We’ve all been there. On stage, in the limelight, leading in a super passionate moment in a worship set when — the person running the confidence monitor falls one slide behind and all of a sudden, you’re making up your own words. Or maybe, you’ve hit the climax of singing Kari Jobe’s “Forever” and instead of flawlessly executing those pure and powerful notes just like Kari’s recording, your voice cracks and amplified for all to hear is the fact that yes, you are human.
Unfortunately, rather than owning our mistakes and moving past them, we often get stuck in a shame cycle. It begins when you make a mistake on stage (big or small) and the self-evaluation process turns into a “what are others thinking of me right now” spiral. You might start evaluating people’s facial expressions, posture, and other cues and drawing your own conclusions like “Wow, they must think I’m a terrible singer,” which all too easily digresses to “Why am I doing this…,” which quickly spirals into other, perhaps more significant mistakes. Those mistakes too quickly result in other perceived impressions and soon enough, you’re stuck in a mental and emotional shame cycle.
Yes, sometimes mistakes are a result of being unprepared. We need to own our responsibility as worship leaders in preparing our hearts, practicing our music, and following the Spirit in leading God’s people with excellence. However, in my experience, most of the people who land themselves in leadership roles in the church tend to be more responsible and driven—often setting perfection as the bar and feeling paralyzed when the reality of our human nature strikes.
The truth is that imperfection can be a powerful thing. I cringe thinking of all the times that I’ve led a worship set largely free of mistakes, only to be met with comments like: “that was amazing!” and “your voice is perfect.” These remarks might feel good, but they fix the attention on me and my successes rather than on Him. Some of the most powerful interactions I’ve had with people following a worship set have been when I have stumbled over words, forgotten the repeat of a chorus, etc. and God still used me to help His people enter into worship. People may notice these flaws, but more often than not it allows them to feel on the same level with me as a worshipper.
No one wants to follow a perfect leader. I would guess that some of the most inspirational leaders you know are those that are the most vulnerable with their imperfections. There’s something about mistakes that humanize us. As a worship leader, people tend to automatically elevate you to an often unhealthy place. Obviously, we shouldn’t make mistakes on purpose. But recognize that God can use them to keep you humble and make you approachable to those around you.
Worship is meant to be a sacred and powerful tool to draw people closer to the heart of God. We are simply broken vessels that He graciously uses to help in that process. If we have prepared responsibly and surrendered fully as we begin to lead, then the result is up to Him. Remember that He can use anyone and anything for His glory. Don’t let Satan tempt you to despair as you lead by letting others perceived impressions of you guide your thoughts. Fix Your eyes upon Him, stand firmly upon the Rock, and watch Him use even your mistakes in a powerful way to bring Him glory.