I have a confession to make. I bought the lie of the culture. I willingly believed that I would pull myself up by my own bootstraps, that I alone would be responsible for my success. No one had the right to tell me what to do. I had convinced myself that no matter what, I would live independently. After all, I was an artist. I disdained the idea of someone else controlling my destiny. I distrusted those who told me what to do, or how to do things. Even constructive suggestions were viewed as someone else’s will being imposed upon my own. I was not entitled to be treated that way. Then something strange happened… I met Jesus. The words I used to despise, “submission” and “obedience” began to shift and take on new meaning. I’m a rebel in recovery. This may sound familiar to your journey as a musician or worship leader, and you may even be reading this while thinking to yourself; “What’s so wrong with going your own way, putting your own stamp on a ministry, or believing in artistic freedom?” For an artist rebel heart, let these words sink into your heart and take root: You are not your own. You were bought with a price, and that price was Jesus’ precious blood, and what he bought was your freedom. That freedom comes to you as a gift, and through it, you get to experience that gift through the vehicle of submission. Complete and utter surrender to the lordship of Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus loves you so very much, he has purposefully placed leaders in your life for your own good. Jesus has handpicked authority figures and put them in your life to make you more like himself. Worship pastor, when your senior pastor asks you to play that specific song in that specific key, for that reason, in your heart you should be saying; “Thank you Jesus. Thank you for placing someone in my life who cares for me, and sees beyond what I can see.” More often than not, this is not our hearts’ response. Worship pastors, how we position our hearts before senior leadership speaks volumes about how our lives are positioned before the throne of Jesus. When we come to see authority and submission to that authority in the light of Jesus’ grace, we begin to see our roles in a completely different perspective. We begin to believe the truth about those in authority over us, which is that they love us, they are for us and pray for us regularly. The more we practice healthy submission to those placed in authority over us, the more we become like Jesus. The more we obey, the sweet truth sinks in that we are only allowed as much authority as we submit ourselves to.
Submission to Jesus
When we claim Jesus is Lord, we are claiming allegiance and loyalty to him. We are saying to him “Jesus, you own everything of me. Jesus you are on the throne of my life, and because you are on the throne, I experience freedom unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.” When we crown Jesus king, Lord or Sovereign, we are giving him 100% authority reign in our lives. In fact, when we pray, as he taught us, ‘Let your kingdom come and your Will be done…‘ We are inviting him to have his way with us utterly and completely. His will, not ours. What Jesus wants, not what we want. When you singed up to follow Jesus, you most likely did not understand that you were signing up to be the bride of the most jealous lover of souls the planet has ever known. When you repeated the sinner’s prayer, you most likely did not understand how that reality effected your views on authority. What you meat when you prayed “forgive me” actually meant, Jesus come rule in every square inch of my existence. Indeed Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper once said, “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine. This belongs to me!’” When you belong to Jesus, you belong to him, not as property but as a dearly loved son or daughter. To the level you submit, or come under Jesus’ authority you are able to lead people into worship. When you give Jesus your best, he empowers you to lead others into theirs. When you are fully surrendered to the person of Jesus, you come to understand the gentle authority that you carry as a worship leader. Jesus once said that everything he learned from the Father he passes on to us. Everything. What an amazing truth. When we look at the way Jesus cared for people, the way he graciously served them, he is telling us something about the character of the Father. Jesus’ leadership is that of love, and gentleness. He always led people out of a gentle heart. He never led them from a place of fear or manipulation. When we submit our hearts and minds to him, we affirm what he says about himself, that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. When we submit to who he is, and what he is doing, we begin to experience his smile on our sphere of leadership and influence.
