recently went to the National Worship Leaders Conference. Naturally it was crawling with all kinds of creatives with different expressions and styles…and there was a lot of skinny jeans, of course.
Skinny jeans is definitely worn by many worship leaders, but there’s one thing that all worship leaders wear every time they get up in front of a congregation. It’s not something you request to wear, but it is something you’re required to wear. It’s simply part of the worship leader attire.
Every worship leader wears a TARGET.
When you get up in front of a group of people, you’re not going to please everyone. Not everyone is going to give you encouragement. You are going to get scrutinized and criticized. You’re an easy target.
I’ve pretty much heard it all. I’ve been criticized for my song selection, musical style, tempo, volume, lighting and even clothing.
When you surrender to the call of leading God’s people, you are also surrendering to the call of receiving God’s people’s criticisms.
So, how do we deal with criticism?
Here’s some tips I’ve learned about dealing with that oh-so-wonderful criticism:
1. HUMBLE YOURSELF
You have a very important choice in life. You can either humble yourself or God will humble you. The Bible is clear on which option to choose. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Pride is that nasty thing inside of you that will turn a criticism into a crisis. Humbling ourselves means laying down the defenses and trusting that God will lift you up, just as He has promised. In my experience, when I lay down my defenses, it will often disarm a situation and enable some resolution. Every worship leader will be criticized. It’s part of it. If we are to lead people to worship God, we must lead by example. Humbling yourself is an act of worship. It’s God-honoring. Criticism can hurt, but pride will destroy you. When a worship leader succumbs to the temptation of pride in the face of criticism, nobody wins, except the enemy (Ephesians 6:12). Humble yourself…you won’t regret obeying God’s instruction, especially when He’s lifting you up.
Al Pacino was once asked what the most important aspect of acting is. He immediately replied, “Listening. If you don’t listen, then you won’t know how to react.” Listening to criticism can sometimes be painful, but it is a very mature response and a healthy way to deal with it. Everyone has an opinion and what most everyone wants is just to be listened to. Hear them out! They may say something profound, even if they don’t intend to. Years ago, a man came up to me after a service, who I knew didn’t like anything I was doing. That particular morning, I introduced a song that I had written. I remember really getting lost in worship during that song. The man asked me if I had written it. I said yes, and he said he could tell. I then asked how he could tell, and he said something that has stuck with me since that day. He said, “I could tell, because you were really into it as you were singing it, but can I tell you something? Don’t forget about us.” At that moment, God spoke to me through that man’s words. God taught me, right then, that as a worship leader, I am never to forget the crowd. The worship service was not about me worshiping. I can do that on my own. It’s about leading all of us in worship. When you hear criticism, humble yourself and listen to it. You never know. God may be speaking to you through someone you never expected.
3. CONSIDER THE SOURCE
It’s healthy to listen to criticism, but it’s unhealthy to believe everything you hear. Criticism can be such a blow and a downer. The truth hurts, but there will be times that you will hear things that are not true. Some of the criticism you will receive may be completely ridiculous. That’s when it’s important to consider the source. Don’t let one church member cloud your view of all the good that God is doing through you. If your heart is right and you have a humble spirit, remember that you will not please everyone. Some church members are spending too much time inspecting your actions rather than expecting God’s actions. Humble yourself and listen, but don’t let anyone steal your joy. Consider the source. They may be in a rough spot in their own life or they may have an unresolved issue with you. Your response and reaction could potentially help them, and that can be an amazing and God-sized victory.
Criticism is not the enemy. It can be a tool of the enemy, but only if we allow it to be. The same power that conquered the grave lives inside of us, and there is no criticism too big that we can’t overcome.
Criticism will either make you bitter or better. It’s totally up to you. Make it a good thing!
Gary is the worship arts director at Orchard Church in Denver, Colorado. He is also a blogger and a songwriter and is passionate about serving the local church. He has released two full length albums in the last several years and two EP’s in the last few years with songs that are completely geared for corporate worship – “Kingdom EP” (2010) & “Jesus EP” (2012). Gary has had his songs recognized by Myrrh Records, WorshipSource.com, the Purpose Driven Worship Conference, TheWorshipCommunity.com, CCLITV and SongDiscovery.