Worship leaders shouldn’t spend their ministry at their church always playing it safe, always going with the flow, and always making everybody happy. They should lead with more conviction than that. And they should expect detractors, criticism, and resistance. They should be willing to push certain limits for the long-term benefit of the people they’re serving at the risk of short-term unsettledness. They should be bold. But they should be the right kind of bold.
There’s a difference between a boldness that leans toward congregational involvement, Jesus-centerdness, musical excellence, and physical expressiveness — all good and right things — and a boldness that pushes one’s own agenda, elevates one’s own stature, isolates one’s own existence, and highlights one’s own appearance. In other words, you can be bold in smart ways or you can be bold in vain ways.
In which ways are you bold?
Sometimes I observe worship leaders who have picked up from the stadium context such boldly defining characteristics – whether it’s the affect of their voice, the pattern of their shirt, the stratospheric keys or eclectic choice of their songs, or the overzealous stage presence – and carried it into their local contexts where it’s totally and utterly lost in translation. These guys are being bold alright, but they’re leaving a trail of confusion in their wake.
Then other times I observe worship leaders who have developed a passion for seeing a congregation sing whole-heartedly and full-bodiedly, cultivating a Jesus-centrality both in doctrine and in practice, growing a team free from territories and rights and divas, and leading services that drive home the good news of the gospel week after week. These guys meet resistance in all sorts of different realms, particularly spiritual, but they leave a legacy of God-glorification in their wake.
I want to be the right kind of bold. I don’t want to grow callous to the dear people in my congregation and, as a result, do things that draw attention to me and my persona and my name and my 1980’s keytar (congrats if you read this far and understand what I’m talking about). I want God to use me for his purposes and for his people’s edification, whether that means smooth sailing or choppy seas.
May God raise up worship leaders who say with John the Baptist “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). May our boldness be the decreasing kind. The kind that exalts Christ.