*Editor’s Note: Sometimes we who lead worship have bad days, persistent questions, and even times of doubt. How should worship leaders handle these frustrations which range from moments of depletion to seasons of doubt? Recently I got to host a conversation with four worship leaders about how to lead people in worship who are skeptical about God or the church. The four worship ministers were Corey Scott of Springfield, MO; Dave Stovall of Franklin, TN; Luke McCoy of Marion, IA; and Shawn Frazier of Murfreesboro, TN. For additional excerpts from this conversation, click here and here.
Q: Do we see any people in the Bible who were able to worship even while part of them doubted the goodness of God?
Dave: There’s the man asking if Jesus would heal his son. He said, “I believe, but help me in my unbelief.” He still came to Jesus even though he wasn’t sure.
Corey: We see deep hurt and difficulty trusting God in some of the Psalms of lament.
Luke: We see it in some of the altar moments. When Abraham was told to sacrifice his son Isaac and they started up the mountain to worship, Abraham had to be at least somewhat skeptical. Still, he said, “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” Amid the confusion, he chose to worship out of obedience.
Shawn: I’m reminded of how often Jesus had to remind his apostles to trust in him. He had to keep reminding them that this is real; have faith.
Q: All of us have ups and downs. As a worship leader, what about the days that you doubt the goodness of God? How do you lead people in worship when you’re not feeling it?
Dave: I have a great support system of people that I can lean on. I go to Celebrate Recovery at our church and it’s there that I can get all the crazy thoughts out. It’s important to have people whom you don’t have to be 100% on all the time with. I come to church with five hours of sleep, with the newborn up all night; I notice the red flags and I can reach out. I can talk to my sponsor. I can reach out to my team and say, “Hey, can you pray for me?” I start thinking about everything God has done for me, rescued my marriage, rescued from addictions, blessed us with a beautiful family. I remind myself of how God has been with us every step of the way.
Shawn: I think it’s okay to lead with honesty. You don’t need to always be peppy; you don’t need to be fake. On the other hand, you also don’t need to get up in front of people and rant for 30 minutes. But we do have struggles. When I am really struggling with something, I’ll reach out to my Celebrate Recovery sponsor. He has to keep things confidential, and I can let it out. Sometimes, it’s also good for the church as a whole to see some honesty. It’s okay for me to say, “I’m not feeling happy today.” That might actually be what someone needed to hear. They might come up afterward and say, “Thanks for being honest.”
Luke: When I give a communion intro, I’ll often talk about what I really need from the Lord at the time. People can sense that I absolutely need what I’m talking about. My communion intros are pretty vulnerable when I talk about what God has done in my life. There’s a way to put the spotlight on God but in a way that recognizes my brokenness.
Corey: I’ve got a couple guys that I can go to when I’m low. In the church, when I get the most vulnerable with others, it’s going to be with the teams I lead during rehearsals. It doesn’t always need to be on the platform. There is an art to self-disclosure, and I try to employ that art with my team. I want to model that for our leaders in appropriate self-disclosure.
Dave: Yeah, it’s good to be 100% honest with your team, and model a level of that from the stage. I went to a church during my progressive years where the preacher was almost too raw, but we actually joined the next Sunday because of that. However, you need to be able to have the right channels to get all the junk out to. Usually, there’s a blessing on the other side when you push through—such as greater faith and a more tangible feeling of the Holy Spirit.
Luke: It’s been interesting that the more we’re open and honest with our teams, the more they can read us. Then, when we’re having a rough time, they’re coming to us and saying, “Are you ok, man?”
There’s a way to put the spotlight on God but in a way that recognizes my brokenness.