Lecture 3: Your Role as a Christian Leader
Course: Worship Pastors and their Teams
Lecture: Your Role as a Christian Leader
Hello, Everybody, welcome back. This is the third lecture on worship leadership. My name is Carl Cartee. I’m glad you are joining me today.
I want to say this about worship leaders. I want you to know that as I have served in that capacity for many years now, I admire anybody who says yes to the calling because I know it is a very hard thing to do; and that you take a lot of punches, don’t get a lot of encouragement. So as one brother to another, keep doing what you’re doing, keep being faithful to the call that God has placed on your life. It is worth it. I wanted to say that to you. It is not wasted. We love worship leaders and want you to thrive in all that God has for you. So I hope that these teachings and things like that are a resource for you and that you will feel encouraged by them.
We’re going to talk in this lecture about your role as a worship leader and what a Christian leader should look like, from the Scriptures. In Matthew 23 Jesus is talking to the crowd and there are a bunch of Christian leaders there, a bunch of Pharisees, a bunch of religious superstars, so to speak, there in the crowd. Jesus talks to his disciples and he kind of gives a little bit of a seminar on what it looks like to be a Christian leader, and he calls these Pharisees out. So I want to talk to you a bit about that. Matthew 23: “Then Jesus said to the crowd and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. So do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do, for they preach but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on peoples’ shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others, for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogue and greetings in the marketplace and being called ‘Rabbi’ by others. But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father who is in heaven. Neither be called ‘instructors,’ for you have one Instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
I want to pray for you. God, thanks so much for your Word. Would you open it up to us. Would you open my mouth to be clear. Would you open my heart to be honest. And would you open the ears of the men and women who are listening to receive all that you have to say. Use these words. In Jesus’ Name I pray and believe. Amen.
I. Boxing illustration
I grew up a big fan of boxing. I remember being a little kid, lying across the foot of my grandfather’s bed. It was when these big prize fights came on TV and you could see all these amazing things that are now on Pay Per View, these cool boxing matches. I love boxing. When I was in college, I used to go to these tough man competitions. The fun story that I will never forget, is about this guy that I saw in the tough man competition. I was in Greenville, South Carolina at a building that is now torn down; and thank God it was torn down because it was a reprehensible structure, it was just smoky and gloomy and smelly and sweaty. It was the perfect place to hold a fight. There was a tough man competition, so it was kind of luck of the draw who was paired up on the card to fight and the last man standing was the winner. Anyway, they announced the next fight and I’m looking at this competition. They announce this guy, his first name was Arman, I can’t recall his last name. I thought Arman was a cool name for this guy. “Now, here comes Arman.” Arman walks to the ring and Arman is just in a white T-shirt with barbeque sauce around the belly area. He has jeans on and a pair of boat shoes. His hair is messed up, he is quite disheveled, he hasn’t shaved in, I don’t know, a couple of weeks; and he needs to lose maybe about 30 pounds. Arman was kind of drawing some laughs from the crowd, it was funny. Everyone was thinking that whoever this guy fights, poor Arman is in trouble.
Then they announced the other guy. I can’t even remember what his name was at all. But I will never forget the way he looked. He was doing that little boxer jog. He came to the ring, he had the silk robe on, he had the boxing boots on, he had the cool white trunks. He was professional from top to bottom. He looked amazing. He had six-pack abs, he was tanned and everything. When everyone saw this guy and that Arman was going to have to fight this amazing-looking athlete, the place went nuts and they were, Oh no, this is going to be amazing, this is going to be a disaster.
