Different churches have different expectations for those asked to serve in worship. Some churches have dress codes and others have requirements on how long someone has been attending there before they can serve.
What requirements does God have for those that would serve in worship? What type of men would God choose to lead in worship? In answering those questions I came to the realization that God’s expectations and mine are very different and chances are they are different than the expectations your leadership has for your worship leaders as well.
Men Who Are Flawed
In many churches across the country worship has become less about the praising of God and more about the attraction of visitors. One needs only to look at how many churches structure their budgets around bigger and better kid centers, coffee bars, and sound systems to see this attitude in effect. It’s not that these things are wrong in and of themselves, but they often represent a way of thinking that is at best short-sighted and at worst destructive to the gospel.
If you’re reading this it’s rather unlikely that you go to a church where you have flashing lights, smoke machines, and a live band, but that doesn’t mean this attitude of commodifying worship isn’t present in your congregation.
I have been a part of a more than a few meetings throughout my ministry where worship was discussed. Though we had several men capable of song leading, only one was chosen to lead Sunday morning worship because we wanted our best when the most visitors were there (the other song leaders were relegated to Sunday evening worship). We had discussion on the length of the communion talk and what men would likely not be chosen again because of how long they spoke. We trained our men to go up to the stage when the man before them was performing his task so that we could immediately transition from one act of worship to the next without too much downtime and silence all because downtime and silence makes us look unprofessional to the visitors.
We did all of this not because we wanted worship to be more pleasing to God, but because we wanted worship to be more attractive to those that visited. I am ashamed that I did not speak out against that mentality and that I was part of a leadership that denied God-approved men the privilege of serving in worship because they didn’t fit our man-made mold of what a worship leader should look like.
The words of God to the prophet Samuel still ring true today:
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart.”
(1 Samuel 16:7)
If our goal as a church is to please men then we will quickly find ourselves making decisions that God would not. God does not reject the worship of someone who spoke a little too long or ended up not saying enough. God does not reject someone based on their clothing, the amount of time they have been a Christian, or their lack of eloquence. God does not reject the worship of someone who says too many “uhs” in their prayers or leads songs too slowly. God isn’t looking for perfect, polished men to stand up before His assembly of believers; He’s looking for the faithful and the flawed with hearts that are broken and contrite (Psalm 51:17).
Men Who Are Holy
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes the following instructions to the young minister:
“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands
without anger or quarreling.”
1 Timothy 2:8
Note the descriptor “holy”. This indicates that men who serve need to be faithful followers of God, not non-Christians or those that are physically in church, but are spiritually far from God. In some churches, serving in worship is used as a means to help an unfaithful man become more faithful. Though I have seen this practiced in a number of places, I have never seen it yield any success in fact, many of those men we are trying to spiritually train through leading worship only show up when it is their time and then go on to remain as spiritually stagnant as they were when they arrived.
The privilege of leading God’s people in worship is a privilege afforded to those who are faithful, holy men of God. Those that place unfaithful men in positions of worship leadership have their heart in the right place, but are ultimately doing a disservice to the worship of God and the worshipers. Paul’s instruction about “holy hands” is part of a larger context discussing how the people of God need to conduct themselves in the household of God (1 Tim. 3:14-15). Those that we put forth to lead worship are to be those who faithfully serve in that house, not those that merely visit from time to time.
The worship of God is a tremendous blessing that Christians are privileged to be able to take part in. When it comes to leading that worship, know that God is not looking for perfect men to stand before others, but men who are faithful and holy living every day for the One they are helping others to praise.