Worship, Music, and Spirituality: Comforting Nerves

December 14, 2022
close-up of a microphone in a multicolored background

“As the people were filled with expectation...” —Luke 3:15

I was 18, wearing a grey baby-doll sweater dress that belonged to my sister’s best friend. All my life, I had performed dance recitals and concerts and spoken publicly before many crowds, but I knew none of those crowds really expected much from me. Those crowds always came to be supportive; the applause was almost always a display of enthusiastic kindness. This performance was different.

It was my first solo performance and people were expecting greatness. Every day for months, I practised before school. I was to play this piece that I knew by heart, but on the day of the concert, I was so afraid of disappointing the crowd that I pulled out the music and my music stand: my road map and security blanket.

In many ways, I feel the same way pulling out the bulletin and my sermon manuscript when leading worship. I already know the service by heart, I have prayed over and internalized the message, I have practised it. But I am also anxious, eager to do the best job that I can, and the paper is the comfort to my nerves that helps me lead.

We all do our ministries in front of expectant crowds. These expectations can be stressful, unrealistic, and sometime unattainable. So much of what is expected of us as worship leaders is based on the biases, experiences, hopes, fears, dreams, hurts, and prejudices of others. Even though we know this, it can be hard to not internalize them.

I am comforted by the reminder that many in the Bible did not meet the expectations of the crowds. Impossible expectations were put on John and Jesus. John was expected to be the Messiah—he wasn’t. Jesus was expected to start a revolution that would bring peace and comfort to the people—his was a different sort of revolution. Both John and Jesus knew that they would never meet the expectations put on them while alive, and yet that did not stop them from doing their ministries.

Worrying about the overwhelming expectations put on us as Christians and as worship leaders often makes me forget what is important. I forget that, like John and Jesus, ourgoal is not to please a crowd, but to facilitate the praising of God. I forget all of the work and preparation that I have put into being a good worship leader (similar to the discipline, practice, and prayer I put into my solo performances). I sometimes forget that we never do any of this alone: the Spirit is with us, working through us, as we lead. My notes help me to remember the love and intention I have put into the service.

Looking back, I know that I could have performed that solo without music, because I knew the piece—just as I know that I do not need a script or written order to praise God. The music, the script, the stand, and the furniture are all aids to help me manage my own expectations and remember why I am doing what I am doing. I may not rely on these aids forever. I am a work in progress. In the interim, I am grateful for aids that help me offer my best for God’s glory.

Worshipping with you,


Alydia Smith, Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality