Yesterday, I considered what successful worship might be. Today I want to build on that foundation by offer some suggestions about what it might mean for a worship leader to be successful.
Let me start with something obvious but essential: Successful worship leadership facilitates successful worship. If you are a worship leader, you have led well if those who have followed your leadership have offered themselves to God genuinely.
Notice what successful worship leadership is not? It’s not creating an experience. It’s not getting people excited. It’s not helping people to feel God’s presence. It’s not leading a moving performance by the band or choir. It’s not preaching a fine sermon. It’s not getting people to like you. It’s not being popular. It’s not growing your church. It’s not musical perfection. It’s not doing great art. It’s not a chance for you to express your creativity or individuality. Of course all of these things might be connected with successful worship leadership. But they are not the point. The point is leading people to offer to God his due, which ultimately includes all that they are.
You have been successful as a worship leader if, in any given gathering, those you have led have genuinely given themselves to God. This means that they come away from the service, not impressed by you, but by God. If on their way home they’re talking about how great the music was or how great the sermon was, you have not been successful. If they’re talking about how great God is and how they’re going to live in response to God’s greatness, then . . . bingo!
Successful worship leadership cannot really be measured in the moment, however. You can only truly know your success as a worship leader in the long run. If the people you lead in worship learn to offer themselves to God in every facet of life, if they live out the truth of God in the world, if they see their daily life as worship, if they serve God at school and in the office, if they seek to honor God by living lives of justice and righteousness, then you have been a successful worship leader.
“But,” you may be thinking, “that’s a whole lot harder than getting people excited or helping them to feel inspired in the worship service.” Indeed. It’s much, much harder. You might also be thinking, “But, wait, what you’ve described isn’t something I can pull off on my own. I can’t ensure that people will actually worship authentically.” That’s true. I believe that the success of a worship leader (or pastor, or mission trip leader, or . . .) does in fact depend on the response of those being led.
This means you cannot produce your own success. Not only do you depend on those whom you lead, but also and mainly upon God. You will never succeed as a worship leader apart from the help of God’s Spirit. Thus, we who lead worship join the Psalmist in praying: “O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success” (Psalm 118:25).