I’m a part of Richwoods Christian Church in Peoria, IL where I live. From time to time I lead worship there. I always find it interesting to evaluate myself as a worship leader from service to service since there are three services per weekend. I think I’m seeing a pattern…

The pattern: A+X = B-X

A+X
With each service, technical quality increases. Mistakes decrease. Between the first and the last service we play, there is probably a 10–25% increase in technical accuracy. From a performance standpoint, things only get better as I learn from my mistakes and apply what I learn to the next time around.

Practice makes perfect. Similar to playing a tour or making a cookie recipe, it should get better over time. Who wouldn’t want that? But…

B-X
As technical quality increases, I feel something of value decreasing. I’m not sure what to call it. Spontaneity maybe. Or realness. The human touch. It seems to decrease with every identical service I play.

I think it’s because, while I’ve learned from my mistakes and I don’t repeat them, I’ve also learned from my successes and I try my very best to repeat them. This is very dangerous:

  • It takes away from the humanity of the next crowd. I assume the people I’m about to play for are the same as the ones I just played for, and in doing so I essentially ignore them as individuals.
  • It takes away from my humanity, offered to them. I can’t count how many times a mistake of mine was the most powerful point of the service for someone. It’s because they realized we’re the same - that they’re not alone.
  • It takes away from my dependance on God to speak in order for me to know how to act. So I stop listening for His voice.

So that’s the pattern. I think most of us are susceptible to it. And I think it should concern us.

If we’re not careful, by pursing perfection and mistake-reduction, we can withhold the very thing people need most from us. We trade authentic healing which can only come from human touch for the fleeting high of impressing and being impressed.

I’m not exactly sure how to get better at this. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t look like purposefully sabotaging myself (put a dead battery in my mic, hold in pee to the point of explosion right before heading on stage, etc). But it probably comes down to developing the discipline of recognizing the individuality of each person I play for and listening for God’s voice, every moment of every time I’m on stage. This discipline is probably valuable in any situation where one human is trying to give something of value to another human.

I’m all for increasing technical quality. But not at the expense of humanity. People do not come to church to be impressed. (Though it’s often times how we operate.) They come to find other humans, just like them. Flawed. Scared. Lonely. Confused. Imperfect.

No matter how efficient our methods become, there is no substitute for human touch.

Human Touch