The announcer announced everybody and the bell rang. At that point, I proceeded to watch a cultural phenomenon take place. Because this guy Arman, who was in the jeans and the dirty T-shirt and hadn’t shaved in a couple of weeks, who did not look the part, proceeded to lay a professional level beatdown on this boxer guy, who you would have thought by all appearances was going to win hands down. It took Arman about 90 seconds to finish this guy off because this guy looked the part; but this dude, Arman, had lived the part. He had probably been in a couple of fights earlier that day. I’m not sure what this other guy had done to train or stuff like that; but Arman became the unsung hero of the whole fight because he actually let what he could do and who he was transcend his looks. So, that is the story of Arman. And it is kind of the story that Jesus is trying to paint with all these religious leaders. Hey, these guys look the part, but they don’t live the part.
II. Who You Are in Your Core is What Determines Your Output
A. Your calling is to a life, not a title Matthew 23:1-3
Let’s talk about Matthew 23 as a call to worship leaders. Who you are in your core is what informs your output. You might try and look the part, but unless you live the part, what Jesus is saying here is, you are not a true Christian leader. So let’s look at it. Matthew 23, Jesus is calling the crowd to a way of life and he is calling his disciples to a way of leadership. Jesus outlines for us a perfect calling and models for leading people. Let’s look at it a few bites at a time, starting with verses 1-3: “Then Jesus said to the crowd and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you. But do not the works they do, for they preach but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and they lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.’”
Let’s remember this, your calling is to a life, not a title. Your calling is to a life, not a title. The thing that burns me most about church these days is the disconnect of what we say at church and what we do in the world; how we look at church, and how we look when we are out in the world. If you’ve ever heard the old pantheon mantra – it’s very bad pantheon, but I’ve heard parents say it in the past – “Don’t do what I do, do what I say to do.” That is a dangerous place to be as a leader, and the fruit that grows from that seed is not like a garden variety hypocrite. When we lead from that place, we are like the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, having been forgiven a great debt, but unwilling to forgive someone else’s debt to us.
I want you to lead people as a worship leader beyond your title, but you will have to earn their trust in order to do it. Your title as a worship pastor, worship leader, comes with a measure of trust added to it. You are the worship leader, so most people trust that they are not going to hire a complete dufus to be the worship pastor, so they trust you. But you solidify trust and earn more of it when your life and your words align. Trust is like currency with the people that you lead. As you love them, life on life, and make deposits into their emotional and spiritual development, you have a store to draw on; and you ask and volunteer to do something. But, if we adopt a “Do what I say, not what I do” philosophy, we’ll have people who don’t know how to care or engage you, because they will see you as a fixture, they will kind of see like we saw the fighter. He just looked the part; but after time and seeing what he was doing, what he could do, I knew he wasn’t living the part, I didn’t trust him, you couldn’t trust him. When worship leaders put on their title and expect people to trust them based on that, they become super problematic because you are not being a shepherd, you are just being a fixture. I don’t want you to do that. Jesus is not calling us to that. He is calling us to something else. Your calling is not to a title, your calling is to a life. By grace, do everything you can to live the Christian hope.
B. You are called to an action, not just an idea 23:4
Are you engaging throughout the week like you want people to engage when you lead worship?
Verse 4: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” You are called to an action, not just an idea. You are called to an action, not an idea.
My wife has the great distinction of being born on Christmas Day. She shares her birthday with Jesus, and that is a very hard person to share your birthday with because you get overlooked a lot, and I understand that. There was a conversation we had early on in our relationship where she let me know the rules about birthday presents for people who have birthdays on Christmas. It is two presents and they have separate wrapping paper, Christmas wrapping paper and then distinct birthday wrapping paper; and they can’t be a combination present. No matter how much a combination present would cost for her, she is like, it is two presents. You guys know that I have been faithful to do that. At least, I hope you can tell by how nice I am on this video, that I have been giving my wife a Christmas and a birthday present for her whole life. But the best times, the wins, when I give my wife a gift, are the ones that I have put a lot of thought into. Sometime you might say to your friend, “Hey, I didn’t get you anything for your birthday, but it is the thought that counts.” Really? I would challenge you that that is absolutely the biggest lie that anyone has ever told, especially when it comes to my relationships with people. If I say, “Hey, I didn’t do this, but I thought about doing it,” that doesn’t get my anywhere. A simple illustration to remind you that you are called to an action, not an idea, not a thought.
