I watched a movie this afternoon about a small military unit trapped under enemy fire. When the officer in charge refused to follow the advice of a subordinate, she soon found herself in the middle of a mutiny. While she regained control of the unit, it wasn’t until after she was wounded, and her most trusted man joined ranks with the mutineers.
Afterwards I was going about my own business, getting ready for work, when my mind started to think about church and other matters floating through my head. (You don’t want to look in there, trust me.) I think that because I’ve been thinking about my next worship leading schedule, my thoughts were suddenly stuck on the worship track. This phrase came to mind, and I think it is something to think about for churches who have more than one worship leader on their teams.
Let me start by saying that if you as a church have more than one able worship leader in your church, you are blessed. Many churches across the globe wish every week for just one person who is talented and sensitive enough to lead their congregation in praise and worship. You have the ability to rotate responsibilities so no one person gets strained and burned out. But you also find yourself in what can become a difficult situation.
I wrote in previous posts about what I call “The Laws of Worship Leading,” and one of those was the Law of the Conductor. I mentioned how we might run into trouble with multiple leaders on a team at the same time, and how there can only be one true conductor, lead by the Holy Spirit, helping the team “keep in time” with the Spirit’s working in the service.
Having gone back and read that post before starting here, I realize that I neglected to delve deeper into the issue of what might happen with multiple conductors working at the same time. (Click here to read “Laws of Worship Leading | The Conductor”.)
Rather than repeat how the Law is stated on that other post, here is a more memorable version: “Multiple Heads Make A Monster.” Whenever you run across something that has two heads, your first instinct is that it isn’t natural. There is no species on this earth that operates in such a way. Independent eyes? No problem. No definitive head at all can be an option, but only when it comes to slithering around on autopilot (such as a worm). Why would we think that having two heads in church is alright?
When more than one person tries to direct a worship service, there is opportunity for various issues. These include confusion, for the designated worship leader, the members of the team and the congregation; hurt feelings; the perception of insubordination or power grabbing; and eventually schisms in the worship team itself. If you add any one of these to the worship team environment, surely a monster is the result.
We are told regularly to be ourselves, to be individuals. In some circles we are taught not to “quench the Spirit” and to follow every leading or tugging on our hearts. But can we really operate that way, all of the time, successfully? It is true that God speaks to every one of us, and that there are times when the Spirit chooses to use someone outside of designated leadership to work in the lives of His people. But is that the norm? Are we supposed to be willing to let everyone with spiritual “goose bumps” interrupt and make changes in a service?
The Corinthians are known for their focus on spiritual things with a lack of discipline in their use. For them, it was about being spiritual, following the leading of the Spirit, having something great to add because God put it in their hearts. But what does Paul say? Does he congratulate them for their zeal in using the gifts of the Spirit? No; he corrects them.
So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. . . . Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. . . . For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. . . . But all things should be done decently and in order.
(1 Corinthians 14:12, 20, 33, 40 ESV)
We must, as those who are leaders serving other leaders, must be careful not to 1) create issue within the church, 2) be childish and self-serving, or 3) act out of order. When another is called upon to lead a service, we cannot assume that because we are leaders in our own right that we have permission to interject as we please.
The Big Issues
I see two reasons for why a person other than the one asked to lead feels they can interrupt the course of a service. Both are personal issues, and if left unchecked, are harmful to himself and the church body.
The first issue is that of trust. If another worship leader working behind me as I lead does not trust, he will feel more likely to interfere in a service.
The reasons for a lack of trust can be legitimate. One example would be training in the arts, if I have professional training in music and orchestration, and you are new to the music scene but are given a place of leadership because of your ability to sing or create a positive experience. Another reason is experience, where you may have led worship twice each week for twenty years, but I have only led two or three times in my whole life.
When we choose not to trust the leader appointed over us, we are acting out from a heart full of pride. We believe we are better than that person, that she doesn’t deserve what was given to her. We don’t trust them to lead us, much less the entire congregation. By interrupting a service we are actually saying that we have it right; the leading and sensitivity of the person leading is obviously inadequate or incorrect because what I am feeling must be correct.
If you cannot trust the leader that is put in place, even for a season, can you honestly stand before your fellow believers and lead them to worship? No; it’s not possible. You, acting spiritual while having a heart of rebellion, have a better chance of breaking down the unity of the team and even the congregation because your worship is tainted by your selfish heart. Even worse, your worship is rejected by God because you have failed to act according to the words of Jesus: “First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:24).
The follower who cannot choose to trust the leader is not a follower at all. He is a usurper in waiting. It would be better to step away and allow the leader to lead than to become a person who is critical and sows discord.
The biggest issue in failing to follow is a problem with authority. Ultimately, if we cannot submit to authority in something as simple as a worship service, we rebel against the leader, the pastor who put the leader in place, and God.
For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
When we start messing with authority, thinking that we have a right to know, a right to veto, or a right to counteract it, we start our journey down the path of destruction. In a society where democracy reigns supreme, we find ourselves needing a reminder that we in the church have submitted to a theocracy. If we could somehow circumvent the will of God by popular vote, where would that leave us? The one who thinks it possible or a positive idea has yet to delve into the Scriptures and see what it means to cut God out of the picture.
If you haven’t taken the time to learn about the significance of authority, you cannot afford to continue in any position of leadership or service before you start. I highly recommend John Bevere’s book, Under Cover. Get it, read it, study it, ask serious questions and put your life under the microscope. (You can read my book review here.) To jump out from under the authority God has placed over is detrimental to you and anyone you serve or lead.
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There has been a lot of talk about being lead worshipers rather than worship leaders. We don’t want to put ourselves up on pedestals or consider ourselves better than the congregations we are privileged to serve. Maybe we should look at what it means to be a worship follower. A good dose of humility and perspective never hurt anyone; it only helps.