Worship was never meant to be about me.
Yet that truth has not stopped me from attempting to make it about me every single day of my life. From the very beginning, the human heart has made worship about personal desires rather than selfless offerings. Unfortunately, those who serve in worship ministries have acquired a front row seat to the whole debacle. While it is easy to denounce casual worship attenders for their critical spirits when the service doesn’t appease their preferential palates, deep down the same sin lingers in me. I want to make everything – even the worship of Jesus – all about me.
When I rate worship services based upon the degree of my personal satisfaction regarding aesthetic tastes, musical preferences, and sermon predispositions, I have reduced worship to idolatry and made the idol none other than myself. Sitting haughtily upon the judges’ panel, I believe that those leading are only able to pass on to the next level of competition if they pass my esteemed appraisal. Instead of using biblical qualifications, I base everything upon personalized expectations. The worship service is labeled good only if I acquired a sufficient amount of warm and fuzzies.
When did worship ever become about what we got out of it?
Instead of keeping worship Godward, we have turned it inward. It’s frightening to think of how many worship services people have attended and yet never stirred their affections towards Jesus in those moments. It’s even more terrifying to think about how long people can serve on a worship team without ever actually intentionally directing people’s affections toward Jesus.
Worshipers must realize that worship is not about them. Worship leaders must realize that worship is not about them. Those who lead others towards Jesus have to keep that focus as their goal and never get sidelined by lesser pursuits.
I can’t lead you somewhere if I don’t know the way.
While that admission seems like an obvious statement, the reality of such a concept can be tragically forgotten in our churches. In worship, the goal is to respond to God’s revelation by ascribing to the LORD the glory that is due his name (1 Chr 16:29) by sacrificial offerings of praise and thanksgiving (Heb 13:15). The gathering of God’s people (Ps 50:5; 1 Cor 14:26) is a needed pause from the routine in order to proclaim the goodness of our God corporately (Ps 34:3; 40:9; 100:4-5; 149:1). As a worship leader, if I’m not aligned with that direction, how could I ever expect the congregation to arrive there?
It’s unfeasible that I could lead worship if I’m not a worshiper myself, and it’s just as difficult to lead worship with those who aren’t worshipers themselves. From the one in charge to every support position on the worship team, we cannot lead people to a place we are not going ourselves. The role of pointing others to worship the living God should be a terrifying position in which to serve. If done poorly, we could stand in the way of others seeing Jesus clearly. Do we understand the critical nature of our worship teams?
Too often, our church platforms elevate people whose desire is set on receiving praise more than it is about giving praise.
Through selfish motives, hidden agendas, and misplaced priorities, a poorly discipled worship team can dramatically alter a church’s worship trajectory. I am confident of this possibility because I know my own heart. I understand this hazard because I have endured through many difficult conversations regarding the complexities of worship. I believe this because I have heard more church worship horror stories than I care to count. In my times as a worshiper and a worship leader, I have seen havoc break out when a congregation, team, or individual sets their sights on themselves rather than God.
Whether you are a worshiper or worship leader, the danger is consequential. Regardless of your ministry’s worship style, no one receives immunity from this disease. It does not matter what your role is on the worship team, your soul needs constant and comprehensive evaluations. I believe your ministry is in danger because mine has been and continues to be. In reality, many of the most damaging sins have not always been sins of commission but sins of omission.