We talk a great deal about getting people to worship and how do we engage them? A lot of worship leaders ask me, “I just want people to express more and I feel like they are standing there, looking at me. How do I engage them?” All of those are good conversations to have; but we must begin by asking ourselves the question, are we engaged in the worship that we want to lead? Are you engaged in being an engaged worship leader? Is there a part of your life, is there space in your week, space in your day where you are engaging in the kind of worship that you hope to lead; where you, yourself, if you imagined yourself as a person sitting in a congregation that you are leading, would you be the one that you look at and said, ‘that guy is with us, that guy is in, that lady she is here, her mind, her attention, her heart’s affection poured out to the Lord’?” Are you engaged in that kind of worship that you want to lead? Leading and connecting as a Christian leader, as a worship leader, does not flow out of creative brainstorming sessions or adding the coolest technology to your church worship service if it doesn’t come from that. It comes from time spent in God’s presence, cumulative time, listening, praying, rejoicing, learning, blessing the Lord.
There is a capacity to lead worship that is forged in the presence of God that cannot be earned in any other fire, and too often that is the last thing on our to-do list. All of us have been guilty of that, I have been guilty of that. But when we grow, seek the face of God, when we mature and we deepen our understanding of our calling, that is when we start to realize that as many cool things as we could possibly do -- there is nothing inherently wrong with any of that stuff, production value, singing a great song -- all of those things have value, but if they are not first supported underneath by actual life that is lived to worship God, they are going to fall short and they are not going to hold any weight, they are not going to bear any fruit. Prioritize time with God. Everything flows from that, it really does. It sounds like such a simple thing, but this is a simple lesson taught by a simple guy. I have been profoundly impacted by that reality; and if I could somehow transfer that hope to you, I would do it.
I remember being a little kid and I grew up in a Pentecostal Church. There were a lot of cool things. The Pentecostal Church was amazingly fun when I was a little kid because all my friends from school were falling asleep in church because it was so boring. I would always come to school with amazing stories of all the crazy things that happened to me at church. When I went to church when I was a little kid, we had this thing called “prayer room.” Prayer room was where you went for about 30 minutes before church started. It wasn’t a show, it wasn’t everybody on stage. There were about 15 men and women gathered in the room, calling out to God. I remember learning to pray by listening to those people call out to God. Then I remember watching them leave that little room and we would have corporate worship together. And I remember connecting those dots and thinking as a little kid that there is something happening here. They are not just showing up for the show. They are not just showing up to go up there and sing or be celebrated for what they are good at. They are taking a different step. They are saying in their own soul, God, I want you more than I want to be on that stage, or to be celebrated for what I’m good at. I want to know you. That is one of the best gifts that ever happened to me and I remember that those men and women were saying “yes,” not just to an idea, but they were embracing an action. They were calling on Jesus way before they invited anybody else to do it with them. They are called to an action, not an idea.
Matthew 23:5: “They do all their deeds to be seen by others. They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.” This is kind of fun for me to talk about because these guys looked the part; and sometimes you walk into a church and before anybody ever gets on the stage, you can look around the room. That guy is probably the worship leader, he has the right haircut and he has the right jeans; and these are probably the worship team. Sometimes worship leaders, you can spot them because they look the part. Nothing wrong with that, I’m not picking on anybody except for the people who look the part. They have the skinny jeans, the scarf, the Warby Parker, and the grandpa members only jacket. This was the practice of adorning the body with clothes and signs and fashion statements that had religious significance. That is what is happening in Matthew 23:5. They looked like they are supposed to look, they looked like religious leaders. These guys wanted to distinguish themselves from everybody, so that the whole community would recognize them as religious heavyweights. But they did it by trying to look the part, not live the part.
