“I worship God best when I’m singing on the stage.”
Every worship leader has probably heard this at one point or another from someone in the congregation who wants to serve on the worship team.
Depending on our personality and leadership style, we may be outwardly smiling at them, while inwardly the little worship leader in our head is rolling its eyes in disgust. Or we may just straight-up tell them they are consumerist sinners and need to repent.
But the truth of the matter is that we are far more guilty of this than we like to admit. We tend to worship God best when we are on the stage and can often have difficulty connecting in worship under another’s leadership.
We struggle to engage as we hear every flat vocal, every missed note from the lead guitar. We critique the preparation of the band, the song selection, the musical style, the lyrical content, the vocal approach, the lighting and audio, the presentation software, and the list goes on and on.
We are a worship leader’s worst critics and this goes far beyond the corporate worship experience.
When a worship leader records an album, we listen to it and pick it apart until there is nothing left to glorify God for. And then based on our preferences regarding the content and musical style of their album, we can even use our bias to project personality flaws and spiritual gaps onto these people we don’t even know. We idolize the artists that we like and demonize the artists that we don’t. We love to poke fun and laugh about their flaws and deficiencies.
Awhile back, a satirical video was circling the internet called, “How to Write A Worship Song in 5 Minutes or Less.” It was so spot on that it went viral. Even I shared the video on Twitter, Facebook, and my website.
I wholeheartedly believe we ought to have conversations about how to carefully and artfully craft worship songs that enlarge people’s view of God. We ought to diligently filter songs for use in our corporate worship services that teach right doctrine of who God is and what he’s done. I hope that videos like this help move the conversation forward toward more excellent song writing for the church.
But truthfully, I have to wonder how many worship leaders watched that video and felt justified in their superiority. I know as I watched the video I could feel the pride welling up in me like a Pharisee, as I said, “Lord, I thank you that I’m not like those kinds of worship leaders. Thank you that I write thoughtfully, and try to avoid clichés.”
In reality, I should have been praying, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
As worship leaders, we have an obligation to exercise good judgment for the doctrinal formation of our churches. However, we will never have the right to execute judgment on other people based on our own personality biases, style preferences, musical insecurities and self-focused pride.
We have all been rescued from the depths of our own death and depravity. We have all tasted the beauty of grace. We have all been spared the rightful judgment and wrath that was directed at us.
Jesus has sent his Holy Spirit to come live in us to make us holy, not “Holier Than Thou.” To humble us and give us gifts with which to serve the church, not allow us to harbor pride over the gifts that he’s given.
We ought not think so highly of ourselves. Our gifts and talents and statuses should not be on the pedestal. They should never be our boast.
What if worship leaders were so consumed with the glory of God that we rejoiced when he chose to use others in various ways for the glory of his name? What if we stopped playing the comparison game?
What if we refused to pick apart and ruthlessly criticize each other, but instead looked for the evidences of grace in others’ ministries and gave thanks to God for them? What if we made it our aim to encourage and build one another up and celebrated when others get the recognition?
One of the surest signs of maturity in a believer’s life is being easily edified. It should not take a perfect worship leader in the perfect setting to draw us into abandoned adoration of our great King. Only one worship leader is perfect – Jesus Christ himself. And while he ultimately is the only one who can lead us in true, spiritual worship before the throne of God, he chooses to use imperfect people like us as his tangible, visible representatives in the church.
Knowing our own sinfulness and shortcomings, and the grace of Jesus Christ that covers us, I pray that we would be overcome with joyful adoration and not be able to contain our praise; that we would get over ourselves because we just can’t get over him.