Leading in Light of Christ’s Perfection

guitar-290x255Since August 2010, Ken Boer (music director for Covenant Life) and I have had three men working for me at Sovereign Grace: Nathan Edwards (Florida), Matt Richley (Merthyr Tydfil, UK) and Mauricio Velarde (Gaithersburg). It’s been a joy to have them around, growing and learning with them how to serve people more effectively in magnifying Jesus Christ using the Word and music.

Each Wednesday morning we meet for about 90 minutes to study a book. We generally take turns sharing what specific sentences or paragraphs impacted us or raised questions for us.

Not too long ago we finished The Cross And Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson. It’s a book every Christian leader could benefit from. Matt wrote down a few thoughts about two quotes he found in chapter 2. I thought you’d enjoy them. Here are the quotes, followed by Matt’s response.

“It is idiotic – that is not too strong a word – to extol the world’s perspective and secretly lust after its limited vision. This is what the Corinthians were apperently doing; that is what we are in danger of doing every time we adopt our world’s shibboleths, dote on its heros, admire its transient stars, seek its admiration, and play to its applause.”

“We must come back to the cross, and to God’s plan of redemption that centers on the cross, and make that the point of our self-identification.”

I was challenged by this when I considered how I lead people in corporate worship. I was aware that often, I would be riddled with nervousness, feeling the continual battle with pride and the fear of man. I was concerned with my musical ‘performance’ and how well I would articulate verbal transitions between songs. I was aware of my weakness, which is good because it helps me recognize my need for and dependence on God. But instead of giving Him glory, in those moments I was craving the praise of man and wanted people to think well of my leadership and musical skill (not that my gifting is particularly significant). What I find so funny and ironic is that the gifting I do have, by the very nature of a gift, was given to me by someone else, namely God! And yet I try and claim some achievement or prideful ownership over those gifts. I was convicted by Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians:

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?  (1 Cor 4:7)

In the midst of discussion about these things, the other guys helped me see what I was initially blind to. Here’s what I gleaned about preparing to lead the church in corporate worship in a way that redirects the focus from ourselves to the risen Savior:

Don’t Expect Your Own Perfection – Lead in Light of His Perfection

Romans 3:23-24 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

If I’m aiming to lead (speaking and/or musically) flawlessly then I am dooming myself to discouragement because I will never do it perfectly! Yes, I could do it better, (and evaluation is a useful tool to cultivate humility) but I do it from the foundation that I am already accepted in Christ and that my worship is pleasing to God through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.

Christ has done the work that no other could do, and the work is finished – His worship was perfect. Our worship then, through redemption is in Christ. It is cleansed through his blood and is a pleasing aroma of Christ to God.

Because our righteousness is in Christ – ‘prepare’, ‘practice’ and ‘lead’ in the good of that

Prepare for, practice and lead in light of the fact that ‘our righteousness is in Christ’. We don’t have to prove our worth or value as a member of the church or hold up an identity of ‘The Worship Leader’! We just need to show/remind people of the greatness, mercy, kindness, love of God, the pinnacle of all these being at the cross.

That doesn’t negate preparation and practice, but our identity isn’t in our role or position or in how well we do, but as a redeemed child of God.

A good signpost doesn’t say, “look at me, what a great sign I am, aren’t I so clear, bold and striking!” No, a good signpost doesn’t distract or call for attention to itself, but points you to something greater. Humble leaders point people to Jesus.

The Spirit of God Does The Work…so don’t you try to!

Bryan Chapell says this,

“The Holy Spirit uses our words, but his work, not ours, affects the hidden recesses of the human will.”

We may bring words, but God does the work, and He does so through and in spite of our sin tainted hearts and weakness. As we take comfort in this, we don’t have to try and manipulate a response in people’s hearts from smooth progressions and eloquent speech (not to deny their value). God loves his church and He and He alone does the work through His Spirit and can do so with or without me or you.

One Last Quote From Carson…

“Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.”

It’s so easy for leaders to be more focused on musical techniques and smooth transitions (though they are helpful and we don’t want to be distracting). But our aim is to be leaders that are focused on Christ and Him crucified so that we can help others magnify Him who in His unsearchable greatness has saved sinners like us.

Matt

20 Responses to Leading in Light of Christ’s Perfection

  1. David Santistevan April 8, 2011 at 6:32 AM #

    Bob, these insights are gold (sorry for the praise of man there :)

    It’s nearly sickening to consider how much I think about MY performance, MY image, MY skill, and what the congregation is thinking about ME. We need to pray that people are mindful of God in our worship services and I think that starts with us doing the same.

    Thanks Bob.

  2. Joey April 8, 2011 at 8:15 AM #

    This is exactly what I needed to read this morning. It’s always awesome to read what other’s are going through, because it reminds me I’m not alone in this. My struggles are struggles
    that are shared by my peers throughout the church body.

    Thanks for the encouragement,
    Joey

  3. Dave F April 8, 2011 at 8:55 AM #

    Amen to this post! Years ago, when i was struggling through similar anxieties, i believe got set me free by delivering two huge, counter-balancing truths to my soul:

    I am weak, weak, weak! and i am CALLED (at least for today, for this moment as i lead)!

    Truths contained within: 1. I am not called b/c i am strong. I never earned the calling. I am not disqualified by weakness. 2. My weakness can proclaim the Gospel better than the most well-crafted words or beautifully played music. 3. My confidence comes from the fact that the One who calls is strong and is well able to work through a submitted vessel. What freedom! And 4. Both the fact that i am weak, and the confidence that i am called shift the glory off me and onto the Savior whom i want to proclaim and whose voice i want to hear!

