I was reminded again today how different leading worship is from being in the pews. Not necessarily better, but different. I was at a meeting of pastors and we started our meeting with a worship service. It was beautiful. The songs were wonderful and the teaching was powerful. I love being a participant from time to time, almost as much as leading worship.
In my Bible I carry a 3 x 5 index card as a bookmark. I actually have many bookmarks in my Bible, but this one carries special meaning to me. On it is a series of crudely drawn cars, trucks and vans. A few of the trucks have names on them - my sons' names. At the top of one side is a ghost which looks more like a coffee stain with eyes. The card itself is still in fairly decent shape, and that is good because it is staying in my Bible for a long time.
Those little vehicles and the blobbish ghost were drawn by me to entertain my four year-old son during a long worship service. At least it was getting pretty long for him, so I did my best to listen and actually pay attention while using my deficient sketching skills to keep a small boy occupied. And it worked. Looking at the card, the boy must have been really bored to have appreciated my poor artwork. But he behaved and I worshipped. Although I was a little distracted, I still enjoyed being in the presence of God with my son.
That 3 x 5 card stays in my Bible to remind me of what it is like on the other side of the pulpit. The people who are there bring in a whole set of situations, as well as a whole set of distractions that are unique to each individual. That card reminds me that the person in the fifth pew may have had a rough morning getting to the church, or that the lady in the back may need to rush from the service to a family dinner. There are plenty of things competing for the minds of people -- even those sitting in the pew. I need to make sure that the way I present the Gospel is memorable enough to stick in an overcrowded mind and to reach a needy heart. It's not just a matter of delivering a sermon and leading a few songs. It's hitting people with truth right where they sit. That index card brings back the memories of what it is like sitting on the other side of the pulpit.
The other thing that card reminds me of is that each person there is part of a family. Whether it is a group of blood relatives or a family of friends and co-workers, that person is a part of a larger group. After the service is over, the experience of worship should make a difference that this person's family should notice. So in effect, I am preaching to far more people than can fit in the sanctuary. My benediction is an admonition to "let your light so shine before men so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven." It goes from the pulpit to the pew to the public.
No matter which side of the pulpit you are on, worship is a way to communicate spiritually with God. And no matter which side of the pulpit I am on, it is an experience, which for me, has no equal.