To My Fellow Worship Leader

Dear Fellow Worship Leader,

I’m not a singer-worship leader like you, although I have seen others lead worship without singing. Anyway, for the sake of this letter, we’ll adhere to a cultural definition of worship leading: the person who sings, typically at the center, and directs a song according to the leading of God’s Spirit, encouraging the congregation to get involved. Quite a mouthful. But in many places, that’s a close definition. This letter is not to criticize your role. I really do sympathize with you, via all of the memes about leading worship and the pressures you face. But, I am writing (ranting) to you today because I am tired of your excuses.

Yes. You heard me right. I’m tired of your excuses.

Look. I’m a musician. I get around to discovering a lot of different types of “Christian artists”. Many of them write phenomenal songs and others are just plain unbiblical and self-centered. They have nothing to do with focusing on Jesus and it sometimes KILLS an album for me. What gets me too, are the songs that are just AMAZING, and the person who released it just RUINS the song with excessive runs and flashy display of their talent. I only end up remembering their over-the-top singing ability and not the heart of the lyrics. Ever ask yourself why some songs skyrocket in popularity when someone else besides the original songwriter sings it? It could fall either of two ways. Either the person who made it popular is talented, or they’re anointed. I know which one characterizes you more.

So what am I tired of? I think you’re getting the idea.

I’m tired of you not writing and developing the songs God gives you. Are you not provoked to jealousy, love, and good works when you hear a BOMB song from X-Y-Z “Christian artist” and yours sits, possibly in some notebook, for no one to hear? I know much of the Psalms were birthed in deep prayer and God was the first one to hear them. But let’s just forget blessing the Kingdom, right?

Can you tell my tone is very sarcastic?

WE WANT TO HEAR YOUR SONGS. I’m writing to you in such a manner because I REALLY BELIEVE IN YOU. I want to provoke you unto love and a good work by writing the songs God puts on your heart and blessing others with them. Publish them on Instagram or Youtube or something. I don’t know. It’s gotta get out SOMEHOW. And no. You don’t need some crazy record deal in order for it to be published. Ask David what kind of record deal he had before he started sharing his songs. ALL OF ISRAEL WOULD SING HIS SONGS. We need songs that are BIBLICAL. Colossians 3:16 clearly shows us how we need songs and spiritual hymns that produce wisdom, a spirit of teaching, and admonition. But these songs aren’t separate from the word of Christ. I heard a worship leader, one a lot of people would not consider “close to Jesus”, recently state that too many people feel the pressure of having to spur up a congregation by the use of their own words and motivation. He said this, “Don’t try to get God to endorse your words. God will always endorse HIS WORDS. If you want something supernatural to happen, minister His Word in song.”

I’m not writing this letter to you because I think you’ll get a big head with doing this. I really believe many of my songwriting friends don’t deal with pride, they deal with discouragement. They think nobody wants to listen to their songs, or feel like they need some weird ethereal approval for a song to just be put out here. Why aren’t you giving yourself to that gifting God has put in you? I’ve heard it said it takes more work to bury your talent into the ground, than to actually invest in it. The Parable of the Talents shows us that the man who considered his talent insignificant was called “wicked” (Matthew 25:26). I know who you are. We ought not to fall into this temptation.

You’re frustrated, already. I know it. You’re frustrated because you’re passionate about God’s role in His kingdom, but you’re distracted by the pressures you face in having to succumb to a certain type of “worship leader role”.

You are a WORSHIP LEADER. I know you feel the Holy Spirit leading you into areas of the Spirit when you are leading and you hold back. I see right through you. I know you want to speak more things into the atmosphere of the Spirit, yet you feel like you did not lead a song well unless you got EVERY SINGLE RIFF AND LICK HIT “WELL”. I’m not here to debate praising the Lord in a skillful manner and what the Bible says about it. Since when were we called to hold instruments of praise, whether a voice or guitar, and forget BEING an instrument of praise?

I know who you are. The Kingdom needs your worship leadership. I know what you do in secret. I believe in your God-given ministry. You’re not Benita Washington. You’re not Fred Hammond. You’re not Kim Walker-Smith. You’re not Bethel. You’re not Tasha Cobbs-Leonard.

You. Are. You.

So please stop trying to be like them. Don’t you know you’re called, chosen, and forming into further faithfulness? It’s better when you lead worship. I’ll just be real plain – for X, Y, & Z reasons that you and I have discussed in private, it’s better when you lead worship.

