Scripture of the Day: Ecclesiastes 7: 8-9

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. 

Recently I attended a leader’s meeting where  the statement was made that “there is pride in all worship leader’s hearts and so when we make changes it will ruffle some feathers.” These words have been fermenting inside me: I have been turning them over and around and up and down and sideways. I don’t like them. I don’t think I want to discuss in this forum why that is, but in all my fermentation, I have found myself in great contemplation on the issue of pride. 

When you type ‘pride’ into Bible Gateway’s search engine you get a lot of references in response. This alone suggests that the issue of pride resides in all of us, and is an important one within the Christian walk. I would tend to say that there is pride in us all, worship leaders included, but just because ‘feather’s are ruffled’, this is not necessarily a prideful response. It sure does make a convenient labelling system and platform for a leader who does not wish to have their decisions questioned, though! (Okay, I guess I wanted to say it after all — ha!) I’ve always hated labels, especially after studying labelling theory in the criminology studies of my youth. Labelling theory suggest that people live up to the labels placed upon them. As a Christian and a human being, I want my words to breathe life and love, not labels.

It does get complicated, though, when you are standing on stage holding a mike in hand and people are responding favourably to the noises that you are producing. It takes a regular reminder that the best worship leaders disappear  instead of standing out — we want the focus to be on Jesus, not on us. Someone once prophesied over me that God was moving me into a phase of invisibility; I have found that invisibility, for a worship leader, is a beautiful gift. If I can make you experience God, that is just better than making you experience Leigh. Sometimes, as leaders, we do need to beg God to make us less and Him more. Because if I get up on a Sunday morning and lead the congregation in singing and afterwards you are talking about how much you love my voice or song selection, well, okay, thank you. But if I lead on a Sunday and you say, I really felt God in the midst of us today when you led that song, Leigh — well, guess which one is the greater accomplishment?

So, I do think about pride. It does seem to me that God tends to take care of it without too much effort — every time I start to think, yeah baby! I am doing this well!  my voice will crack, or my volleyball-cracked up finger will hit two notes at once on the piano, or flu season will hit. Yeah, anytime I need God to humble me, all I need to do is recall that tiny micro-organisms can knock me completely right out of commission. Oh yeah, baby, I’m definitely all that.

I told someone yesterday that I can’t imagine a worse fate than being Jennifer Aniston. She laughed. People always do when I say this, because we all know instantly what I mean. It is not easy being in the public eye, regardless of the size of your particular audience. It’s not actually easy to stand on stage. It’s not actually easy to pick out songs for a congregation with faith that in your selections, God is moving and plans to meet His people. In fact, it’s a rather huge, rather daunting, rather humbling responsibility. Does it take pride to walk in that space? I’m not sure it’s a space that allows for pride, actually. I think it takes fear and trembling and falling at the feet of Jesus and just accepting that He has qualifications you do not. Oh sure, you can probably hit the right notes, at least most of the time, but we all know that is not what it is really about. 

So, what is the difference between pride and ego? I asked myself this week. Where is the line between pride and confidence? How do pride and humility spar off in my life, in my acts of service to the church?

I’ve been in churches where people have clapped with the worship as the songs are being sung, and where people have clapped in appreciation after a song has been sung. I’ve even been in churches where the worship leaders and the pastor’s receive standing ovations from their congregations. I’ve been in churches where no one would dream of clapping. I asked a friend about this once.

“I don’t feel comfortable when people clap for me when I lead worship. It’s not supposed to be about me.”

His more experienced response was calm, the verbal equivalent of a shoulder shrug. “If people want to clap, let them. They are expressing appreciation. It’s nice.”

When we say worship leading is not about us, we are saying we don’t control the response of the congregation. We don’t control the response of the critics. We don’t control those who misunderstand us, or read us wrong, or think poorly of us, feel competitive with us, might hurt us, might leave us, might disagree with us — or might love us. We are not in control. We are tools in the Master’s hands. How much pride is involved in being God’s chisel? In being the wet, grey clay that slides between his fingers and oozes under his fingernails as he sits at his potter’s wheel and molds us? It’s a good vision to hold within our hearts. God is the harpist playing the strings. I’m merely one of the strings on the harp. And yet, I’m a string which gets played by the Most High! What an amazing honour is that!

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

I’ve led for Pastors who made me feel appreciated and valued and for Pastors who have made me feel used and expendable. I’ve led on days when I have felt like everything clicked, days when people were moved to tears, days when I quite literally wanted to run off stage and throw up, and days when every single thing that could go wrong has exploded around me. I’ve led with musicians who are pros and with teens just barely starting out.  Sometimes I’ve been misunderstood. People have gossiped about me behind my back. Standing on stage, in the public’s “eye” isn’t all Brad Pitt and Versace gowns. As a leader, you are putting yourself out there, laying your heart on the line, standing in faith that you and God are in agreement and He is pleased, and when those around you disagree, there is pain.

Stepping back, breathing in and out, crying before God, they all allow you to rest patiently in God instead of jumping to a defensive posture of pride. Remember who you are, instead of telling yourself you are someone greater than you are, and remember whose you are. Remember what you are called to, and who you are called to be. On stage. off stage, you are grey mess in God’s hands. That is where your glory lies.

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