C. Your calling is to a journey, not a destination
Your calling is to a journey, not a destination. These guys were so pious and they insured it by always one-upping each other in average Joe spiritual acrobatics. They were just trying to make each other impressed. I have seen that happen. I can be a victim of that. I’m sure some of you have been in that same place. Let me encourage you to quit doing that, if you can, and honor the place that God has put you in, honor the person that God has made you to be.
D. Comparison kills contentment
Comparison kills contentment. Usually, the kind of success we always want is the kind that somebody else has. If you don’t have that kind of success, I promise you it’s because God has something better in mind for you. So give yourself the freedom to let go of some of those things and say yes to whatever it is that God has called you to do and receive the awesome opportunity that he has made for you to be you.
I remember, it has been almost 20 years ago now, I sat at lunch with a friend and my friend and I were at transitions in our lives. I told my friend, I said Hey, I’m going to move to Nashville, I’m going to become a professional songwriter, I’m going to give it a shot. He was like, that’s cool. He said, I’m moving too. I’m planting a church. I said, that’s awesome, good luck to you. He said, good luck to you. And for all practical purposes, me and my friend are functionally the same. Launching from the same ground, we had similar resources, we had similar giftings. Up to that point, we had similar opportunities. We were launching from the same ground. I’ve seen my friend experience a very different trajectory than I did. When he started doing his thing, I started noticing, man, he is killing it, he is up and to the right, that church is growing. Man, he is doing amazing, there are more people coming. He got a book deal. He is getting invited to speak at so-and-so conference. I started comparing my trajectory to his and I was all of a sudden starting to second guess what God had done in me. Things might not have been exactly the way I thought they should have gone. I thought I should be up and to the right and getting all the cool opportunities. That was a real challenging season for me to navigate as a young man; and to come to terms with the fact that it was okay if God used me into greater fame and influence. But also to say, Carl, if I want to use you in obscurity and anonymity, there is as much joy there as anywhere. But understanding that meant that I had to realize that comparison killed contentment. I have had God use me influence people since the moment I first believed in Him; and he put a calling on my life to preach and to sing the Gospel. But if I take my eyes off Jesus and take my affections off Jesus and direct them towards something somebody else has, that is called covetousness and jealousy. Worship leaders can be eaten up with that. We will never be used of God unless we become satisfied with the way he wants to use us. Comparison kills contentment.
1Timothy 6:6: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it.” 2Corinthians 4:15-18: “Therefore don’t lose heart. Though outwardly you are wasting away, inwardly you are being renewed day by day. For your light and temporary troubles are achieving for you a greater glory that far outweighs them all. Therefore, fix your eyes not on what you see, but on what you don’t see. What you see is temporary, what is unseen is eternal.” Every time we fix our eyes on what we see, we give credit and glory to the temporary. Every time we choose to step back and say, this is not for me, we give credit and glory to eternity and to what God is doing ultimately on the earth. Comparison kills contentment.
I spent a little bit of time on this because I know it is such a huge problem for worship leaders. It has been a problem for me in my life. I know it is a problem for you in your life. Does it mean anything but that you are normal? What I want to do is help you think through it and highlight what a cancer it can be in your own heart. Some warnings about comparison: Stop comparing yourself to other worship leaders or well-known entities, whatever current worship brand is super hot and that you wish your songs and your ministry sounded like them. Quit doing that. Oftentimes doing something just like someone else does it will not give you the exact same results that they are getting. Our churches are sick with parity culture, culture that imitates down to the last thread of clothing, the sound and the look of popular worship ministries. I fear that some of us are doing this, thinking that our journey to fruitfulness can be cut short by trying to produce the same fruit that somebody else has produced, without having lived through the early years where a fruit tree establishes deep roots. You can’t shortcut your fruitfulness process by trying to look and act and be something that you are not. You can’t get the same fruit that some popular worship ministry is getting by just trying to look and act like them. You need to embrace the work of God in your life and know that your calling is to a journey. You have been invited on a walk. You are being sanctified, you are in the process of it. There is no better joy than understanding that. You talk about developing contentment, that will be so helpful to you if you get your eyes off of what you wish you could be and onto who God has made you to be and called you to be.
