Faith vs. Pride – Pride vs. Grace
Week after week the faithful worship leader does his/her best. He/She:
• plans the worship,
• prepares the singers and players
• leads the worship plan, and
• seeks with his/her whole heart to center everything on the Lord Jesus.
Sometimes it is glorious and the Lord is honored by all that happens. At other times the service falls seriously short in significant ways. Occasionally, there is a train wreck when the music breaks down or the technology fails or good hearted people simply blow it.
For some worship ministries, the problems are surmountable and manageable and the weekly offering of worship is something the people of the church can count on to help them taste the eternal during the hour of worship.
Other worship ministries plan just as carefully, work just as diligently and have just as many skillful people in the right places but there is something blocking the output of their labors. It is as if an invisible mountain blocks the pathway to God. The music does not rise above art to prayer and the participants fail to give or receive anything spiritual. Isaiah said there were mountains that must come down if the glory of the Lord was to be revealed.
…every mountain and hill made low (Isaiah 40:4 NIV)
Sometimes a mountain of pride stands between worshipers and the God who wants to reveal His glory through their worship. The Lord’s attitude toward human pride is one of clearest truths in all the Bible.
For God sets Himself against the proud (the insolent, the overbearing, the disdainful, the presumptuous, the boastful)–[and He opposes, frustrates, and defeats them], but gives grace (favor, blessing) to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5 AMP)
God sets Himself against, opposes, resists, frustrates and defeats singers, players, technicians, pastors and folks in the pews who try to worship from a proud heart. Pride is the antithesis of worship; humility is the essence of worship.
Try this for irony—Worship leaders try to lead congregations in worship using people who are steeped in musical, spiritual, and personal pride. While they sing and play “for God,” God is actually working against them! This is the Invisible Mountain that keeps churches from finding the road to revival
What to do with a Mountain?
Jesus told us exactly what to do with mountains that block our progress—speak to them.
“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV)
We should not be overly concerned about how small the mustard seed might be or with the geologic unlikelihood of a real mountain suddenly flying away at our command to land with a splash in the sea. Jesus used images of contrast from nature to illustrate a supernatural ministry. We must take the metaphor and put it to work:
- Take all the faith you have and
- Speak that faith into the opposition.
- Faith in God will break down and remove mountainous resistance to the plan of God.
Speaking to the Mountain of Pride
Most of the conflicts within a worship/music ministry are rooted in pride of three sorts:
• Spiritual pride is a sense of self-righteousness and superiority to others which serves to elevate the self-assessment of the individual and to devalue others as less spiritual.
• Musical pride is a close cousin to spiritual pride when the music involved is seen as “spiritual.” With pride in one’s musicianship, the best of the singers and players see the ministry as their back-up group. They want to be stars, to get the best solos, to play the best tunes where their skill can shine. Where does musical pride begin? The world’s systems of musical instruction, (music education, entertainment, reality tv, and professional music making) give a prominent place to competition and to the pride winning the top spots: the principle player, the first chair, the voice, the impressive range, and so many other points of pride. When singers and players come into the church to make music, they simply bring their pride with them. It is the only way they know to operate. They need to be converted from stars to servants. The Worship Pastor must teach them a new context for their music-making—humility.
• Personal pride can be the source of both musical and spiritual pride. Feelings of shame, inadequacy, and fear can create facades of prideful behavior in troubled individuals who are desperate for recognition and some sense of self-worth. They want to be on stage, in the spotlight, a part of the “in crowd” not for reasons of talent or ministry, but for reasons of deep injuries and inadequacies. These are those who are never content with the job they are given, sowing seeds of discourse. They take everything personally because they are the center of their own universe. Worship/ Music ministries are not places for sick people to live out frustrated lives making others miserable. The ministry is the place for whole people, or those who are being made whole, to function in their calling.
