Protecting the Worship
Today, I am contemplating a conversation that I had with a worship leader friend of mine a few days ago. During our conversation we were talking about the whole “leadership paradigm” as it pertains to those who lead worship and some of the difficulties of working with other “worship leaders”.
Most reading this probably don’t know this, but I spent 14 years leading worship in some capacity as a Vocalist, Bass Player or Pianist…Every week, usually twice to three times a week for 14 years… I laid it down intentionally about 6 years ago when I went through a really difficult season of ministry and I needed to become anonymous and “blend in” for a while so that I could simply “receive” from God… I was wounded and broken and needed a season away from the stage…and after I laid it down, I never had the release to pick it back up…
Then about 4 years ago, I had an event take place that pretty much secured me leaving it at the alter, permanently. For no known reason and without catalyst, my vocal cords became paralyzed…It was terrifying… My vocal folds would freeze shut and I couldn’t breathe for sometimes up to a minute…There were times I thought I would die (literally) as I would come to the brink of passing out. The last “bad” bout left me unable to sing at all and barely able to talk for several months…My vocal cords were damaged from these freak occurrences. I consulted the worlds #1 vocal specialist, went through therapy but never regained the range that I once had.
I don’t want to leave you with the wrong impression, I was never a “great” vocalist or musician for that matter… I wouldn’t even call myself a vocalist or musician in mixed company because I understand the level of talent that is out there and I came nowhere close to being on a professional level…Still, it was something that I was passionate about…I loved worshiping God and I loved leading worship…and I dedicated thousands of hours to it…
All of us have heard the quote, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”… and I get what that means all too well! For the several months that I was unable to clearly speak and absolutely couldn’t sing, I would stand in worship services and weep as I simply lip synced the songs and worshiped from the heart…Silently… I refused to allow the circumstances to steal my worship or hinder my praise… It was painful (emotionally and sometimes physically)… I can say authoritatively, it’s interesting how you view things once they are gone…
(I’m going to lay a little ground work here that may seem very trivial and WELL understood to the seasoned worship leader but I am reiterating what should be obvious to set up what God showed me last week, so just follow along with me for a second…)
It is often said that a worship leader is “sharing their gift”. But I believe that it is more than that. A worship leader is also PRESENTING their gift to God. I’ll tell you, I didn’t see it that way every time I led worship. There were many MANY times that I went on stage and “used” my gift” to offer a performance to people rather than presenting worship to God. There were times I viewed it as an obligation or even a frustration (when my attitude wasn’t right). I became complacent and saw the ministry as simply another song presented or another note played on an instrument…
I loved worship but, at times, didn’t prioritize it like I should have, and now that it’s an understood “past” season of leadership… I miss it.
I’ve heard it said and have even said it myself, “We worship for an audience of ONE”. But sometimes I know that we can lose focus concerning the depth of what it is that we are doing when we allow trivialities to divert our attentions away from the heart of ministry and on to ourselves or our problems.
It’s not that we can’t worship God THROUGH our circumstances… I actually believe that this is one of the primary ways that we can navigate rough seasons successfully… But when we take our focus off of God and allow our circumstances to influence our attitude DURING our worship… It cheapens the gift (if you will)… The purity of praising and worshiping a Holy God is lost in our own self-absorbedness (I’m confident I just made that word up but you get what I’m saying).
Spirits of comparison, pride, jealousy, insecurity, bitterness, strife, envy, territoriality, anger, offense, unforgiveness, etc… Are all common pollutants in the springs of worship. When these things are in the heart of a worship leader it is reflected in the presentation of their gift and even projected into the environment of the service!
I have heard AMAZING singers “perform a song” in church and feel absolutely no connection to them, their gift or God in the presentation… Then, on the other hand, I have heard mediocre (at best) talent enter into a flow of worship and feel as though I were ushered into the very throne room of Almighty God!
How does that happen? Why does that happen? I believe it has to do with the heart of God being touched by the heart of a faithful man or woman who is genuinely worshiping Him for who He is. They are presenting their gift to God unadulterated and unblemished. And God inhabits the praises of His people…
I am writing this today, in an attempt to add perspective to perception. I understand all too well the difficulties of working with people on any kind of a team, let alone in a ministry capacity. If there are personality differences they will be sure to be magnified on a worship team. If there is an opportunity for offense, the devil will make sure to magnify it within the worship team because of the value that God places upon worship.
We’ve all heard, that “worship is the only part of the service that does ANYTHING for God”, so you can bet if there is going to be opposition, it will definitely be directed toward the worship leaders who are setting the stage for the entire service!
Then, couple the opposition with rotating positions and different personalities, and you have a prime breeding ground for dissension if it is not proactively opposed and each member of the team is not actively pursuing unity.
The “spirit” of unity on a worship team must be made a priority or strife will enter in. And the bible says “where strife is, every evil work abounds”. Strife can’t exist on a worship team and it not effect the climate of worship.
I read something the other day that I personally NEVER saw from this perspective…but when viewed in light of what we are talking about here… it completely changed my perspective on the scripture.
Matthew 5:24-25 says,
23″Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Do I really need to elaborate any more on this scripture? Worship leaders are presenting a gift to God that actually has the power to influence the entire climate of a service. This places a significant responsibility on them to make sure that their gift is an acceptable offering. And based upon what we read above, apparently God places conditions on us and how/when we bring a gift to Him… He actually expects our best…
“Will a man rob God?” Our worship belongs to God and the quality of that offering is directly connected to the heart of the worshiper. Don’t withhold from God what He is so worthy of receiving and rob Him of what is rightfully His…YOUR WORSHIP! Pure Worship!
A worship leader has a very high calling! And part of the responsibilities of that calling is to protect the environment surrounding the presentation of the gift…
If you are a worship leader, I would encourage you to meditate on this topic for a little while (particularly in light of the Matthew 5:24-25 perspective) and ask the Holy Spirit to show you some things about what can be learned and applied in your life from this simple teaching. Hopefully, something here challenges you…I know that it has me…
I love you all…thank you for sharing your gift and Love for God with the world!