Reflections on Twenty Years: If I Only Knew …
So it happened. Yep. I have to admit I didn’t see it coming. Thought it would never happen to me. I looked up one day and realized I’m the oldest guy in the office! It stinks, but I promise it will happen to you one day too! As I reflect on twenty years of worship leading I started thinking of all I’ve learned, and what I wish someone had told me years ago, so I’d like to share five thoughts I hope will keep you from learning the hard way like I did. . .
- Don’t let your talent take you farther than your character can sustain.
As musicians and worship leaders, sometimes it’s easy to hide behind a great voice, awesome guitar skills, or a charismatic personality … but you know what? It always catches up with us. Second Peter says,
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
Please, worship leader, spend as much time cultivating who you are on the inside as what you can do on the outside. For too many years I worried about the set list, flow, transitions, vocal skill, and platform presence without putting any thought into who I was becoming on the inside. The flesh is strong and as a platform leader we can often be lured into believing our own press. The accolades people give and the exhilaration of a moving worship experience can easily lead us to believe we are pretty great, while we are actually dying on the inside. The praise we receive and the excitement of being on stage can never our driving focus. Unfortunately, we have all seen friends, co-workers, and artists who have made bad choices because what was happening inside didn’t match what the world saw on the outside. It takes a lifetime to develop your reputation and only a moment to ruin it. I believe we must lead from a place of brokenness over our own sin, humility because we are not worthy to stand in front of God’s people, and thanksgiving for the grace and mercy we have been shown.
- Love people. For real.
Here’s a secret I’ve learned. I must realize the depth and breadth of Christ’s love for me before I can actually love other people. As a believer, and even more as a minister of the Gospel, I must learn how to really love people, but I can’t do that until I know the love of Christ for me. Remember Zephaniah 3:17,
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Once we understand the depth of Christ’s love for us, we are then free to love others. The freedom we find knowing God loves us so immensely he “exults over us with loud singing,” allows us to genuinely love other people. Spend time with people. Ask questions, learn their stories, share a meal, and pour your life into theirs. Don’t be afraid to share your story and be transparent. God wants to use your story to help others, and He wants you to learn and be encouraged by those around you. When we choose to be transparent and genuinely share life with people we see the impact of our ministries explode. Once we truly realize the life-changing love Christ has for us, love for the world around us is a natural by-product.
- Truly love and support your pastor.
This is a big one. Your senior pastor needs to know you love and support him – and it must be real and genuine. I realize we may not always agree, and some pastors are easier to work with than others, but our role as worship leaders is to follow the vision and leadership of the senior pastor. Help him feel supported and successful. He and his family live under pressure and stress we don’t know or understand. Love him and tell him you love him often.
- Build a great team.
This is a key to great success many people forget about. Surround yourself with capable, talented, and hard-working people. Paid staff and volunteers. The people you surround yourself with can, and will, directly determine your success. In 20 years of ministry this has proven to be true time and again. Don’t be afraid to recruit and/or hire people who might be better than you! Many of the people I have hired through the years are much more talented than me, but it’s always proven true that the more successful they are, the more successful I become. A win is a win. From the church of 200 members to the church of 12,000 members – the people who support you, make you. Invest in their lives. Train them. Teach them. Know them. Love them.
- Model what you want to multiply.
Want your congregation to worship with abandon? You worship with abandon. Want your teams to be honest, transparent, and loving? You do the same. Want your staff to be hard-workers? Work hard. Want humility on your teams? Be humble. I’m always surprised when a leader expects something from followers that he or she isn’t modeling. People are watching. Jesus perfectly modeled how he wanted his followers to live. Check out what John 13 says, “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” Implied in this principal is humility, never a sense of entitlement. Great leaders always lead by example.
Brent Dyer is the Worship Pastor at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, a church with three campuses and more than 12,000 members. Brent and his wife Jill have two beautiful children and are in awe that God has called them to teach people about loving Jesus. @brentandrewdyer