The First Thing To Check When The Audience Isn’t Responding

I’m a behind the scenes guy at my church. A lot of what I do shows up in the finished product that is presented on Sunday morning, but I seldom come to the front myself.  But there was this worship medley by William McDowell that I wanted the praise team to sing, and I kinda knew even before I presented it to them that I’d be asked to sing it. His voice is similar to my own so it only made sense.

So I teach the song and everything goes well. Sunday comes and we present it. I begin leading the song and right away I notice only a small handful of the audience seems to be into it at all. Only 3 or 4 or standing, maybe another few that I can see actually closing their eyes and making an attempt to worship. That’s the downside to singing with your eyes open, unfortunately. Sometimes you can “see too much” and discourage yourself.

So we continued to move through the medley and everything went well, but I was discouraged. I had people come up to me and say they enjoyed it, but I personally didn’t feel good about it. I blamed much of it on the audience, and the rest on myself. You see we used to be one of those churches who had “testimony service”. We did it for many years-most of my life, really. So even though we’ve had a praise team for several years now, many of our older saints just don’t “get it”. “We don’t know how to worship”, I told one of the young ministers who was encouraging me.

Then there was me. See Iv’e always had this inward battle about my own singing and whether it’s “hype enough” or “exciting enough”. I struggle with thoughts that my singing is “too calm” or “too boring”.  It didn’t help that our regular worship leader is a powerful anointed singer and woman of God that just electrifies the service every time she sings.

So, overall just not especially having enjoyed the experience, imagine how I felt when our worship leader sends me a text saying she wants me to do it again the following Sunday. I hemmed and haw’d and stated my case, but in the end I promised I’d be obedient. So I’m sitting there on the keyboard that Sunday playing and she’s going forth with the praise team. And just when I’m convinced the spirit is leading her another way she stops down and asks me to come up.

Any time I get up to do something I try to prepare myself mentally and spiritually so I’m in the right frame of mind and I have the right attitude. I just won’t get up in front of people with a negative spirit, I don’t care how I feel personally about what I’m about to do. I call it my 5 Second Rule Of Music Ministry.  So in the few seconds it takes me to get up to the stage I decided that this time I’d do two things. I’d make more of an effort to go deeper into the songs emotionally myself. To make sure I’m actually worshiping, lifting my hands, closing my eyes and talking to God.

But then the second thing I decided to do was to do a better job leading, encouraging and guiding the audience in worship. So right away when I took the microphone this time I began to just talk to them about worship, encouraging them to surrender all they had been through that day, even the previous week. I began to explain to them that worship isn’t something that “happens to you”, it’s something that you do.

I began to sing, this time moving my hands more, lifting them more, talking to the audience more. This time the atmosphere was different. There were many more people worshiping. Many more standing, lifting their hands. Many more who were seated were doing the same thing. The atmosphere was filled with a spirit of worship. Even when the pastor came up, which was much later, the praise and worship portion of the service was still on his mind. He began to talk about the songs we sang and the kind of worship we offered, referring to it as a “slow rain”. In fact I ended up going back into a portion of it again by his request.

So now, thinking back on it I realize that it wasn’t necessarily the audience that had the problem the first time, it was me. It wasn’t them that needed to surrender, it was me. It wasn’t them that wasn’t worshiping, it was me that wasn’t. I learned that day something I really already knew. Something I’ve said to others before. Simply, that when you stand before God’s people you have to give God your best. It has to come from a pure place that isn’t influenced or affected by what the audience is doing- or not doing.

Because the truth is even in the second performance of the medley there were still people who weren’t really into it at all. And there always will be, in every performance; for all of us. But the solution is not to simply keep our eyes tightly closed for the entire thing and ignore the audience entirely. The solution is to sing from the purest place you can, giving God the best praise or worship you can. Connect with and focus on those who are with you and being blessed. Avoid focusing your attention on those who don’t seem to be interested, and don’t take it personally. Doing so could cause you to miss being a blessing to someone else. Or worse yet, miss being blessed yourself.

 

 

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14 Responses to The First Thing To Check When The Audience Isn’t Responding

  1. Jenny says:

    Ron is it good to sing a worship song that is not familiar to your audience?

