Jeff Lawrence

My Worship Leader is a Performer!

My Worship Leader is a Performer

Recently I got a call from a worship pastor friend who was befuddled and discouraged. He was deeply hurt.  He had received a hand-written anonymous note after worship one Sunday, attacking him and accusing him of being a “performer”.  That term – “performance” was consistently used, over and over to demean and compare his leadership with that of a polished actor, discharging his duties as a professional musician void of genuine heart and motives.  I felt sorry for the writer of the note.  They had become the handmaiden of evil.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard this before. Everyone has an opinion.  We enter worship every week with assumptions and preconceived notions.  We have preferences.  We know what we like and dislike.  When kept in their proper context, they can be beneficial.  Yet when they motivate us towards prejudice and judgement of someone else’s worship, we are in dangerous waters.  Profoundly dangerous with the risk of losing something precious!

King David was finally restoring the Ark of the covenant to it’s rightful place.  With great and profound worship, he moved the Ark to the City of David.  It was indeed the very presence of God.  The scriptures tells us that David “Danced with all his might before the Lord”.  He did so, in what was basically his undergarments or linen ephod typically worn by the levites or priests.  This picture in 2 Samuel 6: 14-23, tells us that in all this grand splendor, David’s wife, Michal, “looked down from the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart“.

         With great and profound worship, he moved the Ark to the City of David.

Later, when David comes home to “bless his household” he is met by Michal who satirically greets him: “How the King of Israel honored himself today!”  She said. “He exposed himself today in the sight of the slave girls of his subjects like a vulgar person would expose himself”.  Michal had looked down on David from her lofty perch and proclaimed his worship vulgar.  She had passed judgement.  In her view, he was offensively performing before the slave girls.  David’s response: “I was dancing before the Lord…I will celebrate before the Lord…I will humble myself even more and humiliate myself”.  His motivation was the joy of the Lord.  And…it was pleasing to God!

As David’s worship was pleasing to the Lord, so Michal’s words were repugnant and pronounced the chill of her heart.  Verse 23 simply says: “and Michal had no child to the day of her death”.  Most Biblical scholars believe this was because of God’s removal of His Spirit and blessings from her life.  Her name was removed from the list of wives and she is not mentioned again.  Ichabod – the glory has departed!

      As David’s worship was pleasing to the Lord, so Michal’s words pronounced the chill of her heart.

As my friend is reading this note to me, I feel the chill and venom of Michal’s prejudice and judgement: “you are a performer”.  Yet little does she know, he has prayed, sought after God, planned, rehearsed and laid his life before his King!  He has stood before the people to point them towards Jesus.  Yet from this modern-day Michal’s lofty perch, she sees a musician who is too polished, too rehearsed and too slick.  Maybe his hair is too trendy and his clothes too progressive.  Maybe his voice is too pure and his musicianship too finely tuned.  I wonder, should he sing pitchy or mess up some lyrics to show his humanity?  Is he too tightly wound?  Too happy?  Too exuberant to be believable?  Does he not pass the litmus test of your own superior worship?  I wonder what the view is from Michal’s elevated & spiritually enlightened perch?

I do know from God’s view, He loves the heartfelt worship of His children.  The Worship Pastor, team, band/orchestra, choir, leaders who spend hours and hours rehearsing their craft do it out of love and devotion.  They wrestle with the tension of good motives.  They come early and leave late.  They are artist, servants, passionate and devoted.  Just like all of us, they are broken people in need of grace.  They are a gift to the church!

     I do know from God’s view, He loves the heartfelt worship of His children.

Remember these 7 things – lest you find yourself like Michal – devoid of God’s presence:

  1. Never, ever, judge someone else’s worship!  God is the judge, not you!
  2. Never, ever again accuse your worship leaders of performing.  This arrogance says more about you, your motives and heart!
  3. Never demean your artist because they’re too good at what they do.  This should really go without saying…
  4. Never, ever assume your preferences, assumptions and preconceived notions are shared or even valid!  Leave them at the door.
  5. Love your worship leaders.  Pray for them.  Support them even when you don’t “get” them!
  6. Always remember: our worship is motivated by God, for God, to God!
  7. It’s not about you!  Never has been…never will be!

