By Jeanelle Reider
(Adapted from the book The One Voice That Matters: What Worship Leaders Need to Hear From Their Shepherd, Chapter 7, “Identity”)
As my worship teams and I entered the worship conference auditorium, we were greeted by stunning graphics and iridescent lights, euphoric guitars and driving drums. Passionate vocals onstage drew hundreds of voices into worship, melodies and harmonies and descants soaring through the rafters.
Throughout the conference, as we worshiped and attended workshops with both the confident and the self-assured, the glassy-eyed and the confused, we recognized a little of ourselves in all of them. We came home affirmed yet apprehensive; inspired yet sobered.
As leader of our church’s worship ministry, I sensed that my co-laborers would need a little help assimilating the whole experience, not to mention a fair amount of reassurance. For that matter, so would I.
So many voices
How can we as worship leaders sift through all the voices—worship conferences, social media, books and magazines, the world, the church up the street, our brothers and sisters in our congregation, and even our own voice—and hear what our Shepherd is saying to us? It’s important to hear His voice, because without it we might be tempted to pour time and energy into all the wrong goals; we might try to push ourselves, our ministries, and our churches toward something we were never created to be.
Jesus wants His followers to know His purpose for them. Listen to what He told His disciples:
You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain (John 15:14-16a, NASB).
Jesus makes it clear: We are His friends if we do what He asks of us. But how will we know what He is asking of us specifically if we do not take the time to find out?
Hearing His voice
I would like to suggest that you set aside time (either one-on-one with the Lord or with others in your ministry) and do the following:
1. Begin by reading Scriptures that will encourage you as you listen for His answers:
- Psalm 138:8
- Jeremiah 17:7-8
- John 10:14-15, 27
- Ephesians 4:15-16
- James 1:5-8
2. Pray for ears to hear what He will show you. Ask for wisdom about following up (or not following up) with the things He shows you.
3. Ask Him questions about yourself, your ministry co-laborers, and your congregation. Some examples might be:
- How do we express our heart of worship?
- What are our priorities and vision?
- What values are important to us in planning a worship service?
- What strengths do we have musically? What weaknesses?
- Are various groups well represented (men/women, different ages, ethnicities, preferences, etc.)?
- What previous experiences and current expectations inform our perspective on worship and church life?
- Do we feel comfortable worshiping together? Do visitors feel comfortable with us?
- Do we connect with each other outside of our weekly worship service? Do we connect with the world?
- What factors contribute to the amount of time we can give to serving?
4. Answer each question specifically for yourself, your ministry teams, and your congregation. For each answer, write a K, P or W next to it:
K = Keep (do not change).
This is for those items that you believe should not be changed because (a) they seem to be in a healthy place right now, or (b) they are simply the way God has made you and your brothers and sisters to be.
P = Pray (ask God to change).
This is for those items that you believe should be changed but that you can do nothing about except pray.
W = Work to change.
This is for those items that you believe can and should be changed, either now or in the future, as your Shepherd leads you to address them.
5. Finally, thank the Lord for the unique calling He has given you, your ministry co-laborers, and your congregation.
The one voice that matters
It’s not easy to discern our particular identity in the kingdom of God. It’s only possible as we learn to recognize our Shepherd’s voice above all the others. So let’s keep asking Him who we are to be, and let’s keep listening. He will show us.
Jeanelle Reider is the author of The One Voice That Matters: What Worship Leaders Need to Hear From Their Shepherd. She writes book reviews for Worship Leader Magazine and is a regular contributor to WorshipMinistryDevotions.com. As a lifetime worshiper and longtime worship director, she writes to encourage worship leaders and teams in the spiritual challenges inherent in their calling. Find out more at TheOneVoiceThatMatters.com.