This week I’m taking a seminary class at Reformed Theological Seminary here in Washington, D.C. The course is called “The Christian Life” and is taught by Dr. Steve Brown (no relation, by the way). Steve is hammering home the great freedom of grace that belongs to us in Jesus Christ and the horrible bondage most of us live in without realizing it. This is a shame for believers. It’s dangerous for people in up-front ministry.
Steve describes 12 prisons that keep us from experiencing radical grace and damage our ministry. They’ve been eye-opening for me and I want to share them with you.
Most of us are in a dangerous place. We’re up front, on a stage, sometimes on a screen, and in a position of leadership. The congregation thinks we’re pure, holy, righteous, have a great prayer life, tithe, sponsor an orphan in Colombia, and never get angry or lust.
The problem is that we know we’re not wonderful. We know we’re sinners. There are things we’ve done that, if people in the congregation knew about them, we’d be humiliated and never want to show our face again.
We’re in a profession where we have to pretend to be who they think we are. This is a terrible prison. This is great bondage.
If you go around pretending you’re wonderful (but feeling ashamed of your secret sin), you’ll be miserable. And so will the people who work with you and serve under you.
Guilty people make people feel guilty. Free people make people feel free. We have been set free from our sin by the blood of Jesus. Yes, we’re depraved. But we’re redeemed. Do you lead worship like a free person or a guilty person?
Conviction says I have failed to be obedient. Guilt is the feeling associated with that conviction, and its purpose is to send us to Jesus. But once we’re there, guilt has no purpose.
Sadly, we carry guilt with us for years and years, and it is a heavier weight than we realize. This weight weakens us, limits us, makes us do stupid things, and acts as a leash around our neck, keeping us from running free in God’s grace
In addition to making people feel guilty, guilty people are always trying to work towards their own freedom. Most of the time this takes the form of us punishing ourselves in the futile hope that this earns us favor.
Hanging your head low, saying “no” to great opportunities, and carrying crippling feelings of anxiety and unworthiness won’t make you free. They’ll keep you in prison.
Worship leaders who walk in the radical and total grace of God are more emboldened to lead their teams and their congregations with abandon. Are you ministering with abandon or do you feel bound up?
Steve Brown describes the problem this way: “There is a neurotic sense of Christians that they don’t deserve success because of their sin. This sense creates failure”.
Think about that for a second.
Too many Christians, and too many worship leaders, have a neurotic sense that they don’t deserve success because of their sin. And so they fail. Maybe they go to a new church and take a new job. But they still don’t understand God’s grace. So they don’t think they deserve success. And so they fail again.
The sooner we realize that our “sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and (we) bear it no more”, the more freely we can sing “praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!” Until we do that, we carry our sin with us, we don’t think we could possibly succeed because of it, and our songs are halfhearted.