  2. Donna says:

    this was great and wonderful information thank you

  3. Karen says:

    Thank you Ron for this article. I felt discouraged today with praise and worship but I realize I can’t allow the enemy to defeat me. It is not about me. I can not allow the enemy to have me focusing on myself.

  4. chyoma says:

    Really inspiring. Truth is, during worship or any ministration, we should see ourselves as ministers singing to God; blessing God with the fruit of our lips. This should be our focus. Worship God, then lead the congregation into that place of worship.

    No worship or praise session should ever focus on entertaining people. It should focus on ministering to God and then the people

  5. Richard says:

    You nailed it with this article! We are worship leaders – meaning we must lead the people into worship – and we do this primarily by example. It wouldn’t hurt for there to be more instruction from the pulpit about the ‘sacrifice of praise’, but ultimately, if we are truly called to do this – then we lead by example.

  6. Joanna Troupe says:

    This article had really blessed me. I found myself in it. Although a lot of the information I already know I still find myself at times drifting back to the point where I focus on the people that are not being apart of worship; instead of keeping my focus on worshipping and praise God just for who he is. I will give my best every time no matter who joins in.

  7. Messejproduction says:

    Your description of the “more perfect praise” may very well be the issue …. “I decided that this time I’d do two things. I’d make more of an effort to go deeper into the songs emotionally myself. To make sure I’m actually worshiping, lifting my hands, closing my eyes and talking to God.” Your description suggests there is a “right way” to lead people into praise and worship. Authentic Praise can no more be put in a box than we can put “Music” in a box. Music is simply “a way into” a realm of vast possibilities. Since Music can reach the inward consciousness without consent, if praise is going forth using Music as a vehicle, the worship leader along can’t definitely determine whether EVERYONE in the worship experience was satisfied and further someone else’s contentment may be their point of satisfaction. Some people are blessed simply by listening to a song and experiencing euphoria is not the standard for entering in God’s presence.

    • Ron Cross says:

      Hi Messej,

      Thanks for the comment! Unless I’m misunderstanding you we’re pretty-much saying the same thing, although we may be wording it differently.
      I’m not sure if you had a chance to read the whole article or not, but I think if you compare the great points you made with the last two paragraphs of the article you’ll see that we’re in agreement. I’ve posted them for you again below. I enjoyed your perspective. You should submit a guest post sometimes! I’m always looking for guest bloggers.

      Here are those last 2 paragraphs again:

      “So now, thinking back on it I realize that it wasn’t necessarily the audience that had the problem the first time, it was me. It wasn’t them that needed to surrender, it was me. It wasn’t them that wasn’t worshiping, it was me that wasn’t. I learned that day something I really already knew. Something I’ve said to others before. Simply, that when you stand before God’s people you have to give God your best. It has to come from a pure place that isn’t influenced or affected by what the audience is doing- or not doing.

      Because the truth is even in the second performance of the medley there were still people who weren’t really into it at all. And there always will be, in every performance; for all of us. But the solution is not to simply keep our eyes tightly closed for the entire thing and ignore the audience entirely. The solution is to sing from the purest place you can, giving God the best praise or worship you can. Connect with and focus on those who are with you and being blessed. Avoid focusing your attention on those who don’t seem to be interested, and don’t take it personally. Doing so could cause you to miss being a blessing to someone else. Or worse yet, miss being blessed yourself.”

      • Brenda says:

        But, with all due respect, when did worship, and worship leading become a “performance”? My heart aches each time I hear the word used to describe what is supposed to be a Good called responsibility to use others into God’s presence. We do this by taking the focus off of ourselves and surrendering to God. Performance can not truly do that.

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  9. Lavelda Page says:

    This was so helpful. I have felt this way nearly every time I have led p&w. When you are assistant leader you have to be ready at a moment’s notice to lead. You not only contend with the team cooperating (or lack there of) but the congregation, pastors and anybody else who question where the regular person is.
    So the reception is “off” – then it becomes a battle. I think I needed to hear that worship doesn’t just happen it is something you do. Thank you taking this with me in the morning

  10. Alyce says:

    Great post! It put me in the mind of “My Gratitude” and the reprise from Walter Hawkins; “…my best, and nothing less… Kind of like making sure I’ve ministered to myself before going in front of the congregation. Thanks for sharing, Bro. Ron!

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