This month we are going to get real and personal. You will gain a better understanding of the worship leader role and how to pray for your worship leader. If you are just joining us in this series, click the buttons below to read previous Discussions in this series.
The Battle of Comparison
There are two ways we can approach comparison. One is positive; we place ourselves side by side someone whom we admire, note whichever excellent quality is present, and seek to grow that quality personally. The second is unhealthy; we determine to see only our areas of lack and proceed to think self-deprecating thoughts, such as, “I can never improve.” Pause for a moment to consider your typical approach.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. – James 3:16
"For you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?" – 1st Corinthians 3:3
Those without the Holy Spirit compare on a worldly level about status, power, influence, etc. Yet, one of the most powerful comparisons I’ve experienced is among brothers and sisters in Christ and in myself. It is a comparison of “godliness.” Oh this just makes me cringe. This is one of the scariest because though it wears the disguise of Christianity, it is so twisted.
I have measured my standing as a worship leader based on all of the following things: vocal skill, musicianship, creativity, songwriting, network, feedback, stage presence, touring, social media popularity, production level, service flow. Further, in this specific field, I would say that the most dangerous thing we can do is to measure our worth based on the congregation’s response. Worship leaders, you know what I’m talking about...
In high school, I definitely trapped myself in this idea that my “success” as a worship leader was determined by the congregation’s worship expression. My home church family will be laughing if they read this, remembering my rookie worship leader mistake: I had just led an upbeat, celebratory opener and found myself burning with frustration at everybody else’s lack of enthusiasm and outward expression. Not a single hand raised. No tears… No side step. Not even a minimal bounce. Were they even worshiping? Did they even love Jesus?? The song ended, and I blurted out, “You know, it’s okay to move!” Fortunately, I later learned from a professor’s wise words, “The shepherd does not beat the sheep over the head.” Outward expression (or lack thereof) does not always indicate inward responsiveness.
A musician is able to measure success by evaluating a tangible outcome such as album sales, crowd response, concert attendance, and the like. But how does a worship leader define “success” if we cannot use the same form of measurement? From the initial stages of worship planning to the very end of a service, what needs to unfold in order for us to conclude that we fulfilled our purpose? If we do not have a clear goal, we will be left comparing. Beware of thinking that if we are great worship leaders then people will inevitably have a genuine time of worship, as though it is contingent upon our actions.
My role has much to do with the preparation process – selecting songs that teach solid doctrine, practicing those songs so that they are excellent and distraction-free, planning a service and providing an environment for people to encounter God. If I stray from my purpose, I look for validation in others. I know how to manipulate a response, and I start caring more about people liking me as a worship leader versus facilitating a genuine time of worship.
The root of my unhealthy comparison is selfish ambition. A desire for approval, self glory, for my name to be known and praised above others. A necessary lesson I had to learn and am still learning is that the “spotlight” does not equate to “value.”
“Some of us think we need to be famous to make Jesus famous.” - Mattie Montgomery
If played out, this desire may breed admirers, but it isolates and distances us from being known – which is what we truly crave. People who set themselves up as a standard of perfection feel inaccessible and unattainable. In contrast, who are your favorite worship leaders? What is the common quality you sense in each of them? My favorite quality is humility. Teachability. Approachability. I admire people who, though fans may put them on a pedestal, they, themselves, do not.
"Don’t act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves." – Philippians 2:3
With the right motive, comparison can be a catalyst toward improving our talents and developing honorable qualities, for the glory of God. When we have a clear, biblical goal as worship leaders, and when we know that God is already pleased with us in His Son, unhealthy comparison is diminished. Let us seek to influence, not impress. And let us remove a spirit of competition and celebrate others.
Recommended Track of the Week: "I Shall Not Want" by Audrey Assad