The Worship Leader's Paradox
A statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.
I wonder how much you have pondered the paradox that today's worship leaders face. We are constantly told, “It’s not about you...it’s not about you.” We keep telling ourselves, “It’s not about me...it’s not about me.” When we meet together with our team before the service we say to the LORD, “It’s not about us...it’s not about us.” Then the paradox begins.
First, we proceed to step out on a platform so we’re elevated to a point that people can see us. Then everyone else in the room is positioned so they are all looking at us. In many settings, all the lights are turned off except for special lighting which is pointed at us so that we are the only ones who are lit up. Then we are handed a microphone so that our voice can be heard above everyone else. We are then expected to look our best, sound our best, act our best, be engaging whether we feel like it or not, be charismatic whether we feel like it or not, and we are expected to meet a certain standard of excellence or be replaced by someone who does. Oh, and by the way, “It is your responsibility to lead us into the presence of God.” But it’s not about you. Wow! Everything about our environment screams the exact opposite of where we are called to live deep down in our being. This is our paradox.
Part of me (a big part) would love to go on a rant about how we got here, but in this short amount of space what would be the point? Here we are and we have to learn to navigate the tension of this paradox.
I say learn, but in reality “there is nothing new under the sun” (another paradox?). Learning to navigate the tension is a journey of relationship; relationship with God which translates into relationship with others. This is the invitation. This is the purpose of life. This is why my definition of worship has become simply ‘worship equals relationship’. Learning to navigate the tension of the worship leader’s paradox is all about navigating the tension of relationship.
Relationship requires engagement. Engagement implies doing. These two truths are good and right. But the tendency of humanity when it comes to relationship is to get over focused on the doing. We get over focused on the doing because our tendency is to focus on ourselves instead of God and others. This is how the worship leader’s paradox becomes such a snare.
A perfect and powerful example is Jesus in the home of Mary and Martha. At face value it can appear that Jesus is scolding Martha who was serving (doing) and that he is declaring Mary had chosen what is better (relational engagement). However, that conclusion does not line up with the rest of Jesus’ words and the scriptures. Jesus was pointing out what happens when doing gets disconnected from relational engagement. We get “worried and upset about many things” when the serving/doing is focused on ourselves. In fact, being worried and upset about many things is the exact indicator that the focus is on ourselves. Jesus is again helping us learn the ancient truth that serving/doing must stay connected to engagement/relationship.
So, what does it look like for you to stay engaged with God throughout your day? What does it look like for you to navigate the tension of the worship leader’s paradox? How do we keep the answers to these questions from becoming simply a ‘to do’ list? The answers are found in your journey of relationship with God and relationship with others...the very purpose of life. Worship is life!
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