Hey everyone! Lee McDerment, here…Worship Director at NewSpring Church. I’ve been serving in this position since I started with the church right after graduating college in May of 2000. I was 22 years old then. Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning) the hard way. I hope they’re helpful to you!
1. Know Your Bible or Shut the Heck Up
If you’re a young worship leader, this is my first advice to you. Read your Bible. Get all the words under your eyes. The Spirit will then flood your transitional statements, your prayers, and your songwriting with the Truth. The Words of Christ are the only ones guaranteed to produce faith in people (Romans 10:17)! If you haven’t read the entire Bible yet, consider limiting what you say to, “Welcome! Stand and sing! Please be seated,” until you’ve read it all. I had been working in ministry for 3 years before I’d finally read through the Bible. After seeing it all, I was a changed man and a more effective leader. Seriously, it’s the best gift you can give to yourself and your people.
2. Submit to Authority or Satan. Your Choice
Worship Leader, you’ll never be at peace until you get this right. I was the worst at this for a long time, hating every song suggestion and bit of constructive criticism from my Pastor. Jesus said, “All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me.” What I learned from this passage was that my main problem wasn’t with Perry. My problem was with Jesus. I learned that my submission to my leaders was a simple extension of my submission to Jesus. Don’t be a YES man. Learn how to push back in love and loyalty, with the right timing. But be warned… If you aren’t submitting to your leaders, you aren’t submitting to Christ; which essentially equals submission to the Enemy (Matthew 12:30).
3. Replace Yourself or Die
You have been called to make disciples – to build the Church. This means you have to do the slow, hard work of pouring your image into other people. It takes time. It’s exhausting and heartbreaking… but it will INCREASE your value to the organization, not decrease it. The harder you try to replace yourself, the more irreplaceable you become! The benefits are huge. What if God is wanting to greatly increase the size and scope of your ministry, but like a Good Father, is refusing to do so because you feel like you’re the only person who can manage it all. God loves you and will not curse you with success when it would only kill you. Replace yourself and receive the blessing of God.
4. Rest, You Idiot
Perry has said this before and it’s so true: God calls those who won’t work, “Lazy”; but he calls those who won’t rest, “disobedient.” If you won’t obey the 4th commandment, it’s likely that you will commit all the others. Time works like money in many ways. If we tithe, the other 90% of our income is blessed. If we Sabbath well on one day, the other 6 days are blessed. Live in blessing. Ministers often have Messiah complex issues. You ain’t Jesus. So, take a break before you break. Also, working 52 straight Sundays in a year isn’t honorable. It’s dangerous, unsustainable, and stupid. See lesson #3 and take a much needed breath!
5. You’re Too Famous for the Club
If you’re a young worship leader, you’re in a unique position. You are probably adored by everyone in your church and are given local celebrity status. So, if you decide you want to go downtown after work and have a few drinks, keep this in mind: Everywhere you go, people don’t just see you… they see your pastor, your staff, your band, and Jesus. Congratulations. Welcome to the spotlight. You have to remember whom you are and what you’re responsible for… come on, you’re too famous to even be rude to your barista at Starbucks, let alone losing control at a bar. You’ll find more freedom in being the same person everywhere, including your stage. Choose your lifestyle wisely. Jesus is the perfect model for how to live and who to associate with.
Bonus: The Way Up Is Down
All of us have big dreams. We want to be great, because Greatness has been placed inside us! The hardest lesson for me to learn was that in God’s economy, exaltation comes after humiliation. “Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:44). Jesus marked out the path for us. He was given the Name above every name because he gave up his position and emptied himself to serve us. Want to be great? Choose the path of humility. A mentor of mine has a wonderful prayer that we often pray before we go on stage: “Jesus, we don’t have to be great, just please make us useful.” That’s my prayer for all of us today.