Stop comparing yourself to other well-known worship ministries. Luke 13:6-9, the Bible gives us the parable of Jesus talking about the fruitless tree. The vineyard owners have cut it down, but the gardener pleads for another year to work with the tree, to fertilize it, encouraging its roots before it is cut down and considered a waste space. This passage is a picture of Jesus pleading with God for patience and mercy for his people; but you can also imagine a picture of Jesus being the one who works with us, shaping us, correcting us, so that in due season we will bear fruit. Don’t confuse parity with fruitfulness. We have enough worship leaders in church who look and sound like somebody else. Ask Christ to cultivate within you a voice, a sound, an original expression. Don’t waste your time trying to be an echo. Embrace the journey that God has called you to as a worship leader. You are called to that. Say yes to it.
Finally, stop comparing yourself to other people with different gifts than yours. It has always been funny to me when actors try to get into sports, or when sports stars try to get into acting. You can almost hear in their minds, they are hoping for something better, that another discipline will offer them some kind of greener pastures. Honoring the gift you have, even if it is not the most revered or celebrated one in your organization, is a beautiful testimony of Christian faithfulness and a witness to everyone that the Gospel of Christ is sufficient to complete every heart.
1Corinthians 12:24-27: “But God has put together all the parts of the body and he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any, and that way the parts of the body will not take sides, all of them will take care of one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy. You are the body of Christ, each one of you is a part of it.” I have adopted the practice of thanking God for any success that I have ever had in music. Have I been successful? A little bit, of course. Have others been more successful? Yes, of course. Does my value in Christ rise and fall on accolades and human measures? Not ever, not ever. Stop comparing yourself, finally, to a version of yourself that is not possible to attain or recover. You might have had a great season, you might have had an amazing run; but now you feel like it’s over. You might be sick or hurting, kind of in a downtime and thinking, Oh, it used to be so good, I wish it was as good as it was. You might be thinking, I’m never going to be what this big worship ministry is, I don’t have that power, I don’t have that skill. I wish I could write a worship song that the whole church would sing, but nobody even likes these songs. Woe is me.
I wish I could give you permission to be content, to say, thank you, God, for who I am and what I have right now. You can make yourself sick looking back with regrets. You can make yourself sick wishing for something that you might not ever have. But that is a comparison game. What I want you to engage in is a thankfulness game. Thank God for who you are. I thank God for where I am in this moment in eternity. I am grateful for it. It is a blessing. I have no idea how this happened, but it did. So here I am, talking to you about leading worship, and what I hope that you hear in these talks is a joy that comes from being content with wherever you are. It can change in a moment. I pray for Godliness with contentment, it is great gain for you. Remember, your calling is to a journey, you are on a journey, you are not a destination. Don’t get obsessed with becoming something that you may never become. Be thankful to God for the journey that he has you on. That is what a fruitful Christian leader looks like.
E. Your calling is to be a servant, not a star 23:6
We can’t do the work of God without understanding the love of God
Next thing, your calling is to be a servant, not a star. Your calling is to be a servant, not a star. Verse 6: “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogue and respectful greetings in the marketplaces and being called ‘Rabbi’ by men. But do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ for one is your teacher and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in heaven.” Don’t even be called leaders, for one is your leader and that is Christ. “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled. Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Have you lingered around the edge of the stage at church, to wait and see how many people might come up to you and say how good you did at leading worship? Have you ever kind of positioned yourself so that you could receive a compliment? Do you ever go fishing for compliments? Have you ever waited for someone that you know that is super encouraging, just so you can hear him say you did good? Or have you ever done the thing, “I don’t think that new song went over very well, what do you think?” and just hoping someone says, “You are the best songwriter in the world! I can’t believe how talented you are.” Do you feel value when you get that, or do you feel worthless when you don’t get it? Let me encourage you. That is the model of a pop star. That is how pop stars operate, posts on Instagram and Snapchat. “Does anybody like my new single?” “Oh, we love your new single, you are amazing.”