Submission to Senior Leadership
What a gift it is to have leaders who care for us as worship leaders. What a divine thing it is to have someone speak into our lives that actually challenges us and call us up to a greater standard. Hebrews 13:17 says; 17 “Continue to follow and be submissive to your leaders, since they are watching over your souls as those who will have to give a word of explanation. By doing this, you will be letting them carry out their duties joyfully, and not with grief, for that would be harmful for you.” Worship leader, do you want to be a joy to those around you? Do you want to bring joy to the senior pastor who you are entrusted to? Just say yes! With a grateful heart say “Yes, I’d be happy to cut my set to 10 minutes!” Without any sense of entitlement, say “Yes, I would love to play that song to compliment your message series!” When you begin to say yes, you will begin to experience the blessing of those in authority of you, and most of all, you will have the smile of the Father on the ministry he has entrusted to you. Remember, you serve at the good pleasure of those in authority over you. That stage you sing upon, that group you have gathered, the joy you experience when you join together for corporate worship… All of these are gifts, that can only be appreciated and enjoyed from a thankful heart. As you begin to say “yes” to those in authority over you, and believe that they are for you, you place a bold “No Trespassing” sign up to entitlement. Worship leaders you are called to believe the best about those you serve under. This can be difficult at times, because people are messy, senior pastors do not have it all figured out and neither do you. It still must become your hearts goal to believe the best about them, and for them. When I first let the Lord speak to me on this, He changed the way I prayed. I began to pray more for my senior leader. I prayed for his leadership, and his vision. I prayed that Jesus would protect his family, and keep them safe. Have you ever noticed the more you pray for someone, the more you love them? When we pray for those in authority over us, we make the Lord happy. He smiles on that in our lives. There are some blessings you will not obtain until you begin to learn the lesson of submission. This can be a tricky task for artist hearts, but the journey is worth it. A teachable heart is like a magnet to the promises of God.
Trust is such a beautiful thing. As you begin to trust Jesus more and more, you will begin to see that he cares for you beyond what you could ever imagine possible. He cares for you so much that he put a senior pastor in your life like Jeremiah 3:15 tells us: “I’ll give you shepherds after my own heart, and they’ll shepherd you with knowledge and good sense.” I love how this speaks of the Father’s generosity. He gives and He gives and He gives. Not only did He wake you up this morning, putting breath in your lungs, He then gave you a pastor who pastors you with knowledge and good sense! What a gift community is. It is my experience, that when you begin to say ‘yes’ with a grateful heart to things that are asked of you, trust is built. You will begin to see that your senior pastor can trust you with more. Remember, when you are faithful in the little things, you will be entrusted with greater things. There may even be times when you feel you are “thrown under the bus,” but I plead with you, invite the Lord to speak into that feeling. When you are seated in your proper seat as worship leader, your worst day is still better than your best day without authority in your life. Another day without authority in my life is another day I do not get to experience the gift of trust in the context of healthy community.
If we think that we have the authority thing “figured out,” it is most likely the case that in actuality we do not. You see, there are always new ways to honor Jesus, to lift Him up to submit to His authority in our lives. In the same way, there are always new ways we can honor those given charge of our souls, to show you care, and lift you up in prayer. Instead of waiting for that “tough conversation,” take initiative and ask of your senior pastor some practical ways you can improve the way you lead people into worship on a Sunday morning. Then work on those things with intention. Work diligently to exalt Jesus in your congregation by not only serving on Sunday morning with your worship team, but also by serving in your food pantry or other ministries as well. Help your Senior Pastor lead the congregation to encounter! Remember, you are serving as worship leader because folks want to enter into encounter with you, not watch you encounter alone or with the other people in your band. Honor the history of the congregation in which you serve. Are you new to a role as worship pastor? Ask the senior pastor for songs the congregation has really connected with in the past, and sing those songs like they were the last song on earth you had to sing! Sing the songs your congregation needs to declare how faithful God is! People are coming in on Sunday morning from all different stations in life. If there is one song the church needs to sing, it is of the faithfulness of God. Whether someone is in a place of pain or joy, the faithfulness of God is something we all need to be reminded of, and to sing out.
Lastly, buy your senior pastor a cup of coffee when you come in to work the next day, and simply ask “How are you doing, how can I serve you today?”
If you would like further study on this, devote this next week to pray over the following scriptures. Be led by the Holy Spirit to pray for those in authority over you. Invite Jesus to speak to you out of His word. Invite Him to lead you completely, invite Him to teach you.
Monday: 1 Peter 2:1-25
Tuesday: 1 Thes. 5:12-13
Wednesday: 1 Timothy 2:1-15
Thursday: 1 Timothy 5:17
Friday: Hebrews 13:7
Saturday: 1 Timothy 5:17-20
Sunday: Hebrews 13:17