Worship leaders, it is not about you. In fact, the moment you begin to think that your church’s worship service revolves around you, your worship has shifted from Jesus Christ to the idols of approval and self-importance.
One of the most important things you can do as a leader, in worship or in any other area of ministry, is to train your own replacement. This doesn’t mean that you will necessarily have to be replaced, but it means that you can be. The thought of building someone up for the specific purpose of fulfilling your own responsibilities is counter-intuitive and flies in the face of our culture’s definition of success…but I believe it is one of the most biblical leadership moves you can make. Chances are that this is not found anywhere in your job description (if you have one); in fact, most worship leader job descriptions I have read actually convey the exact opposite sentiment, either implicitly or explicitly expecting worship leaders to "do it all."
Yet I stand firm in this: equipping and empowering other people on your team to lead is one of the most important parts of a worship leader's job. There are many reasons why I believe this to be true, but I want to give you just three reasons why it is absolutely vital to your growth and to the growth of your ministry that you constantly work to pass the mic (hat tip to the Beastie Boys).
Training someone to do what you do will help combat the constant enemy of pride.
A church is built on one person, and one person only. That person is Jesus Christ. A church or ministry is not built on a pastor, a worship leader, a youth pastor, an elder, a board member, or any other individual in a local congregation. It doesn’t matter how dynamic your personality is or how gifted you are at your craft of speaking/singing/playing. The church does not ride on your shoulders. It may feel that way sometimes; in fact, other people in your church may be all to eager to feed into this lie. After all, a worship leader is one of the most visible and prominent people in many/most congregations. You are the one on the stage. You are the one who shows up week after week. You are the one who receives the “atta-boys” and the affirmations after service every week.
If we’re not careful, every worship leader, every vocalist, every musician, every preacher will start to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Pride is an ever-present beast seeking to turn our eyes away from Jesus, lead us astray, and devour us.
Whenever I talk to new worship leaders, I encourage them to always be looking for the next person who can do what they do, and to begin investing in that person. When we do this, the focus shifts from erecting idols of ourselves to building up the kingdom by equipping and empowering others. As we build these people up and give them greater areas of responsibility and leadership - as we share the stage and pass the mic - we soon realize just how replaceable we are. This, in turn, leads us to a beautiful place of humility and thankfulness. And that is the kind of heart that can more freely and authentically worship the King.
Jesus commands us to train disciples.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. - Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
Equipping and empowering other leaders within your ministry is one way that we can fulfill the Great Commission. We are called to make disciples of all nations. If your specific calling is to lead worship in a local church, then part of your God-given mission is also to train disciples within your church, your ministry, and your community.
My fruit grows on someone else’s tree.
I heard a pastor speak these words at a conference a few years ago, and the imagery has stuck with me. The fruit of your ministry will not be seen in your own accolades; your fruit will be seen in the lives of those around you. And trust me, there are few things in ministry sweeter than watching someone you have mentored, developed, encouraged, and empowered step into the full potential of their gifting.
As much as I love to worship and help inspire others to do the same, my joy goes to a whole new level when others on my team step into that leadership role. It is not intimidating, it is not threatening, it is not demeaning. Discipleship is our explicit mission, and the privilege of watching that process come to fruition is one of the most rewarding experiences in ministry.
God will build you up in the process.
If you are not growing, you are dying.
Only God knows your full potential and the things that are in store for you. The danger we face as worship leaders is that if we rest in our own perceived significance, we will miss out on the even greater things that God has in store for us. I can’t give a prescription for personal growth, promise you a pay raise, or guarantee that you will land one day at bigger church with a bigger worship budget and professionally trained musicians on your team.
But I can promise you that God is not done with you. Unfortunately, the biggest barrier to our own personal and spiritual growth is often ourselves. When we shift our focus to building and equipping others on our team for leadership, God will grow you in the process. You will be amazed at where you end up 5 years down the road simply by being obedient to equip the church. As you pass the mic and allow other members of your team to step into greater roles of visible leadership, it does not mean that you become less of a leader. On the contrary, this is the highest form of leadership: equipping and empowering others.
I have tried to approach my life and ministry with this mindset of leadership development for the past decade. Throughout that time period, God has amazed me by his faithfulness to encourage, equip, and empower me. As I have had the opportunity to release other members of my team(s) into leadership roles, my role was not reduced or replaced; instead, it was expanded and increased. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said, “to him who is faithful with much, much will be given.” I found this to be as true in a smaller church of about 100-150 people as it is in my current church that is ten times the size. When you allow God to release you from the lie that you need to lead every Sunday, you be able to more fully find rest and identity in Him rather than in your role. And who knows what other doors will be opened to you!