently sapping all of the joy out of worship.  

Psalm 100 says to “worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” If I’m being honest, there are many weeks where I feel like I play and sing with much more joy and gladness and freedom in rehearsal than I do during actual Sunday services, and I think it’s because as worship leaders and team members we’re being constantly reminded, intentionally or not, that worship is not supposed to be “fun.”  I’ve been constantly reminded for 20 years that I need to always double check what I’m dong to make sure the focus is in the right place.  And so instead of worshipping in the joy of the Lord, I’m often actually worshipping in fear of the microscope of men. And sadly, over the past couple of years, I fear that as ministers, and as a culture in general, we’re starting to take that approach with everything we do. Maybe it’s because over the last couple of years, there’s rarely been a “right answer” to anything…  We get emails for saying too much and we get emails for not saying enough…  We get people angry because we require masks and we get people angry because we don’t require masks…  And over time those comments begin to have the same effect on us as those articles I mentioned earlier. We forget that the joy of the Lord is what led us to go into ministry in the first place.

Going back to the Metallica video, if there is one thing I could ask my team to take away from that performance, it would be for the joy evident on their faces to be just as evident on ours as we lead worship on Sunday mornings. Make sure our hearts are in the right place, sure… but remember the joy we have in knowing Christ as well as the joy he so divinely placed in us when we exercise the gifts he has given us.  And I believe if our congregation sees us living in a bit more of that joy, maybe they’ll experience a bit more of it too.

So as you go into ministry this week, put aside the criticisms and emails and problems and try to rest in and serve out of the joy of the Lord. As one of my team members never fails to remind us all as we’re about to walk onto the platform, “Hey… don’t forget to have fun!”

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Ryan Bailey

Ryan Bailey

Ryan is the Worship Leader at Mountain View Community Church in Frederick, MD, where he lives with his wife, Meghan, and their three daughters.  Ryan has been leading worship for nearly twenty years and also serves as a worship leading coach with the Guest Worship network.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Phil Lazo on June 8, 2022 at 6:49 pm

    Great article Ryan!!

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