I recently came across a short clip of Jesse Reeves(Songwriter, Worship Leader) teaching at the Austin Stone Worship Conference(Austin, TX) from 2013. The clip was entitled “Get Out of the Green Room”. I was intrigued by the title of the clip and checked it out. By the end of the video I was convicted.
Here’s what Jesse said:
“I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a green room, you gotta get back there, you gotta pray and get ready but you shouldn’t live in the green room. You should be accessible to the sheep.”
I’ve led worship long enough to recognize a few things. The first is that the more I lead and the more that I work at my craft, I realize the immense responsibility that God has given to me to care, teach and lead others in corporate worship not just on stage but off of the stage. It’s not something to take lightly. I’ve also noticed the same thing that Jesse brought up in his message. The Green Room. A sweet escape, a moment of respite from the challenges of ministry. Stepping away while the throngs of people make their way into the gathering space, building anticipation for the moment that the lights dim and you take the stage.
Like Jesse I’ve also been guilty of sipping coffee on a couch and escaping, moments before I’ve taken the stage but to be honest, I’ve never really been comfortable with the “Green Room”. It’s been one of those things that’s offered at many of the places where I’ve had the privilege of leading/playing at and I’ve definitely been grateful for a space to prepare my mind and heart for the stage/worship leading portion of my ministry but I think that having a “Green Room” mentality can be detrimental to our ultimate goal as worship leaders/band members and that goal should be to serve the sheep on and off of the stage and you can’t serve the sheep if you’re “living in the green room”.
I think many worship leaders fall into the “introverted” category. I know I do. I’ve heard the excuse and at times, I have given it myself “I just need to be alone right now to get myself ready” or “it’s just who I am, I need this in order to do my job” and “I need to spend some time in prayer”. There are situations where we need time to ourselves before we go on stage, especially if the day has consisted of non-stop ministry/activity but I’ve found that when time has been given for this that much less “prayer” and “quiet time” has occurred (supposed reasons for green room time).
Another temptation that the “green room” brings is the temptation to “crash” during the sermon. I’ve had some amazing ministry opportunities as a worship leader and some of those have been more time consuming than others(off stage time). Sometimes the band and myself needed to get a moment to breathe, to reflect, especially in the midst of a non-stop day of ministry that was both emotionally draining and physically taxing. We need rest, we need recovery time. In most situations, the message is not the time to do that. For one, it pulls us away visibly from the people we are serving and more often than not, it can communicate a sense of “we don’t need The Word”. As worship leaders and band members we need to be an example for those whom we’re serving, so that they see that God’s Word is a big deal, it’s such a big deal that the band needs to hear it as well! I remember going to a conference at Southern Seminary in Louisville and Charlie Hall happened to be leading worship. He didn't pull himself away into the president's green room but instead was out with all of us conference goers, sitting under the same message for every session. That had a big impact on me.
Secondly(probably more important than the first), We need The Word. We need to hear God’s Word preached to us even if we’re not totally locked in with the speaker. If we believe Heb. 4:12 that says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” we also believe that The Gospel can be communicated even through a bad speaker or someone with whom we may not be on the same page with Theologically. Tuning out because we’re not “captivated” by the speaker or because we’re fuming over something that he said is not an excuse. We need to hear The Word.
I’ve found that I’m more focused, prepared and rested for worship when I’ve sat down to hear the message than when I’ve pulled myself away to “crash” or get “downtime”. We sing about how God’s love and His Word refreshes our souls but when it comes down to it, if we’re talking about a long day of non-stop ministry, I’m not so sure that we believe that it does.
Are there times when we need to rest before or after leading worship? Absolutely but let’s try and get ourselves out of this “Green Room” mentality where we end up hiding from the people that we’re supposed to be serving and end up missing out on the most important part of the gathering.