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Becoming the Invisible Man

John Cotton, a Puritan preacher who lived in the 16th and 17th century, had some interesting points to consider about musicians and worship leaders.

One such point is that while New Testament scripture instructs on the qualifications for the appointment of elders to teach and preach, there is no such instruction on appointing worship leaders or musicians. Why is that?

In the book, Te Deum, by Paul Westermeyer, the author points out that according to Cotton, singing belongs essentially to the congregation. He goes on to say,

It suggests the uniqueness of the musician’s “office” or “role” or “vocation.” The musician’s job is to get out of the way so the people can in fact sing. The musician turns out to be invisible, in a way the preacher and presider are not.

Preachers, pastors, elders–whatever title–stand out as they are called out. The goal of the musician or singer leading the congregation is that he become so transparent, so see-through, that people look into the nature and character of God in true worship.

Reminds me of a quote from Bob Sorge in his book, Exploring Worship,

…the supreme goal of worship [is] to see only the Lord.

Only the Lord. Sure there may be hundreds or even thousands standing around. There may be lots of activity that would provide distraction. But the power of worship is when all that fades into nothing and your focus is solely on Him.

Part of that is the responsibility of the worship leader and part of that is the responsibility of the worshiper.

As a guy who stands up front playing an instrument and leading songs, it certainly takes effort at times to get the attention off you. Sometimes it takes effort to want to get the attention off you (that was Lucifer’s problem), but it’s completely necessary and by God’s design.

A lot of hard work, time, and resources went into developing musical skills, gaining knowledge, and practicing. There were lessons, classes, chapel services, multiple church services per week, camps, retreats, team practices, and more. Still, the greatest joy is when you know people are “getting it” and seeing beyond you, experiencing His glorious presence.

I know people complimenting me or my music is not always bad or wrong, and I certainly wouldn’t advocate for a false humility of “Oh I have nothing and I’m just a dog.”

But if the greatest recognition I receive is from people who love my songs, my voice, or anything else, I will have failed. I want the greater recognition to be as I stand before the King and He says, “Good job. They got to see Me.”

We may not all be worship leaders, but we all have opportunity to become transparent and allow God’s love, grace, and goodness to be seen in a broken world. And in turn they’ll sing their song of praise.

Worship leader or not, what are your thoughts on this?

12 Comments

  1. When I pray before I preach I say, “Help me to hide behind the cross that we might see Jesus and Jesus only.” I can’t stop people from “honoring me” with their words. But I should not crave them. That is idol worship. Those of us in front do walk a fine line sometimes.

    • Exactly. It’s not bad that people notice us, but if that’s all they notice, how sad is that! Thanks so much, Bill.

  2. When my husband and I were leading contemporary worship, this was a constant concern for us. Sure, we wanted the congregation to like the music, but more importantly, we prayed it would transport them to that place where only God is the object of their singing and praise. No matter who is leading the way in a service, he or she should always be pointing away from themselves and toward the cross.
    Blessings, Jason!

    • It takes a lot of readjusting to stay in that heart and attitude but it’s certainly worth it. Thank you, Martha!

  3. This post is very true. It is so easy to put the spotlight on yourself instead of God. I realized this sometime last year when God used a medical issue to get my attention. I realized that even though I had a amazing opportunity to sing and play the piano during a service that it wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about how amazing I looked on stage or how amazing I sounded (though it is important to sound at least decent when your on stage). It was about pointing people towards God and not putting the spotlight on me, because He is the ultimate reason we worship. Thank you, Jason!

    • Very true. It comes back to the idea that if we place or value on how well we do then we will feel worthless if things don’t go well. We practice and do our best but completely rely on grace. Good thoughts, Jaylynn. Thank you.

  4. I don’t play or sing in a worship team but I do sing solo’s at times. and it works the same for me..I pray for exactly the right song to go along with the message. And for me, I love it when those who come to me , sometimes in tears and say, the words to that song touched me so much. I don’t like it when someone tells me how great I sing because I know I do not have a great voice. But I have learned to reply, thank you and let it go at that. No matter ones part in a church service we are to bring Him honor, sunday school teachers, ushers, preachers, song leaders, soloist, choirs, it all should brings one heart to the throne to worship Him. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t. Usually when it does not happen for me, it’s because my heart is elsewhere. My husband and I get plenty of attention because we are “missionary”. It’s attention that we have learned to challenge people through by telling them, God can use anyone. Whatever He has ask you to do, go do it. Great post.

    • You hit the nail on the head. Thanks so much, Betty!

  5. I’d say your heart is in the right spot, Jason. God uses those with humility, the ones without it just get in the way… stumbling blocks. One of the greatest traits, the most beautiful in any human, is humility. Good reminder.

    • I appreciate that, Floyd. I know some days are better than others, but I’m learning! Thank you, my friend.

  6. I had never really thought about worship leaders like this before but as I read this I thought of some of my favorite worship leaders and you’re right--all of them became invisible as they brought me into the throne room of God and I worshiped Him. I stopped seeing and hearing the person(s) singing as I communed with God.

    Thought provoking and enlightening post.

    • That’s great. Glad it was thought provoking! I honestly didn’t expect much feedback on this one but I love all the points everyone has brought out. Thank you, TC.

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