    Thanks for helping me to meditate on these truths again!

  4. Dan Lyle April 8, 2011 at 9:01 AM #

    Great observation! Really appreciate this! Its very encouraging to know there are others grappling with these same issues. I actually blogged something along these lines yesterday…

    “Many of the great hymn writers of old were clergymen, missionaries, statesmen, and astute members of the church. One was even an invalid blind women with fantastic insight… But none of them were rock stars.”

  5. Cameron April 8, 2011 at 9:33 AM #

    Bob,

    Thank you so much for this post. It is such a timely encouragement to me. I am so grateful for God’s grace to bring us back to humility as we focus on the cross. How could we ever begin to believe success lies in our strength and abities. Thank you for the reminders and thank you for serving the body of Christ in this way.

    Cameron

  6. Carmello Chiara April 8, 2011 at 11:16 AM #

    Man what a great observation. I never really thought about the fact that our worship is pleasing to God only because of Jesus’ redeeming work. I mean, I think I understood that in theory, but never understood it that simply. Thanks Bob!

  7. Daniel Baker April 9, 2011 at 9:43 AM #

    Just adding my thanks for a great post. Great thoughts and well said. “Don’t expect your own perfection – lead in light of his perfection.” That’s got a lifetime of implications to it.

  8. Aaron Schultz April 9, 2011 at 11:23 AM #

    Thank you very much for the post. I am currently a student studying music in worship, and the practicality of this statement spoke to me very much:

    “We don’t have to prove our worth or value as a member of the church or hold up an identity of ‘The Worship Leader’! We just need to show/remind people of the greatness, mercy, kindness, love of God, the pinnacle of all these being at the cross.”

    Often times, as leaders of communal musical worship, our focus starts with Christ then shifts to the appeasement of our congregation’s taste and/or their perception of who we are as worship leaders. This is a dangerous trap to fall into. The lines between being aware of the congregation’s needs and being negatively influenced by how they ‘rate’ the musical offering becomes blurred. Liberation from this trap exists when we do exactly what the quotation offered; focus to show people the greatness of God through the perfect and unblemished offering of Jesus Christ by the strength the Holy Spirit. All praise the good Lord that our job is to not impress through our gifts; for the name of Christ alone will stand to impress.

  9. Debbie Campbell April 10, 2011 at 4:07 AM #

    Thank you for your message and great to see people comment on Worship as I find it is few and far between.All I know is that we are to serve and that the greatest is the servant who practises humility. I played flute for many years off and on in bands and learnt that the leaders have a very important role especially with other band members with thier attitudes of Encouragement, Thankfulness, Peace and Harmony as it all works together with the Spirit of God to build up the other members and the congreagation. it can make or break someones heart or life especially when they know they are called and gifted to minister in music .

  10. Tyler Margeson April 11, 2011 at 12:04 PM #

    Just this past week, as I prayed in preparation for Sunday, I asked God to give me eloquence in what I said, so that I wouldn’t distract. The goal to anything I say should be to glorify the perfections of Christ, not simply avoid distraction. Thank God for this post and His work in your, Ken’s, Nathan’s , Matt’s, and Mauricio’s lives!

  11. Tom LoSchiavo April 12, 2011 at 10:37 AM #

    Thank you for this. Just this passed Sunday I felt like a deer in the headlights because of my anxiety and nerves. My desire is to focus on God and not the approval of man but it seems like week after week I struggle with this. The fear of man issues are really getting old.
    This post came at a perfect time. I am glad to see that I am not alone in these struggles.

  12. Israel Sanchez April 12, 2011 at 1:26 PM #

    Wonderful insights. Jesus should always be our focus. Although this post is about worship, it applies to different gifts. In my case, when it comes to writing. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Scott April 12, 2011 at 2:33 PM #

    I have filled the “musician” role for a good portion of my life, but not until recently have I stepped into the position of “leading” worship. It has been a struggle to say the least in where I put my attention. I’m easily tempted to focus on my own (and others’) playing/singing and not on the truths that are being expressed through the lyrics. What a comfort to know that despite our shortcomings (personally and musically) we are made perfect in Christ. Praise God!

  14. Roxy R April 14, 2011 at 2:07 PM #

    Love this post. Jesus should always be the center of our worship.
    Christian Woman

  15. Carol April 16, 2011 at 1:11 AM #

    Bob,
    As many have already stated, very timely advice for me. I have been playing flute for over 30 years, but will play in my first recital in a couple of weeks. I have been working hard to make my piece “perfect” (so I don’t embarrass myself). While it is not a worship leading scenario, your words were a good reminder to step back and see that perfection is not the goal. Growing the gift God has given me and sharing it with others, relinquishing fear of man and refusing to let my worth be determined by how well or poorly I do: those are the goals. If I can keep my focus on Christ, my focus won’t be on me. Thank you for the reminder.

  16. Carol April 25, 2011 at 10:47 AM #

    I have to add that the words of point 1 (Don’t Expect Your Own Perfection…) were ringing in my ear as I played on the worship teams for Maundy Thursday and Easter. It was truly freeing not to stress about playing perfectly or worry about “embarrassing” myself with mistakes. Instead, I just trusted God that the gifts & talents He has given me can be used for His glory.

    Thank you, again.

  17. Kenneth Dave Cabanda September 4, 2012 at 9:29 PM #

    It is a comfort to know that I am not the only lead worshiper who struggle in the area of pride and performer-tendency-character. Thank you for sharing this very powerful message.

    Indeed, when all boasting of man would surface in us, the cross of Jesus Christ prevails, where all boasting and pride are but sticks and hay. Praise be to God!

    All GLORY to His Name.

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