There are many, many ways to speak to the mountain but there a just a few ways not to do it. A leader must not attack pride with a head-on assault like a promotional campaign, “Just Say NO! to Pride!” When pride is deeply set in an organization, any overt attempt to counter it will be met with fierce opposition. The biblical teachings on humility are the solution to all problems of pride. The Worship Leader can speak to the invisible mountain by systematically modeling and teaching Christian humility.
Ten ways to speak to the Invisible Mountain of Pride
1. Model Humility. The worship leader must not have the disease he/she wants to cure. If the worship leader is living on his/her own Invisible Mountain of Pride, there is little chance of speaking to the mountain in the ministry.
2. Teach Humility. The Invisible Mountain is only seen as a shadow against the full light of truth. The Word of God sets people free. Keep scriptures and stories like that of Mary of Bethany and her alabaster jar in the forefront of their thinking and your methodology.
3. Encourage Introspection. The old song says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart today.” The life of humility is one of introspection, a constant questioning of motives and inner drives. Your life must be an example of this and your teaching must encourage it.
4. Emphasize Ministry to the Lord. Ministry to the Lord is the great equalizer; ministry to man is the great divider. When a ministry is based on pleasing people, those with greater skill become more important than those with average or little skill. There are VIP’s (Very Important People) and NIP’s (Not Important People.) The VIP’s and the NIP’s know who they are and their feelings run deep. Everything said and done reinforces them. However, if the emphasis of the ministry is on pleasing the Lord, everything changes. Greater skills lead to certain assignments (worship team, solos, lead roles) and lesser skill leads to other assignments (choir, chorus, 2nd/3rd part) but the importance of the individual is not based on the assignment but on the faithfulness of the servant. All are serving the Lord with their gifts and are equally important.
5. Reward Faithfulness as highly as talent. Honor those who are faithful, regardless of their skill level, as essential to the ministry. Teach people to take joy in the gifts of others; this is a true sign of humility.
6. Esteem the servants as much as leaders. Expect servant-hood. Make the coinage of the kingdom humility and joy. Humility brings God’s grace and joy is strength. Celebrate the triumphs of gifted individuals as a community celebration. Bring the servant out of the shadows into the light of public recognition, esteeming them as highly as you do the performer.
7. Choose music that reinforces what you are teaching. Make sure the music you use reinforces what you are teaching. Select songs that are corporate in nature, not just solo vehicles.
8. Cleanse all vestiges of prideful, worldly values from your program. Musicians must be converted from the pride they acquired when they learned how to make music. Don’t teach servant-hood and then present a ministry that looks and feels like a star system.
9. Banish competition and replace it with competence. Competitiveness is a result of the Fall of Man, not a part of the Kingdom of God. Competence is an attitude of worship. Emphasize the Lord’s will in your planning. When special assignments must be made, solicit the prayers of the group for divine direction. Keep the door of opportunity open to new talent. Look for opportunities to challenge a lesser talent with an assignment within their abilities and celebrate their success.
10. Keep Jesus at the center—His will the only goal, His presence the only reward, His power the only enablement. When ministry to the Lord is the center of the program, His desires become paramount. When the goals of the Holy Spirit are the same as the goals of the people of the ministry, the anointing—the divine empowerment—will rest on your work.
Get Ready for Grace
As you faithfully speak the truth of God to the Invisible Mountain of Pride, you will see it shaken from its roots, lifted from its place, and cast into the sea of history. The warning against pride (God opposes them) is connected to a promise (God gives grace to the humble.) Imagine the worship leader before a congregation characterized by genuine humility, leading a team of humble, Christ-centered artists and technicians. Far from opposing them, God helps them—He gives them grace. The difference between God’s opposition and God’s empowerment is huge; humility makes the difference.
• They sing better than they can sing.
• They play better than they can play.
• Jesus takes their music and makes it acceptable to God the Father (1 Peter 2:4-5).
The Father reveals His glory to the church assembled and the people taste the eternal during the hour of worship.
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