What really matters: Humility
“Attitudes count more than achievements…
This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.”
– Rick Warren, ‘The Purpose-Driven Life’
One of the many astonishing things about the Christian faith is that we have a humble God. I hope I never stop marvelling at this! Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, came to earth not as a mighty warrior but as a baby who would grow up to become a ‘suffering servant’ (see Isaiah 52 & 53). That’s probably not on any of our lists of life goals – ‘become a suffering servant’ – and yet Christ came to demonstrate to us in every way possible that humility is the key to our lives and our path to God.
If you had to suggest the three most significant words in the Bible, would you choose ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:16), or ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30)? What about, ‘He humbled Himself’ (Phil 2:8)? As this passage describes, Jesus emptying Himself of His glory is so profound that to talk about the necessity for us as worship musicians to be humble seems trite and trivial in comparison.
After all, who gave us the gifts to begin with? Who has opened every door of opportunity we’ve ever walked through? God, our Father who knows how to give good gifts (Matt 7:11) and who is a God of grace, is the source of any talent we possess and the one who orders our steps. He does call us to be good stewards of our gifts and to ‘play skilfully’, (Ps 33:3) which only comes through diligent practice, but the gift is exactly that – a gift - and has come from Him alone. As parents, seeing our son Matthew ‘air drumming’ as a tiny toddler in his car seat – in his sleep! - is proof of that. He is gifted, yes - he was born with it! Thankfully, he has been a good steward of his gifts as well.
So, recognising the source of our gifts, here are a few initial thoughts (in no particular order) for us worship musicians to consider:
It takes humility to remember that, though we stand on platforms or stages, we’re not the main attraction – worship leading is all about pointing people to God. “For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36)
It takes humility to submit your gift to the worship team, and to team leadership. To serve when it doesn’t always suit you personally, or when it costs something of yourself. To respect other people’s time, and be punctual and reliable. To do what you committed to do. To be a team player, and have eyes to see each other’s strengths, more than each other’s weaknesses.
It takes humility for a young person to understand the value of the worship of previous generations of worshippers, whether the choruses of the 80s or the anthems of the 90s or the hymns of the Wesleys; to appreciate how each generation of believers were helped by them, and to recognise value in them even if it’s not a style of music you yourself prefer. And equally for older people to see value in the current worship songs loved by the young. A good worship leader will always consider the different generations in the church, as we worship as one family.
It takes humility to be on a small platform. Can we be content with the size of the context we function in? I don’t mean that we don’t desire the church to grow, what I mean is, if it’s always ‘local church’ is that ok? It also takes humility to be on a big platform. It can be easy to secretly think we must be pretty amazing and especially talented to be able to lead so many people in worship. It can be easy to lose sight of grace. But is there anything significant that came through our ministry that didn’t come from God’s hand?
I remember Terry Virgo encouraging us to beware of false humility – “it wasn’t me, it was the Lord!” Terry used to joke that if that was the case, the Lord probably would have done it better! How amazing it is that God is willing to use us in His purposes – to lead people in worship, to pray for healing and salvation, to preach or to prophecy, and in so many other ways. We can have the joy of playing a part, we just need to always bear in mind that it’s God by His Spirit who will open the eyes of people’s hearts, save their souls, and heal their hearts and bodies. Matt Redman once said, “It takes humility to recognise that only God can do meaningful things.” By His grace He is pleased to use us, but it’s His work and His glory.
That perspective helps us to not look for the ‘hands in the air’ as a measure of success for a worship time. We don’t have the full picture of what God is doing in people’s hearts when they’re in His presence. Just as God often speaks in ‘the still, small voice’, it may not be the loudest, most demonstrative worship encounter that may be the most significant in someone’s life. It may be in the times when you’re looking out over the congregation thinking, ‘is everyone ok out there?’
It takes humility to learn from feedback, and welcome it, and to maintain an attitude of lifelong learning (‘every day’s a school day!’). To be open to change, new directions and ideas. To learn from people younger than you (my son is my social media tutor!). Teachability is something we always look for in worship team members.
It takes humility not to be easily offended, because of insecurity and pride. It takes humility to be glad for opportunities given to others, and not be threatened by them. This is a much bigger issue than one sentence would suggest. C S Lewis has said, “Pride gets not pleasure out of having something, only having more of it than the next man.” It makes no sense to want to be useful to God, but not want the same for others. God has a plan for all of us, and has generously given gifts to all of us. The person whose gift you may feel threatened by, or jealous of, desires to be used by God just as much as you do. And God is pleased to use them as much as He is pleased to use you. We are all recipients of His grace. If you struggle in this area, or with someone in particular, pray for God’s blessing on them, even if it’s through gritted teeth to begin with. Pray for genuine friendship, for common ground, to see things through their eyes. Ask God to help you love them. That you will be genuinely pleased when they do well, and glad for their success. You can’t walk around this one, you have to walk through it. But you might be amazed at how He can turn things around (and how much better it is on the other side).
There is a lifetime of learning attached to the word ‘humility’ and this is only the smallest scratch of its surface. There will be more to say on this subject on other days. But for now, for those of us in worship teams, in fact, for any of us in the church, here’s a wonderful description of how we should be with each other, from Colossians 3:12-17, in The Message:
“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment.
Never be without it. Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.
Let the Word of Christ – the Message – have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your heart out to God! Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”
© Kate Simmonds 2020