What Do You Really Need to Lead?


Have you ever wanted something in the worst way, only to find out that you didn’t need it, after all? Have you ever fallen into the trap of believing if you could just get that one piece of gear or go through that one course or attend that one conference, then suddenly your leadership skills would skyrocket? Have you even sacrificed in some way to get whatever shiny new thing that’s caught your eye, only to become bitterly disappointed with it, or with your dismal results?

Take, for instance, the example of intelligent lighting. You’ve seen these amazing digital lights at, say, a Jesus Culture concert or a Passion Conference. Maybe the mega-church down the street has a million-dollar worship budget and just outfitted their new 3,000-seat auditorium with them. You attended their grand opening, and now you feel like “the country cousin come to town” – there’s just no way you could ever afford those lights for your church, but somehow you believe intelligent lighting is the one thing that would open up the heavens and cause your congregation to worship in Spirit and truth.

So you convince the Lead Pastor and budget committee that all the worship problems in your church will be solved if they will scrap everything else and allocate every extra dollar for the entire year to purchasing these magic lights. The day finally comes when the boxes arrive, you unwrap them, set them all up, turn them on, and suddenly there’s a deep sinking feeling inside you as you realize that the lights are going to blind your 80-year old organist and trigger cranial seizures throughout your congregation.

Okay, so that example is a stretch, but, can you identify with the temptation to think that something you could buy would increase the level of commitment to authentic worship in your congregation? Whether its lights or a sound board or a younger worship leader, aren’t we all subject to thinking, at least sometimes, that we can manipulate our people into worshiping?

If you answered, “Yes!” to any of the questions above (or you really did buy the lights), take a deep breath, have a good laugh at yourself, let it go, and rejoin the human race. Almost all of us have fallen prey to clever marketing and to the ruse that whatever that one more thing is someone’s selling us is going to fix all of our leadership problems and put us over the top. If we’re not careful, even the most well-intentioned leaders can fall into the trap of wanting something that may not be helpful to us.

Maybe you’ve got your eyes on something right now you’re hoping will make a huge difference in your ministry, yet there’s this nagging question in your mind it really will be “all that and a bag of chips.” Well, before you write that check or charge up your credit card, let me remind you of three key leadership must-haves that won’t cost you a dime, but that every effective worship leader possesses.

1. A burning jealousy for the glory of God in the earth. We call it a lot of things, but a passion to see God truly worshiped by all nations, tribes, and tongues can never be replaced by sound, lights, and cool gear. Regardless of your skill level as a musician or singer, there’s no other leadership skill as important for a worship leader than the white-hot desire to see Jesus honored and loved for who He is. Lose this passion and you’re losing your true leadership.

2. Imagination for worship. Even if you’re in a church tradition that holds to tried and true forms that seem unchanging and unchangeable, effective leadership requires great imagination for the positive outcomes of a worship service. I served for years in a liturgical format in which I could change very little of the Sunday form, but I could utilize imagination in the moments for which I was responsible and insert the most powerful readings and songs I could find.

I also realized that Sunday service was just one opportunity to worship and that I could create many non-Sunday events throughout the year such as Saturday or Sunday night special worship events. In these I could stretch out a little, not be so formal, and invite people into a different kind of experience that would enrich what happened on Sunday mornings.

3. A heart to serve. Without a deep desire to serve others in their worship needs, our leadership rings hollow and fails to connect on a heart level. Jesus’ assertion that “he who is least among you will be the greatest” (Luke 9:38) is seldom applied and somehow the desire to be recognized and to “use our gifts for Jesus” obscures the true focus of worship, Jesus Himself.

Without these three things, our worship ministry is nothing more than a worship show. In the end, the only thing that will deepen authentic worship is for the beauty of Jesus to be prized above all as we exalt Him through passion, imagination, and true service to others. If we don’t hold these values as the dearest to our own hearts, no kind of light in the world, intelligent or not, is capable of making others worship Him.

John Chisum is a long-time Christian music business professional, ordained minister, songwriter, publisher, and worship leader. He is the former Director of Song Development and Copyright for Integrity Media, and the former Vice-president of Publishing for Star Song Communications. John has managed dozens of professional Christian songwriters such as Paul Baloche, Lynn DeShazo, Gary Sadler, and many others, and has had over 400 of his own songs recorded. Along with his business career, John is an internationally respected worship leader and has traveled over one-million miles in ministry worldwide, while constantly serving in local churches over the last 30 years. He holds a Masters of Arts in Worship Studies from Liberty University. John and his wife, Donna, have been married for 36 years and live in the Nashville area.

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