What Does It Mean To Be a Great Worship Leader?
The disciples came to Jesus (in Matthew 18) and asked who would be the greatest in his kingdom. I’m sure they were stunned by Jesus’ response as he pointed to the person they least suspected — a child. The disciples were probably hoping Jesus would have named one of them the greatest. And this is only natural, right? Most, if not all of us, are wired this way. No matter what industry or field, we want to be the greatest at something. And worship leaders are no different.
We want to be the best, and there is nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s a good thing to lead worship well and to be good stewards of the platform we’ve been given. Most worship leaders genuinely want to be good at giving God glory, but, if we’re honest, we want to make sure everybody knows that we helped him get it.
If I were to ask my younger worship leader self, who is the greatest worship leader? I would have given one of the names of famous worship leaders from Passion or Hillsong. Not because I knew any of them personally, but because they were the worship leaders everyone looked up to.
And this is my point.
Whether we mean to or not, the metrics we often use for measuring greatness are based on things like “who is the best singer or songwriter, or who has the coolest, most creative music? Who is at the top of the charts, or who is the most well-known?” The people we identify as the greatest are usually the people we emulate. We sing, talk, and dress like them. To some degree, we strive to be like them.
It isn’t wrong to be famous or to look up to the worship leader who is. I look up to many famous or well-known worship leaders for various reasons. However, their fame and talent are not the determining factors for greatness. At least, not by Jesus’ standard. So then, what is the determining factor? What are the proper metrics to use?
When Jesus was asked who the greatest in the kingdom was, he didn’t point to the smartest, most talented, or most influential person. He pointed to the one who wasn’t concerned with his image or the size of his influence. He pointed to the one who was gentle and humble. The greatest in the kingdom is the one who is like a child. Greatness in God’s kingdom is upside down. It’s a paradox that goes against the very meaning of the word. So what does this have to do with leading worship? The short answer is… everything. Worship leaders, of all people, are supposed to point others to the person and teachings of Christ. We are not performers or entertainers. We are worship leaders. And before we can lead others in worship, we must first be worshipers.
Before we can strive to be great (because we inevitably will strive to be), we must first define greatness the way Jesus did. We need to identify the goal so we can run towards it. Thankfully, Jesus did this for us. He defined and modeled true greatness. He was patient, kind, loving, gentle, humble, compassionate, and generous. He cared for the hearts and feelings of the poor and needy. He was a creative and masterful storyteller, always pointing others to the love of his Father. Jesus was and is the greatest worship leader. He is our true model of greatness. He is the one we should strive to emulate on and off the stage.
As we seek to grow and get better as worship leaders and teams, may we grow in the right direction and define success the way Jesus did.