Christians know that God hates pride. Anyone who studies biblical worship cannot miss the foundational attitude of humility necessary for worship. Pride and humility are obviously not good bedfellows. Those of us who plan and lead in worship settings likely try to find ways to encourage an attitude of humility among worshipers. We may have studied pride so much that we take pride in our understanding of it. Huh? I am reminded of the old joke about the author’s book title, “Humility, and How I Attained It.” Have you ever heard a worship musician or preacher who you suspect may have been that author?
In a day when “perception is reality,” and people have a hunger for authenticity, we may find ourselves working hard to appear authentically humble. After all, looking and sounding humble might be “effective.” And on and on goes the utilitarian “worship as means” thinking. It is a trap of the human condition in our culture. And I suppose if we are going to be led in acts of worship by someone pretending, it is probably better if they are pretending to display an attitude that actually is meant to be a part of the function for which we are gathered, rather than something that is not.
Of course this kind of motivational core consideration is sort of inside talk. “Inside” in the sense that Worship Leaders are likely the ones to identify the struggle itself making this a Worship Leader to Worship Leader chat, but also “inside” in the sense that the battle really is going on inside our psyche. In fact, if we will allow, the struggle itself can serve to remind us that we remain in a fallen world. Advanced more personally, we are sinners saved by grace. Our sanctification process is most certainly going to reveal the rough places in our lives that are nothing like Jesus. Chipping away at pride is likely the toughest of all. Years of buildup may well yield pride that hardens to the point of being petrified. As musicians we have been taught to perform for recognition which may lead to prideful spirit. As preachers we have been trained to speak with attraction with similar results. Intoxicating adulation so easily leads us to believe we must be doing right. Bigger crowds? Larger budgets? Aren’t these the blessings of Kingdom success? Next thing we know we are at the point of personal prideful spirit, and lost between its lure and stench.
Our need for the saving grace of the Gospel continues in our “being saved” state every bit as much as in our “has been saved” condition, and must needs persevere into our “shall be saved” state that ushers us into the very presence of our Lord Himself in glory. In a very personal sense, our internal traps in today’s worship leadership role in evangelical settings may serve the purpose of humbling us in preparation for worship if we will pursue the Spirit in the Word to test our lives against Jesus, not against another performer. And when we are found wanting, it is the Spirit that can bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Rom 8:16)
Praying scripture privately and publically benefits worshipers including worship music leaders and preachers as we allow the Word to shape our wants, and confront our needs, including rooting out any prideful spirit. One of the reasons for written liturgy over the centuries of the Church has been to form our prayer. While we evangelicals steer away from such prescription, there is high value in praying prayers that align squarely with scripture and stretch out to cry the prayers for mercy, protection, salvation, and eternal praise that focus us, not only on ourselves and our own need, but the needs of the world.