Turn loose. I believe in you so much. Get out of your own way.

Thanks for listening to my rant. I trust you hear my heart. Let me know when you release your songs.

Provoked Unto Love & Good Works

Dear Fellow Young Minister,

I want to make a confession to you. I have worshipped next to you during song service at youth rallies, conventions, conferences – I have sat by you in young ministers’ sessions and seminars to come to this conclusion.

You make me jealous.

Not envious. But jealous.

I have seen the manner in which you worship our God. I have observed the way you speak of others. I have seen the way you tarried for altar calls. And I must say, I have been deeply impacted. You have provoked me to jealousy and a hunger to magnify the Lord. Quickly, I think it is important for me to differentiate between jealousy and envy, because I see jealousy characterized by a sense of selfless possessiveness of Jesus, while envy is simply selfish possessiveness. The Lord presents Himself as the jealous God (Exodus 20:4-6). Therefore, I believe jealousy is a positive characteristic to be inspired of you, while any negative connotation of jealousy we read, in KJV language, of the New Testament is really envy.

Anyway, I’m glad to have you as a dear friend, because I have learned the importance of provoking one another unto love and good works. A lot of people quote Hebrews 10:25 as the main reason to “go to church”, when I believe it is a gross understatement as to why we should gather. On a brief note, not only is verse 24 the real focus, but it is biblically inaccurate to say “I’m going to church”. Pardon me, that’s for another time. Because friend, I have had legitimately deep moves of the Spirit gathering with you and other friends outside of a church service setting. Frankly, I have ZERO motivation to assemble myself with other believers if I’m not going to provoke or be provoked unto love and good works. I believe that if we are not careful, we can sin by gathering with the people of God, by simply having the wrong attitude and approach. The Scriptures state in Romans 14 that “whatsoever is not of faith, is sin”. Not to mention that whomever knows to do good, and doesn’t do it, commits sin, too (James 4:7).

I believe we ought to be mindful of what atmosphere and provocation is cultivated by our closest friendships. I understand that some people get into a competitive mindset at times, but the love and good works you provoke me to, cause me to want to become competitive with myself. That’s what I want in a close friend. I hunger to become more like Jesus, than I was yesterday. For today truly is the best, opportune day to serve the Lord. I proudly blame you for contributing to that. I have had friends that provoked me to compromise and even discomfort, for simply wanting more of God. This became painful at times because I love my dear friends, but the atmosphere conflicted with the direction I wanted to go. I know I’m not the only one that feels this way.

Mark told me once about a time he was at Senior Camp, and one of his best buddies, Sam, who was in town from bible college, came up to him after making some rounds with old friends. Sam told Mark that Mark’s name was being tossed around, but in the context of “this guy thinks he’s all that”. I remember Mark told me the story and broke down weeping at the pain these accusations caused him. Mark told me he didn’t know how he had carried himself in such a way to make others feel inferior. It was never the intention – and possibly never the reality.

Truth is, some people don’t want to be provoked unto love and good works. While many do. It can be a difficult course to navigate because people vary in their responses, yet possess the same desire. Some people are comfortable in their relationship with God, while many have a deep sense and longing for more. I partially wish I could write today that ALL of my friends want to be provoked unto love and good works. But my ambivalence proceeds from the fact that the pain that comes from these “unequal yokes”, has provoked me to seek those that are going in the same direction.

Here lies another challenge. What becomes of my attitude, towards those whom I have had to create some distance with? Do I then fall into becoming a Pharisee? Am I excused from provoking at a distance? I must answer these questions for my own sake. Paul said he “always [strove] to have a conscience without offense toward God AND men” (Acts 24:16). I did not know this at first, but leadership is highly characterized by the manner in which we deal with pain, especially when others are involved. Can we still retain the momentum of provocation unto love and good works, when the current of compromise beats against us?

It comes down to this.

People are watching.

That in itself can paralyze many. But to know that Jesus is watching, is all the more motivating. Although, I did want to let you know that watching you has been a blessing to me. I want to be guilty of being a match in God’s kingdom. I heard a minister once say, “I don’t desire to be a bonfire. I just desire to be the match. The match that starts the bonfire gets consumed by the bonfire. Nobody even remembers who the match was.” I pray that God help our motives in provoking others unto love and good works, resulting in Jesus becoming the bonfire – while we are consumed in Him.

Thank you for being a match in my life.