Michal called vulgar that which was beautiful to God!  In so doing she made a huge and serious misjudgement.  She became the thief to rob David’s joy.  In the end, God took it seriously enough to remove His presence, retrieve His blessing and leave her barren.  She became irrelevant.  Don’t make the same mistake.  Look into the mirror and allow God to prepare your heart to explode with the same joy, praise, worship and celebration as did David’s.

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30 Responses

  1. I am saddened to hear what that worship leader went through. Well said in this article. We need to pray for our worship leaders who are on the front line every week and open to attack and judgement.

    1. What may be contributing to the feeling of worship leaders performing is the fact that the congregation is sitting in the dark and the stage is all lit up like people are watching a show. How about if we turn on the lights and concentrate on making sure everyone feels drawn into the worship rather than focusing so much on the people leading the service. I am not trying to criticize any particular person’s worship but the style of worship that modern church’s are adopting makes me uncomfortable. It feels less like I am at church and more like I am at a concert.

  2. God knows our hearts and that we come to honor him. I have heard these comments also and I am saddened that others do not feel the Spirit of the living God as We do. I feel closest to the Father in the choir loft and with fellow worshipers and I am proud to profess his name. I pray that those who think the Worship pastor, worship team, choir and orchestra are “performing” instead of praising would spend less time judging and more time being an open vessel for the Spirit. I enjoyed your blog!!

    1. Agreed Shirley! I think when we consider the Biblical picture of Mary as opposed to Martha – it was Martha who was actually performing and Mary who was worshiping. Yet all too often, the “Marthas” in the church accuse the “Marys” of being less than genuine. Time to call it what it is. Bless you!

    1. Thanks so much Beverly. We are blessed with a wonderful team of worship leaders. Grateful for your encouragement!

  3. I have these comments previously about me and others who lead worship. I do pray daily that I am singing for him and not show as well as pray for the other leaders. We need to lift each other up and not tear down. Sad people say these things. Let them try doing what we do.

  4. I feel badly for your Worship Leader Friend too. So glad you were able to share with him as you did. Who are we to judge about someone’s worship? Judge not….lest you be judged!

    1. Amen Barbara! Don’t feel too badly for the worship pastor. God’s got His hand on him – shaping him. He’ll be just fine! Grateful for you.

  5. Jeff, this is totally inspiring! I love our worship and most Sunday have trouble containing my emotions! See you Sunday.

  6. Wow! Another time that Pastor Warren got it right…”It’s not about you…um…me!” Thank you for the story of David and Michal. You may lead worship, but I’m most grateful that you also TEACH!

      1. We have many churches in our country which offer a wide variety of worship styles. If the writer of the note is not content and feels she must judge, maybe she would enjoy a more traditional worship service. However one chooses to praise God….let them do so with a pure, loving heart. Whatever church is chosen, just make sure God is there!

  7. Amen, Jeff. Well said. I love and desperately need our time both at practice and in the choir loft. I have always considered the choir as my ministry and I think if it is done for the glory of God it should be done well. No one should criticize how others worship. You’re doing great.

  8. Jeff ~ thank you for always being the voice of reason and put so elegantly. The worship pastor you mentioned was blessed to have you as a friend and felt that he could call on you for support.. Everyone has an opinion and those opinions are often self serving and not from a spirit filled heart. God has given you a gift of Music, teaching and yes, a sense of humor that gives you the ability to handle these situations with a cheerful heart. We love you and pray for you as you continue to lead us every week.

