As worship leaders, we are called to use our gifts of music and creativity to serve, edify, and lead God’s people to genuinely worship Him, not only in moments of congregational singing but in all of life. While it is indeed helpful to be gifted, the impact of our leadership is truly only as deep as our personal lives of devotion. It is imperative that we cultivate depth and authenticity in our relationship with the Lord, specifically behind closed doors. That way, when we’re given the opportunity to lead, shepherd, and encourage God’s people to worship Him in spirit and truth, we’ll lead from a place of genuine overflow.
Throughout the past several years of serving the Church as a worship leader, I have had ample opportunity and temptation to build a platform of ministry on the foundation of personality, gifting, charisma, and woo. Because people are finite and broken, it’s not hard to impress or to feign an authentic presentation of depth. However, we all know that there are really no substitutes for the real thing. We all know that the only real foundation upon which we can build a life of ministry that bears lasting fruit in the lives of others is one of an abiding intimacy with Christ. When I feel myself drinking from the empty wells of performance and presentation, I fight to return to a few core truths about God’s intended lifestyle for the worshiper.
AN AUTHENTIC LIFESTYLE OF WORSHIP is Born out of an Abiding Relationship with Christ
This is a truth that we all know and affirm. We preach and call others to it, but we don’t always practice it. We don’t always prioritize and build our schedules and daily lives around intentional time spent with the Lord. I am fully convinced that there is no substitute for a real, personal, consistent, friendship with Jesus.
“I am the Vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
As the Vine, Jesus is our true and only source of life. He is the Fountain of Living Water. He is the Bread of Life. He is our sufficiency. Any attempt to find joy, wisdom, direction, satisfaction, and identity outside of Him is a vain and empty pursuit. When we recognize and engage with Jesus as our Source, we make the conscious choice to prioritize communion with Him moment by moment. He empowers and energizes us to live lives that are fully pleasing to Him and bear eternal fruit in every good work. Fruit bearing is inevitable with abiding. The quality and quantity of the fruit may vary, but the presence of fruit is inevitable.
AN AUTHENTIC LIFESTYLE OF WORSHIP Encompasses All of Life
Often, in an effort to assert control, we relate to God as though He is just one among many in a list of our priorities. He may even be first, but He is still on the same plane as all of the other things in life that we value. When we read passages like Matthew 22:36, “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength,” and Colossians 1:16-17, “for by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, all things were created through Him and for Him,” we get a pretty good glimpse of what God requires of us. The Lord makes it clear that He doesn’t want to be one in the list of all of other priorities, He wants to be the very framework into which all of our priorities fit. In terms of how we spend our time, talents, and resources, the person of Christ and the mission of Christ are to be what we filter all other priorities in life. Our devotion to God is meant to be expressed in every facet of our being and of our lives.
AN AUTHENTIC LIFESTYLE OF WORSHIP is Sacrificial
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:1-2.
An authentic lifestyle of worship involves sacrifice. It is a life laid down for the sake of God’s glory and the good of others. It is a heart always willing to say to God, “not my will but Yours be done”. Jesus modeled what it looks like to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The ultimate picture of that affection was His submission to the Father’s will in laying down His life. Where there is no sacrifice, there is no genuine love. Our willingness to lay down what the Lord might ask us for the sake of the Gospel is one of the most extravagant expressions of devotion.
Do not be conformed to this world. God has called us to be distinct from the world around us. We are not those who ride the wave and go with the flow. Instead, we are those who sacrificially live on mission. We are distinct in calling, distinct in character, distinct in purity and holiness before God, even if/when it results in rejection from men. Devotion to Jesus is costly. It makes demands on our comfort. It makes demands on our relationships. It makes demands on the positions that we take and our public reputation. We live as those who are exiles in foreign land with an allegiance to a better King and a better Kingdom that will never come to an end.
AN AUTHENTIC LIFESTYLE OF WORSHIP is Cultivated in Secret
Intimacy with Chris is cultivated behind closed doors where no one sees you. No one is there to reward you, be impressed by you, or affirm you for your faithfulness.
Intimacy is Jesus stepping away from the crowds and His disciples for moments of solitude and communion with the Father. Intimacy is Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus in Luke 10 to listen to His voice. Intimacy is David expressing that the one thing he desired of all the things to be desired was to dwell in the presence of God and to gaze upon His beauty and inquire in His temple. Intimacy is the confession of the Psalmist in Psalm 84 that “I'd rather be a door keeper in the presence of God than to dwell in the courts of the wicked.”
Over and over in the Gospels we see Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Specifically how outwardly extravagant the Pharisees were in their worship and how demonstrative in their devotion, but within the secret of their hearts they were white-washed tombs. The Pharisees didn’t truly practice what they preached. They were immaculate on the outside, but within their hearts they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
We have to be those whose secret life of devotion exceeds, or at least matches, what we do in front of people. How you relate to Christ behind closed doors is the substance and reality of your relationship with Him. We are not above the threat of hypocrisy, and so we must guard against it, and surround ourselves with people who are going to call us out and challenge us toward authenticity.
AN AUTHENTIC LIFESTYLE OF WORSHIP is for the Glory of God
It is evident throughout all of scripture that God’s glory is the ultimate end of all that He does. If that is true, then His glory must be the ultimate end of all that we do too.
Everything that God does is for His glory and His renown on the earth is in all things. Everything that He purposes, everything that He allows, is for His glory. When God acts, it is for the sake of His glory. That happens to benefit us in many ways because God loves us and has invited us into His story. But make no mistake about it – God is for God.
The authentic worshiper makes it their aim to take every opportunity to draw attention to the only one who is actually worthy of their worship. They unapologetically make much of Him in every space and at every turn without reservation. They want to be those like John the Baptist, who, when put in a position to exalt himself above the Messiah, boldly proclaimed, “He must increase and I must decrease.”
God has given us everything that we need to live lives of radical devotion to Jesus that spills over into all of our effort to serve and edify the Church. He has shown us a better pathway to our ultimate joy than the temporary rewards that come with doing just enough to fake it. I pray that He would empower us by His grace to live in abiding fellowship with Christ, to worship Him with every facet of our lives, to love Him in secret, and to do all for the glory of God!