joined handsJesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong.

The hymn is not just for children. Maybe we teach it to children so they will have it in their arsenal through the storms and realities of life. Maybe we adults think of the song as a means of comforting children who are otherwise helpless and could have feelings of fear in the big bad world of ours. The fact is, though, that there are lots and lots of times as a grown man that I am weak. I confess that when I sense weakness often my first inclination is to try and self-correct. I think, “Surely I can change this situation by some means of self-transformation.” Worse yet, my motivation is frequently stoked by a fear that others will know I am weak. Forgive me, Lord. Nowhere in scripture is masking weakness a virtue. I have known the truth of scripture that states:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Cor 12:9)

I do not have to reflect long upon my life as a worshiper to recall that my most profound and memorable times of worship have been when I was acutely aware of weaknesses. From times of relational turmoil to times of physical challenge, I have known the Lord’s presence in my abject helpless state. Perhaps most challenging have been those times when it was my responsibility to stand up and lead out in worship through music, although, truth be known, total ineptness was the most dominant emotion of my spirit. But boast about my weaknesses? Hardly. In such moments my self-talk sometimes goes like this:

“Really? Lord, do you really want (and expect) me to call others to worship you in song when I am so washed out? I have no strength. Who would want to follow someone like me at a time like this?”

You will note, though, that the self-talk is still just that, talk of self. Pastors and Worship Music Leaders, let’s admit it; this is where it gets sticky. Self-pitty is not the same as dying to self that the power of Christ may dwell in me. As someone has said, it is at the end of self that I find God. At the end of self I am reminded that serving to help guide others in acts of worship is never about me. Sir, let us see Jesus! In reading liturgies of the Church over history I am struck when comparing the content of those historic liturgies from across the ages to much of our present-day focus in the evangelical church. Of course, our supreme example of what it is to be human, Jesus, set for us the model, while He fleshed out the very enactment of the timeless Gospel itself.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men.And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:5-8)

I recently read some of the news regarding big name preachers whose empires are crashing. How are these empires built in the first place? When did being an entrepreneur become the measure of a spiritual leader? How does the image of “worship leader” get to be a picture that looks eerily like the rock star who is the very subject and object of the praise itself? The aura of these big personalities seems 180 degrees from the selfless weakness implied in the apostle’s letter to the church at Corinth.

I read with rapt interest the recent CHRISTIANITY TODAY interview with Austrailian pastor, Mark Sayers. The interview questions regarding the findings of his book are interesting, but the flashing neon sign for me was Sayers’ response to a an interview question. He said there was a breaking point in his leadership when he came to the proverbial end of himself. Suffering with a mental illness, a bipolar disorder, he says,

The way I had measured success was wrong. It wasn’t about retweets, book sales, and buzz. It was about dying to self in public. It was not about building a career or a name. It was about operating out of complete dependency upon God. He was far more interested in what he wanted to do in me than in what I was doing. So I became focused on passing the baton to others, stepping out of the way so others could flourish. I learned that Christian leadership in a shallow age had to depend on him. I learned that when God leads you through suffering and trial, and when you press into him, you return with spiritual authority.[1]

Perhaps we who worship in free church settings would do well to revisit some of those historic liturgies, prayers of confession, and most importantly, pray for illuminated reading of the Holy Word itself. Perhaps those of us who have leadership responsibility would do well to carefully review our songs and readings and sermons, and further evaluate the environment of worship itself. Maybe we should see if our ethos clearly rests in the strength of our sovereign Triune God, and not in our own creative genius, artistic talent, or entrepreneurial spirit.

Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song.

[1] Drew Dyck “Rising Above the Spectacle” in Christianity Today, Vol 58, No. 8, October 2014, pg. 52.

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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