Practical steps to possess character and integrity as worship leaders:
1) Maintain a personal devotional life with Christ. The word maintain suggests that our walk with Christ is constantly moving and changing, not staying stagnate. It’s easy to go through the motions on the platform with talented musicians, yet more difficult to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church” every time we meet. We must PRACTICE being in the presence of the Lord! Many times the Lord breaks through during rehearsal and speaks to us as a team. Ever seen a leader who didn’t know how to respond when the Holy Spirit took control during a service? If that happens on a consistent basis, then I would dare say he/she hasn’t practiced being in the presence of God. You can’t lead others where you haven’t been.
2) Pursue Godly mentors in your life. Allow someone who has been “successful” doing what you want to do to speak into your life and to correct and guide you when necessary. None of us have arrived…we can all learn something. I have taught music in various settings for years, yet every time I get together with a team to learn new music and to rehearse, something magical happens…I learn a new way of doing things, a cool chord, a new artist or song. I can work with a person all day long if they are teachable. The moment that they become unteachable is the moment I stop working with them. Mentors have a way of keeping our feet on the ground and knocking out pride, which can overtake musicians quickly. The quicker we realize that we are not what we do, the quicker we will allow constructive criticism to help shape and mold us into teachable, creative, authentic leaders whom God can use.
3) Work on your craft. We must not allow the technical aspect of what we do to distract from what the Lord wants to do in and through our ministry. We cannot negate to hone our skills. Our character and integrity must carry over into our disciplined musical lives as well. Leading worship is difficult enough without adding to the challenge by not being adept in playing in more than one key, or knowing correct chords, or singing in tune with proper breath support. I realize that not every worship leader has the opportunity to attend a university and earn a music degree. Not everyone lives in the backyard of Australia’s Hillsongs to learn from Darlene. However, with today’s technology, there are multitudes of resources and internet lessons and “how to’s” that can be obtained with a click of a button. Do your part to be as trained as possible so that you won’t have to concentrate so much on the technical and can allow the Spirit to lead you into deeper depths of His presence.
4) Hunger for the Word. It saddens me to see worship leaders and musicians exit the venue once their “part” is done. We work so hard to usher in the presence of God, then we exit the building and in a sense, miss the stirring of the waters that we helped to create. What we are doing musically does not trump what the Word of God wants to accomplish in our lives as a body of believers. I long to see a day where adults, college students, teens and children are so hungry for the Word that they would fight to sit on the first row during a service! We must study and read the Word on our own, but there should also be a hunger to break open the Word together with friends and family so that we can grow together. There is something about corporate worship that creates a bond of unity and comradery. Your worship leading creates the atmosphere of expectancy, but the Word is what will sustain the congregation. Lead by example…be hungry for the Word of God.
God, may you use my gifts, talent and abilities that You have given for Your glory. Your Son, Jesus, prepared the way by living a life of character and integrity. Help us to humbly ask when we don’t know. Help us to lay down foolish pride that would mislead us into thinking that we have it all together, when deep down we know that we don’t. Help us to perfect our skills so that we are comfortable on the platform in Your presence. Your presence must not be foreign to us as worship leaders. Give us a hunger for Your very Word that breathes life into us. “Give us this day our daily bread.” May we long once again to be in Your presence as You change us from glory to glory, making us to be more like You. Amen.
Julie Ely is the worship pastor at Passion Church (www.passionchurch.tv) in Oklahoma City and an Elementary Music teacher in Piedmont, OK. Julie and her husband, Steve Ely, planted Passion Church in 2007. They have two sons, Devin and Tal.