Good worship is formative. Good worship actually makes disciples in the moment of worship. It reflects what 2 Corinthians 3:18 teaches: we grow by beholding (see my post about that).
I meet many earnest young worship leaders who describe themselves as having huge pride-problems. “I really struggle with pride,” or “My pride so often gets in the way of me being a worship leader,” they say. I get it. I remember those same deep struggles when I was in high school and college (not that I’ve somehow licked my pride…I just look at it differently). I remember agonizing over my inability to get over my pride. I remember hating my hubris. I remember being so frustrated with how often I thought of myself in the moment of worship or worship leading. (I hope people think my voice sounds as awesome as I do right now! Man, my arrangement is really spectacular! Are my armpits sweaty?)
It’s quite natural. We’re all curved in on ourselves. I used to think that the solution was an earnest pursuit of humility—to study its virtues and to imitate its champion, Jesus Christ. In other words, I thought that attaining humility was a work of doing. I’ve come to believe, now, that overcoming pride is actually the un-work of beholding. And no one has said it better than C. FitzSimons Allison, so I leave you with him:
We are rarely exhorted in scripture to be humble, because the Christian religion comprehends the tricky quicksand present in the relationship of pride to humility. Humility is a fruit of the Christian life. We cannot become humble simply by giving up our pride. Humility is not something we can seize. To approach it directly with the intention of attaining humility will only lead one into more subtle avenues of pride. It is a by-product of leading a Christian life. People regarded as saints in the history of Christianity are a diverse and dissimilar lot, but they seem to have one thing in common, something of that humility we see in Christ. And yet none seemed self-conscious or aware of being humble. They did not seek to be humble but to follow the humble Lord.
This is done in the life of worship, not just in a service but in an entire life that does continually “behold the humble Lord.” How then is the fear of being humble overcome in worship? There is an important rule of thumb in worship: we become like that which we worship. This can in part be understood when we notice how people tend to copy or unconsciously mimic those whom they respect. In one law school there was a widely respected visiting lecturer who, when he spoke, had a habit of grasping his lapels and rocking upon the balls of his feet. It is said that a whole generation of lawyers adopted this practice of grasping their coat lapels and rocking back and forth as they addressed the court. Who has not observed how young boys at summer camp will pick up the mannerisms of some respected counselor? One high school teacher insists that his students walk with a decided wager on Wednesday mornings after watching the Wyatt Earp show on television the night before. If it is true that we tend to copy or emulate that which we respect, it is much more so that we tend to become like that which we worship. Of course, this is in part what the Incarnation is all about. As St. Athanasius pointed out in the fourth century, “He became aw we are in order that we might become as he is.” We see in Christ not only what God is like but what we are to be [a]s our intention and destiny. Our worship, our life of beholding the humble Lord, is the means whereby we may become as he is.*
Worship leaders, do you want to lick your pride? Stop trying so hard to be humble and orient the worship services you plan and the very worship of your life outward and upward to Jesus Christ. Look on Him, ponder Him, adore Him. Then repeat.