Harmony Smith from Belfast City Vineyard shares her heart on worship leading and the dangers facing worship leaders.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
About a year ago that verse pretty much jumped off the page of my Bible and leapt into my heart. I had read it many times before, but at that moment it was as if that verse had neon lights around it. I knew that the ‘many things’ in my life were choking off the ‘One Thing’. I did not have the sort of single-mindedness that the Psalmist had.
Without time in His presence, time that is devoted to Him and not just doing things for Him, we cannot sustain our passion for Him.
If you are a worship leader or worship pastor in a local church like, you will know the pressure of Sunday and set lists, and bands and people… there are so many things to do in ministry. They are good things. But they can so easily distract us from the ‘One Thing’ – His presence! Without time in His presence, time that is devoted to Him and not just doing things for Him, we cannot sustain our passion for Him. And if our passion for Him begins to erode, then we can begin to lose our footing.
I need to be honest. I really struggle with the pressure of performance as a worship leader. I look at social media, the Christian book stalls, the conference worship scene… and I find it stirs up reactions in me that I don’t like. Things like jealousy, rejection, insecurity, fear and disappointment. I hate to even admit this. It is not who I want to be. I want to be pure in heart and wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus.
My aim was simply to survive the duration of a worship set because I couldn’t sing and play at the same time!
I remember when I first started leading worship. Someone in the worship team broke their arm. The church was small and so word got out that at some point I had played the piano. I said yes when asked, because I wanted to serve and I wanted to be obedient to Jesus. That is how I started leading worship. It was pure. It was simple.
I remember the innocence of those early days of leading worship. I wasn’t aspiring to record a CD, or lead worship at a conference. My aim was simply to survive the duration of a worship set because I couldn’t sing and play at the same time!
The limelight is attractive. The pull towards the conference stage is hard to resist. The desire to be noticed is very real.
I think it’s time for us as worship leaders to start talking far more candidly: The limelight is attractive. The pull towards the conference stage is hard to resist. The desire to be noticed is very real. The battle with jealousy can be far more toxic than we care to admit.
We have images coming at us every day about what a ‘successful’ worship leader should look like, sound like and what this person should be doing. (My husband calls it worship porn!) But even now as I write this, unsung heroes are leading worship in nations across the world and we will never know their name. So I must ask myself, whose name am I trying to make known? Mine or Jesus’?
I suppose the question is: What defines ‘success’ as a worship leader? What does a ‘win’ look like? How do I measure it? Could it be that it’s different for each one of us? Could it be that part of our problem is that we are measuring ourselves against other people’s ministry? Some people really are called by Jesus to minister to the thousands, to release recordings to the wider church! My life has been richly blessed through these worship leaders. Some of them are my dear friends. But the reality is that we are not all called to that.
I am responsible for me and leading my own soul into worship. I am not responsible for the masses.
As I have reflected upon ‘success’ looks like for me, I think it looks primarily like leading myself. Yes, that’s right. Leading myself. Sometimes I am way too concerned about whether other people are worshipping and following Jesus, and not nearly concerned enough about whether I am worshipping. What if I worshipped 24/7? What if this is my primary calling? I am responsible for me and leading my own soul into worship. I am not responsible for the masses.
A couple of times a worship leader has confessed to me that they can only really engage in worship when they are leading on stage. I am not here to judge. But I am responsible for my heart and my trajectory. I don’t want to be one of those worship leaders. But am I building in rhythms with Jesus that will nurture the single-mindedness that I really long for?
And so, I step out of striving. I step into freedom. I remember where I came from and the innocence and purity with which I began leading worship. And I boldly ask that this would mark my life!
I need to be in His presence, not just to craft a worship set, but to I need to worship. It is in His Presence that all those false narratives of fear and rejection and jealousy are undone and kept at bay. Because in His Presence I am reminded of who I really am. Those lies crumble and melt away when the real and living Jesus comes and heals them.
And so, I step out of striving. I step into freedom. I remember where I came from and the innocence and purity with which I began leading worship. And I boldly ask that this would mark my life! That I would be known as someone who is passionate about the Presence of Jesus. Someone who has contended for the One Thing, over the many things!
Check out this link to listen to Harmony’s EP “The Feast” and also download chords for the songs including “One Thing”
Article originally appeared on Acoustic Shack. Reproduced with the kind permission of Acoustic Shack. Acoustic Shack aim to resource worship in the local church by creating a forum for songwriters to share worship songs online.