You are not called to be a star, even if it is in a mini-version in your local church, you are not called to that. What you are called to is service. It is what Jesus was saying. These guys want to be recognized as religious leaders. They want the accolades. They want to be called the cool names. I have been on a journey with that in my own life. When I first moved to Nashville, where I live now, I moved here because I want to be a professional songwriter and I am thankful God used me in that. I did that, I was a professional songwriter, I still am. But I went on this progression of saying who I was when people would ask me. At the beginning, it was super important for me when people would say, “What do you do?” I would always say, “I am a professional songwriter.” I loved that title. I wanted to be called that. And then in this progression, because the Lord was asking me, Carl, who are you really? What am I calling you to? I use you to write songs, but what am I really calling you to? The arc has gone to another place to now, when people ask me what I do -- if I am on an airplane or I’m meeting somebody in my neighborhood, they ask me what I do -- I say, I am a pastor, I try to help people follow Jesus, that is my job. Do I still write songs? Yeah. Do I lead worship? Yeah. Can I play music at a high level? Of course I can. But those are not the things that I really want to be known for anymore, as much as, I try to shepherd people and help them. That is my job because God is helping me and it is a progression. I want to be faithful to say that I am on a journey, but it is service, not stardom. That is what a Christian leader could and should look like when you say yes to the Lord. When you are loving people and serving people from an understanding of who God is and how much he loves us, we begin to fortify our defenses and strengthen our ministry.
If you want to be known as a star, you need to know that you are opening up yourself to some threats and some temptations and some dangers that you are not strong enough to manage on your own. We don’t fall into lust and adultery when the people we lead stop being objects for our fantasy life and start being precious sons and daughters of God that we have the honor of serving. We don’t get into as much trouble when we look at people like we want to serve them. We don’t indulge the impulse to get proud of our gift when we measure ourselves against the One who has loved us with an undying love in spite of how sinful and prideful and rebellious we have been. When you understand that you have been forgiven of so much, the gift that you have, given in service, is a liberating feeling. We can’t do the work of God without understanding the love of God. When we start doing the work of God without understanding the love of God, we start working to please and get acceptance from people. People will change on you quickly and you are also a moving target.
Disciple people. See yourself as a servant, not a star, a shepherd, not a star, making disciples. Don’t try to make people happy, make them disciples. We love because He first loved us and we lead, for we have been led. We give of ourselves so that others can enjoy the dignity of the life that Christ has given us. That is what you want to be famous for. That is what you want to be known for, offering like a servant the Gospel of Jesus. Pray that you would be exalted at the proper time and in the proper way by the mighty hand of God. Pray that God would nurture in us through the development of our character an inner passion that transcends outward appearance.
A. Your ambitions as a worship leader must be constantly realigned with the commission of Christ to make disciples
What is the one thing you need to know? Your ambitions as a worship leader must be constantly realigned with the commission of Christ to go and make disciples. The Lord Jesus talked about, Matthew 23, the way of leadership that he described to the disciples and this was something that they instantly got and they never strayed from the path. Those jokers were some of the most selfish, self-centered, wanting to be famous kind of guys. They were just like me, they were just like you. What we need to remember is that we need a constant realignment to answer the question, what am I doing? What is my ambition? What am I trying to accomplish? Make sure that as much as it is within your power, the answer to that question is, I’m trying to make disciples, I’m trying to follow the commission of Christ. If Christianity becomes an inward focus culture religion with a certain look and a certain sound and a certain language, then we have fallen into the same trap as the religious leaders in Jesus’ day had fallen into and we have abandoned the Christian message. That is the one thing you need to know. Why do you need to know that?
