Article: Worship: Success & Identity
Worship: Success & Identity
As promised, here is the start of regular posts from leaders within the NewWineWorship family!
First up is Mark Reid, a BA student at stmellitus serving at Woodlands Church, Bristol.
Thank you Mark for an honest and timely message during this season of lent.
Worship: Success & Identity
It is fascinating and inspiring to hear some of the powerful things God is doing across the earth through the various worship movements that have been set up. We see the pictures and watch the videos of God working in astounding ways through quality musicianship and creativity. We might even long to be a part of that.
However, if you’re anything like me you may also feel a sense of pressure or even dread when approaching worship leading. Thoughts like: “If my leading doesn’t sound like that of Hillsong United, or isn’t as anointed as Bethel Music, will I be seen as successful? Will I make it as a ‘good worship leader?’” spring to mind. To some, it may sound ridiculous, but I have lived with these tensions and I don’t think I’m alone.
A trait of God’s character that always brings me to my knees is that He takes our human weakness and immaturity and crafts us into something beautiful, for His glory. Just like the potter in Jeremiah 18. Life is a journey, a pilgrimage. God leads us through times of shaking, so we learn to trust Him, seek His face and thus discover and live in our identity as children of God. It’s a paradox of a lifelong pursuit and an instant reality. We all have a story to tell, a testimony to share and much of mine is based on this theme and this question: “Where do I find my success?”
What is “success”? How do we define it? Well, success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” So, no wonder the culture we live in views big cheque books, high positions in the workplace and a tonne of followers on Instagram as successful. Why? Because success is associated with ‘the big thing’. Let’s be honest here, does culture view the CEO of the big company or the night shift support worker as more successful? I think if you asked your average person on the street, they would say the CEO. I wonder if the same thinking has crept into worship leadership? Do we associate success with the title and the ministry?
Success is knowing our identity in God
Our definition of success is closely associated to how we form our identity. But, there is hope for the Christian and despairing worship leader as we do not have to have the ‘big’ ministry or title to be successful. Mike Bickle of IHOPKC writes: “Our primary objective in life is to be loved by God and simply love Him in return.” If we do this, we are successful; we are doing what we were put on this earth to do - Love God! Choosing intimacy with Him!
If we observe Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:17, as he arose from the baptismal waters and the Spirit like a dove descended on Him, the Father says: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” (MSG)
At this point, Jesus has done nothing of earthly recognition. He hasn’t done any miracles. He hasn’t healed anybody, raised anybody from the dead or fed the 5000. He has simply existed. Yet, through the eyes of His Father, He is successful because He is fulfilling His primary objective on the earth: to be loved by God and love him in return.
“If you live for people’s praise, you’ll die from their criticism”
Chris Sayburn recently tweeted: “If you live for people’s praise, you’ll die from their criticism.”
In this world we live in, there will always be criticism whether it is just or unjust. There will always be ridicule; there will always be the internal, insecure questions of “am I good enough?” There will always be the poison of envy and pride that rot us from the inside out, and there will always be the pressure of striving to be somebody ‘for God’. However, imagine living in the reality that we are loved fully and unconditionally before we’ve done anything. Before we’ve sung a note, struck a chord or scribbled down a lyric. We are loved and seen as successful by the living God. That is transforming! If we can live in that reality, we can risk anything!
So, when we face the questions of “Am I any good?” (Insecurity), “Am I better than the rest?” (Envy), and “How can I make sure I’m always ahead of everybody else” (Pride)… Let’s remember that we are children of God, who are loved unconditionally (Security), called to be content with where the Lord has placed us in the current season (Confidence), and to encourage and affirm ourselves and those around us as those equally loved by our heavenly Father (Humility).
I believe this is something that all worship leaders need reminding of whether they’re aged 15 or 115. He is already impressed with us! We are made in His image, with His own Spirit residing within us. If we build our identity from that reality, we will live in much more freedom. If we build our identity on other people’s praise and acceptance, we may as well be living Matthew 7:24-27. My prayer is that across the New Wine Worship Family, we will continue to walk true to our primary calling as children of the living God…
So, as the famous Irish playwright says…
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” – Oscar Wilde