Last Saturday as I was driving to church for our afternoon rehearsal and evening service, I was listening to an interview with Ricky Gervais (creator of “The Office”) on National Public Radio’s show “Studio 360”. At the very end of the interview, Ricky was asked what he thinks about his critics. His answer was striking. Here’s what he said:
“I’ve only ever tried to do one thing – and that’s please me and no one else in the world. I don’t care if anyone else likes anything I’ve ever done. I don’t care about critics. I don’t even care about the audience that I never see. I only care – did it turn out exactly as I wanted it? And if it is, I’ve won. You’re bulletproof. I don’t care about ratings or awards. I don’t care about box office. I’ll do this until someone says ‘you can’t have any more money to do stuff. No one cares. Everyone hates you.’ Bob Dylan said: ‘a man can consider himself a success if he wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between he did exactly what he wanted.’ And that’s what I do.”
In other words, “I don’t care about pleasing anyone else other than me. I’m happy as long as I can do exactly what I want to do.”
I might be tempted to laugh at Ricky’s brazen self-centeredness if it weren’t for the fact that I think the same exact thing from time to time. Or every day.
I want what I want, I want to do it the way I want to do it, I want it to go exactly like I want it to go, I want to be pleased with what I did, I want to win, I want to be bulletproof, and I don’t want to hear any criticism.
That’s the flesh talking – which is why we can all recognize its voice as not being Ricky Gervais but just our sin nature. It’s ugly and it’s toxic. We need the Holy Spirit to fight it. And for those of us who lead worship, if we don’t fight it, we can quickly become worship divas.
I want to do the songs I want to do. I want them to sound like I want them to sound. I want the service to go exactly the way I want. I want a nice office and I want an impressive title. I know what I’m doing and I don’t need anyone’s suggestions or criticism. I’m happy when things go my way, and I like when I look good. As long as I can do what I want to do then everything is fine.
We all have that diva inside of us – Paul calls it “the works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19 – and the only way to keep it from being let loose is to “walk by the Spirit” (5:16). Every week, every day, and especially every time I stand before a congregation to lead them in singing, I need the Holy Spirit’s help to keep me from wanting to get my way. With the Spirit’s help I’ll want his way.
Worship divas exist to serve themselves and their ego for their glory. Worship leaders exist to serve their church for God’s glory. Which are you?