I am not advocating for more religion. I am advocating for the only thing that none of us can offer ourselves, a transformed life through faith in the Resurrection of Jesus and the hope of his Return, the reason we need to continue to align ourselves. If you are called to be a worship leader, if you are called to say, yes, Jesus, I want to serve your church; if you are helping people express their minds’ attention and hearts’ affection; if you are called to that, you are saying yes to that calling, you are not saying yes to any other life. I am not advocating for more religion, I am advocating for more transformation, starting with you; and then as you lead, the people God gives you to care for.
B. Take stock of where you are now in the view of the principles in Matthew 23
What do you need to do? Take stock of where you are now in view of the principles in Matthew 23. How are you doing? Are you more servant than star? Are you called to a life or a title? Do you have more ideas than you do actions? Inventory your life regularly and plead for the mercy of God to overtake your worship leadership and transform you more into the likeness of Christ. He is our model. He is the one we are following.
C. Christian vocation apart from a Christian commitment is a common theme among worship leaders
Why do we need to do that? A Christian vocation apart from a Christian commitment is a common theme among worship leaders. It has been a common theme I have observed through my life and ministry, especially during the years that I was on the road. I have traveled a lot, played a lot of concerts, was gone a lot. A Christian vocation, apart from a Christian commitment, is a real ugly side of Christian music that I don’t ever want any of you to be guilty of because I knew Christian people who worked in an industry supported by the people of God, but they had no Christian commitment. They were leaders, living in a way that none of us would be proud of. It is a tough spot, you don’t want to be there. I think purity and authenticity will return to the church if we really gauge the practices of confession and sanctification and growing in Christian maturity. Embrace that journey for your ministry; and if you are a famous Christian musician and you happen to be listening to this, embrace that journey. If you are a worship leader of a church of 50 people and you wish it was something more from an external perspective, give yourself the freedom to lay that dream down and say, God, I want you to make this more from an internal perspective. I want you to change who I am as a leader, not by changing my position or my influence or the number of people who sing my songs, but change who I am on the inside and make contentment be what rules my heart. You will be so much happier, I promise you. You will be more Christ-honoring with your ministry, too.
This is a lot of stuff, a lot of talking about a lot of things. It seems heavy to me, even saying it because there is such a reality that a lot of these things are going on. There are a lot of stars. There are a lot of people that look the part. There is a lot of heartbreak in and around Christian leaders who have these ministries and then they tank. They have a moral failure, they have an ethical failure, they are not nice to people, they are substance abusers. These kinds of things are hurtful to the church, Christian influential leaders. I don’t want that for anybody, whether you are famous or whether you serve in obscurity somewhere. What I want for you is the joy of the Lord.
I don’t know if you remember my reading this from the Book of Jude. Jude is a fantastic social commentator. I love how the book begins and ends. “Jude, servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James. To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” What a beautiful opening. Then Jude goes on to talk about how a bunch of rough things are happening in the church of that day -- sexual immorality, perversion, it’s a pretty long list of trouble that is happening in the culture and in the church. But it begins by reminding us that this is for those who are kept; and then it ends with a beautiful doxology. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy – to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time, now and forevermore!”
There are a lot of things happening, a lot of things described in Matthew 23, the religious leaders not doing it right. There is a lot in our day that I have talked about, encouraging you to stay the course, focus on the right things, be a servant, not a star, a lot of things in Jude. I want to remind you that in this process, as imperfect and clunky and failure-ridden as you might be, when you submit to the work of Christ in your life, the pathway forward is kept and held together by Jesus. Just like Jude begins by reminding you that you are kept, and ends by reminding you of the One who is able to keep you from falling, He is the One that presents you faultless with great joy.
My hope is that you would lead through the troubles, through the temptations, through the comparison, through the doubt, with great joy. Now, my final prayer for you as I always say, Ephesians 3: “I pray that you would be rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”