Where Am I Pointing?

1One of the beautiful things about the Church is all of the different ways it expresses its worship in music around the world, in different cultures, in different denominations, with different instrumentation, and with different opinions about how it should be done. It’s a wonderful expression of the unsearchable greatness of God (Psalm 145:3).

And even though this breadth of worship expressions can make it hard for worship leaders across the spectrum to talk principles and practicalities, I do think there is one question that gets to the heart for all worship leaders, regardless of their culture, denomination, instrumentation, and technique.

That question is: “where am I pointing?

The local worship leader with a team of two musicians (one of whom can’t play in 5 keys). The underground worship leader playing some songs off of her iPod. The mega-church worship leader with five weekend services, three weekly production meetings, two full dress rehearsals, and an all-paid band. The organist who chooses hymns according to the lectionary, and selects anthems for a small but good choir to sing. All very different churches. All with different challenges and responsibilities for their respective worship leader/organist/choir director. But in each of those churches, the person responsible for leading the worship in song has to decide where to point. 

And the kicker is that any moving object can only move in the direction it’s pointing. Try walking in multiple directions at once. Try driving on multiple roads at the same time. It’s logistically, physically, and literally impossible. You can only move in one direction at a time. So when a worship leader is planning and leading a service, in whatever context and with whatever style, he can choose to point towards Jesus, or to point away from Jesus. You can’t point away from Jesus and point towards Jesus at the same time. You can’t exalt yourself and exalt Jesus at the same time. It’s impossible.

I’m afraid that some worship leaders across the broad spectrum of worship expressions think it’s possible, permissible, and even preferable to point to themselves, their music, their style, their personality, their instrumentation, their professionalism, their polish, and their performance. There’s a word for this, and it’s called “mission creep“, and it’s what happens when we forget our original mission’s goals and move in other directions.

All worship leaders, and I’m preaching just as loudly to myself here, need a constant reminder: No. It is not OK to point to yourself. By doing so, you are pointing away from Jesus, and vainly seeking after a share of the glory he is due. Our mission has one aim: the exaltation of Jesus Christ.

Who am I to say that worship leaders have one aim? Don’t blame me. Blame Paul.

(Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:15-18)

That. In. Everything. He. Might. Be. Preeminent (ie. totally, completely, unmistakably above all other things). Where is there wiggle room in this? Where is there grey? Where is there room for me to exalt myself? There isn’t.

Jesus is the image of the Father. He’s glorified by the Spirit (John 16:14). He “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Is he the center of our worship services? He either is or he isn’t. We’re either pointing to him or we’re not. Regardless of our musical expression, context, stye, technique, approach, or denomination, we have this one question to answer. And it’s not multiple choice.

6 thoughts on “Where Am I Pointing?”

  1. Absolutely, Jamie. And let’s quickly extend your point to the sermon, all corporate prayers, “missionary updates”, drama, dance, testimonies, and even announcements. And if you can’t point to Jesus in any one of these things, just skip it!

    1. True. And add to that list, leadership. Leadership–the men and women at the helm, the hearts, the style, the direction, the decisions–has to point to Jesus. If that fails, then I hold no hope for the rest.

  2. Loved this for the most part. Very true, and very good… except for this:

    And the kicker is that any moving object can only move in the direction it’s pointing.

    I’m not sure if this is what you are really trying to say. You can be pointing one way and forcibly moved backwards. Especially in ministry. You can be walking up a hill and making no progress, and slip backwards, still pointing the direction you want to go. You can be in a boat, going against the current, and lose ground.

    While its true that you can’t go in multiple directions at once, you can keep your eyes as firmly fixed on the proper point as you like and still not get where you are going because of what is going on around you. Things push, and pull and tug. As long as we are not in complete control of a situation (and we probably should never be!) we are not in complete control of the direction we travel.

  3. And just to make sure we are on the same page… how does 1 Cor 1:11 factor into this, for a worship leader? How do we discern when someone is pointing the finger at themselves in self-exaltation, and when they are simply saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

    The idea of self-reflection on this, and wise council from others, bathed in constant prayer, is critically important for a worship leader or pastor. Its an excellent reminder that the heart of the leader, combined with what actually works in a given context, should be constantly evaluated and reevaluated as we select tools and techniques for the application of the gospel in worship.

    1. I was thinking of that same scripture as I read this post. Paul does this or says this more than once. Sometimes it sounds like he’s full-on bragging like when he talks about speaking in tongues, prophesying, or getting persecuted. Heaven help us if we miss his point or, more importantly, miss what God is saying because we’re trying to judge whether his motives are pure. Then there’s another question. What is God pointing at? Our worship misses out on something huge when we think it’s all about where we want to point as if Jesus is a mute idol or a static object that existed in history. Jesus is moving. We follow. God is moving – not changing, but moving. God is speaking, and God is singing. What part do we give Him?

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