  9. Thank you so much for this blog!!! I have been leading worship since the young age of 13, and at a very young age, I too was told ” not to perform” and was held back from team because they thought I was too young to know the difference. Since then, I have felt this pressure to prove to the world, my heart has always been and will always be for Jesus. Recently, God has truly delivered me from this false notion of finding validity from people. I realize there is power in knowing who I am in Christ and more importantly, who Christ is in me. God has truly blessed my life over the years professionally for always singing for Him, and today I led worship with such a burden for the congregation- because I simply want to lead them into the throne room of God. It’s my job!! It’s my responsibility as a worship leader to do it as well as I possibly can in order to encourage others to have an encounter with Jesus. So, thank you for this blog and God bless these people who say such foolish hurtful things. (Bless those that persecute you 😉 May we all learn to love each other better as the “family of God”.

    1. Thanks for your comments Cherie! The Church is blessed to have leaders like you – willing to use your gifts but more importantly loving His sheep. Keep up the great work and point them towards Jesus! Blessings to you.

  10. First, I have a personal preference for the more “traditional” style of worship, and it is what we have at our church. But, I will always defend all church worship styles as each church is different, has its own DNA. What is said here is an excellent inquiry, understanding, and addressing of this issue, especially in this short format. Thank you for a word of encouragement!
    Second, when I was growing up we were taught to always bring our best to the Lord (how we dressed, behaved, sang, etc.) We expect our pastors to be the best, polished, well-trained, eloquent. We expect our teachers and Bible study leaders to be as prepared as possible so as to be able to lead classes and help people grow in their faith. We recognize they are in roles we, in general, know little about. The logic applied equally means they need to criticize the pastor and the teacher, yet we/they do not
    But, because we all know a little about music (at least what we like), it somehow makes us the “SIskel and Ebert” of worship. True, there is some “performance” involved in the music portion of worship, but so there is in preaching and teaching. Some fight the battle well, resisting the urge to and/or the appearance of just performing. Some do not. Some are growing and maturing. Some are feeding their egos. Just as in preaching and teaching. But to assume that bringing one’s best to God through music is just performance is truly sad and disheartening. It is, sadly, a balancing act today’s worship musicians have and an unfair expectation laid upon them. [**side thought** Though I do wonder if a really good traditional choir would receive the same scrutiny as contemporary worship musicians.]

  11. While it’s not my job to determine the hearts of others, my humanity does get in the way sometimes. I find myself drifting sometimes and thinking, “Where is this person’s heart and motivation? Does he think this is a show? This looks and sounds way too much like the secular world” Whether or not a worship leader is up there showing off at times or not, God is the one who knows the heart. My job is to open my heart for worship in preparation of being taught the Scriptures. I also know that as one who has been up on that stage before…..yeah….I was guilty of making myself the center of attention at times, too. God had to really do a number on my heart over the years with that. Dr Jimmy Knott said this to us one time while in a Bible study class:

    “Yes, there is an entertainment aspect of worship at times”. It’s music after all…..it’s supposed to be fun and move us sometimes.

    So the bottom line is this: What’s the motive of our heart? Are we there (church) to learn or are we there to pass judgment on people?
    Just take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the fact that we are going to heaven someday…..where the worship will always be perfect.

  12. I have often wished the congregation could be a fly on the wall on Wednesday evening rehearsals and see the choir reworking that one section over and over to bring our best. I wish they could see us stand up without prompting because we are praising our Savior. I wish they could hear us pray fervently before each time we step onto the worship stage and as we read together God’s Word. It is a privilege to stand and lead worship and we are always challenged to be prayerful, authentic and prepared. This reflects the hearts of our worship leaders. During our Christmas program the Pastor presented the plan of salvation and over 2 dozen indicated through holding up the light on their cell phone they had prayed to accept Jesus. In that moment, I was overwhelmed that our performance impacted lives for Christ. I hope every choir/band/orchestra/worship leader has those moments to sustain them when the negative comments come.

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