Yesterday I shared some of what I’ve been learning this week at a seminary class at RTS taught by Dr. Steve Brown. He is a crusader for the cause of God’s radical grace, and began the class by taking us through twelve “prisons” that keep Christians, and especially those in ministry, in dangerous bondage.
It made me think of how these areas affect worship leaders. Yesterday we looked at the prisons of sin, guilt, and failure. Today I want to look at a few more prisons.
4. The past
I have had incredibly painful experiences in ministry. Many of these came at a young age, leading worship at a small church, coming face to face with some very difficult people and situations.
You’ve had painful experiences too. People have written you vitriolic emails. You’ve made some bad mistakes. You’ve messed up. You’ve been beaten up.
I’ve had to deal with the meanness I encountered when I was a fourteen year old worship leader. I’ve had to really dig deep and forgive those people, repent of my bitterness, and let go of it. You need to deal with your past ministry-inflicted or otherwise-inflicted pain too (if you haven’t).
When we don’t deal with the past it affects the present. Oftentimes it affects us in ways we don’t realize and can’t anticipate. When we get a critical email from someone in our inbox today, we’ll blow up and freak out because we’re responding to the woman from 15 years ago. When our pastor critiques how we prayed in public we’ll overreact and draft our resignation letter because we’re responding to the nasty comments we heard two churches ago.
We get hit with stuff all the time as worship leaders. It will pile up if we let it. Let it go and drop it at the foot of the cross. Jesus has offered to carry our burdens, so let’s take him up on that offer. Break out of the prison of your past so you can be a better worship leader today.
Being humble doesn’t mean being a pushover. Being a servant doesn’t mean being weak. Being conformed to the image of Christ doesn’t mean we can’t be ourselves.
It’s possible to be humble and be strong. It’s possible to be a servant and be bold. It’s possible to be conformed to the image of Christ and be ourselves.
The good news of the Gospel is that we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. We’re covered. All the time. We’re not in danger of becoming un-reconciled because we speak up at a planning meeting when we disagree or make decisions that will offend the pastor’s wife who always wants to play piano (but can’t).
This prison – this bondage of always hanging our head low and apologizing for ourselves and taking the easy road and doing the same old bad songs to keep people happy and avoiding difficult conversations – will drive us to insanity.
Being a wuss doesn’t make God any happier with you! Nothing you do makes God any happier with you. God is only happy with you because of Jesus. You’re covered. So, in Christ, be yourself. Break out of this prison of self-abasement.
Yes, wash people’s feet. Yes, serve them. Yes, love them. And yes, pursue humility. But don’t be a pushover. Don’t be weak. It doesn’t make you a better worship leader.
That’s good news. And it should make you feel free.
Our assumption that perfection is possible is a fatal error. God knows this. So oftentimes God will give us a thorn in our side to prove this isn’t possible. Just because he loves us.
Sin and failure are God’s methodology of showing love to us and receiving praise unto himself since the only way we can really know and appreciate the depth of God’s love is to be unlovable. We are. And the only way to really be grateful for that love is not to deserve it. We don’t.
We all (hopefully) agree in theory that we can’t be perfect. Jesus is the only one who was ever perfect, and it’s through him, the perfect sacrifice, that we are reconciled to God. We don’t deserve God’s grace but it’s been lavished on us.
But in practice we often live in the prison of trying to be as perfect as we can be, in the hopes that it makes God happy with us. This makes us really nervous worship leaders.
Worship leaders who are trying to be perfect in order to please God are in a dangerous place. It’s only when we get it – really get it – that we’re only made righteous through Jesus and because of this we live in tremendous freedom – that we’ll be able to help our congregations get it. Break out of the prison of perfectionism and rejoice in the freedom that comes from the One who is perfect on our behalf.