“Guilty people make people feel guilty. Free people make people feel free.” This is one of the first things Dr. Steve Brown shared at a class he taught last week, before he shared the twelve prisons that entrap Christians and that are deadly to pastors.
Believe it or not, people will try to manipulate you. They might not even realize they’re doing it, but they are. Don’t be manipulated by the rules people try to set for you. If you want to stay out of the prison of these other-people-imposed rules, you’ll need to set boundaries.
You might recognize some of these:
– Jerry needs a worship leader for his Tuesday night men’s ministry meeting. He asks you. If you say no he won’t have anyone. So you say yes even though it means you’ll be away from home for a fourth straight evening.
– Your bass player refuses to use the online rehearsal resource that the rest of your worship team uses. So you print out chord charts and mail him a CD and spend an extra two hours just on him.
– Amy Amison, a woman who has always sung solos at your church, wants to sing “O Holy Night” this Christmas Eve. She’s not very good. But she’s always sung. You’d rather not have her sing, but you hear from several people that you don’t really have a choice.
So rules get imposed on you. You have to lead worship for the men’s ministry meeting. You have to cater to your uncooperative bass player. You have to let Amy Amison sing.
Why? Because you have to.
No you don’t. You’ve been manipulated.
Being a Christian, and being a worship leader, doesn’t mean you lose your right to set boundaries, to say “no”, to go against unhelpful traditions, and to ruffle feathers. You will burn out more quickly than you can imagine if you allow the prison of rules to keep you locked up.
Leading people in magnifying and exalting the greatness of God in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit is exciting. Leading musicians in using their gifts to passionately, skillfully, and humbly lead the congregation in singing praise to God is a joy.
But presenting people with a safe, predictable, and polite collection of songs is robotic. Playing chords and melodies to please the ear and manipulate emotions is dangerous.
In the first example we have a picture of the church gathering to celebrate the glory of God. In the second example we have a picture of a religious institution that wants nice music.
When people get really excited about Christianity as an institution, then they’re in prison. The same principle applies to worship leaders. When they get more excited about presenting a polite collection of impressive songs than they do helping people encounter and exalt God’s greatness, they’re (no pun intended), behind bars.
If you find yourself dreading leading worship or coming into the church office to prepare for services and rehearsals, that might be a red flag that you’re in a prison of religion and need to be refreshed and amazed again by the freedom of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
Jesus elicits our worship. Religion elicits our duty. If you’re duty-bound, then you really are bound. Worship Jesus, not the institution.
The last prison that entraps worship leaders is the prison of gurus.
There is no shortage of worship gurus out there. To learn from them, be mentored by them, and follow their example is a good and healthy thing (depending on the guru). To worship at their altar is not healthy. In fact, it’s idolatry.
We all have people we put on a pedestal. We think that by emulating them and following them we’ll be more sanctified. But we’re not. We’re less so. We’re fake and in bondage.
There really is incredible bondage in worshipping other worship leaders. There is freedom in worshipping Jesus. Be intentional in seeking out good role models. But be careful not to cross the blurry line into idolizing them.
My prayer for myself, and any worship leader who reads this blog, is that God would continue to break the chains of bondage that seek to hinder our effectiveness in ministry, and that we would be set free, by his grace, more and more every day.