Worship Leaders | A Stadium of One

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What does God seek in a worshiper? 

Who wouldn’t have wanted to be on a cruise ship headed to the Bahamas with some friends? No worries. No concerns. Just fun for 5 days away from the “stresses” of the 18-year-old life. I had never left American soil and as a new high school graduate, I was invincible and had my whole life ahead of me. I could do or be anything or anyone I wanted to be… so I had been told.

I’ll never forget going to the first entertaining show on the cruise. The bright lights. The live band. The costumes. The adrenaline. The applause of the audience, and all the sights and sounds of live entertainment. It was almost overwhelming. I wouldn’t have admitted it then but certainly the course of my life had been set before me. I was going to be an entertainer. After all, I had what it took. I made for myself the goal of being in demand in the entertainment industry. Though at that point in my journey, I’d been leading worship for about one year in a youth band at my church. That in itself was something of an outlet for such entertainment. If the goal was to sing the songs in worship that resulted in applause from the audience—I mean, congregation—then that was the end to which I reached and often attained. The issue for me is that after several years of making the applause of men my aim, I found that my heart as a worship leader was left still wanting.

“Our inheritance is to know Him and love Him, and to provoke others to do the same.”

I would again be left to my own struggles, my own devices. I quickly gave up the goal as a worship leader of becoming the next Michael W. Smith. I had watched enough TV and read enough articles about entertainers to see the pattern of their lives. It was almost predictable: start with nothing, work hard to get in front of as many as you can, get 15 minutes of fame and money, fall into horrible sins and out of the public eye only to emerge again and repeat the process. I decided that this couldn’t happen to me, especially if I pursued Christian music. The striving isn’t there. I was wrong.

I am entering my 20th year as a worship leader. I have experienced what some would call “success” and I have certainly experienced what the Bible calls failure. “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” (Proverbs 24:16 NIV) And trust me. It has probably been more than 7 times. Often I get asked by those who have been leading worship for fewer years what is the one piece of advise I would offer. Well the first is that there are far more than ONE. Secondly, I would say, “FIGHT FOR THE SMALLER AUDIENCE!!”

“I really believe that the Lord is raising up a generation of lovers in this hour all over the earth who are connected to His heart.”

It's so easy to follow what I call the 3/2 pattern: Three fast songs and two slow songs. It's so easy to even follow the modern and very western Christian mindset about worship. In America we mostly sing songs TO people ABOUT God. And we do this based on OUR understanding about the benefits we receive from knowing and loving Him. What God is after are worshippers who sing songs ABOUT Him TO Him. “…Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks TO God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV)

If I had the last twenty years to do again, I wouldn’t spend more time working on a worship leader profile, creating kick-starters to fund my independent albums, or making impressive résumés that show I can worship pastor a mega-church. Instead, I would spend more time singing straight to His heart. Our inheritance as worship leaders isn’t to be the guy with the microphone when “revival breaks out”, or even to write the songs that “usher in revival”. Our inheritance is to know Him and love Him, and to provoke others to do the same. If King David—to whom we often refer—is our example, then let’s not take his words lightly. “O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance... Yes, I have a good inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5-6 NKJV) Known as a lead worshiper and the only man ever called a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), David knew that his portion wasn’t to have stadiums that were sold out, but to have a heart that was sold out.

“The geographical area we must start with is the landscape of our own hearts.”

I often say, “You can’t do in public what you don’t do in private.” Well that’s not entirely true. You can do it publicly; it just smells more like entertainment than worship. After all, who are you doing it for? I really believe that the Lord is raising up a generation of lovers in this hour all over the earth who are connected to His heart. He isn’t looking for mechanical worshipers. He already has those. The four living creatures song in Revelation 4:6-8 reveals that they were created for function: To look at and worship Him. They HAD to. However, we were brought into an inheritance (according to Psalm 16) and now we GET to join the same song from hearts that are connected to His. How do we walk this out practically? I want to challenge worship leaders to do a few things:

  1. Start singing to Jesus in your time alone with Him.
  2. Encourage your teams to do the same.
  3. Look at your song lists and determine who your audience mostly is by the lyrics of the songs.

Do you really want to see your church change? How about your region, or even a nation? The geographical area we must start with is the landscape of our own hearts. I’m certain that “fighting the good fight” is an internal reality more than an external one. But the rewards of a secret life of worship far surpass the temporal rewards of man’s pat-on-the-back.