What does servant worship leadership look like? I’ve been pondering that a lot this week. Actually I’ve long been interested in the conversation about what genuine leadership is and how to do it well, and I’m blessed to be part of a ministry team that values intentional learning and growth in this area. But this week for some reason my mind keeps going back to this question specifically. What does servant worship leadership look like? In what ways can I, as a worship leader, serve my teams and my congregation as I lead them? I think in particular from stage? On the surface that doesn’t seem like a lowly servant role, and yet I believe that serving others is precisely what Jesus has called us to do.
Jesus taught the phenomenal paradox of servant leadership throughout His ministry, both in word and in deed. Multiple times He told His disciples (and us), that if you want to be great you have to be the least. And if you want to be first, you have to be last. He demonstrated that true leadership encompasses service to others and did so in striking ways, one of the more notable being when He removed his cloak, wrapped Himself in a towel and began to wash the disciples’ feet. They were stunned. They were uncomfortable. Peter was offended. As I re-read the account in chapter 13 of John’s gospel, I am struck by a few observations that I think have application to us as worship leaders.
- Be willing to take on menial tasks…… It takes both humility and strength of character to willingly take on a thankless and lowly task like that of washing the disciples’ feet. They didn’t even appreciate it! At least not initially. But it needed to be done. And Jesus was willing to do it for them. Are we as worship leaders willing to do the same? Are we willing to take on the mundane, thankless, yet necessary tasks? Or do we consider ourselves above that? Are we serving tirelessly in the background, when we’re not on stage, to bless and serve those whom God has place on our teams with us?
- Be willing to let someone else serve you…. It also takes humility and strength of character to allow someone else do the serving. I’ve realized of late that this is an area in which I struggle. But in v14 Jesus says to the group that they “also ought to wash one another’s feet”. So the example wasn’t for one person only or for the worship leader or worship pastor only, it was for the entire team. If you’re the one in charge of your ministry team then you can and should set the example, and then also allow others to do the same for each other and for you.
- Look for teachable moments….. Jesus certainly could have called for a slave to wash their feet and no one would have thought anything of it, and it wouldn’t have been wrong for Him to do that. But as their leader He saw an opportunity to teach and lead by example and He loved them enough to do it. Think for a moment the completely different impact it would have been if, while a slave was washing their feet, Jesus merely told them what He wanted them to know. They would have been much more comfortable with that… but Jesus was more concerned with their growth than with their comfort.
- Wash them with the water of the word…. The typically impetuous Peter swings from “no way!” to… “not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” (v8-9) in about 3 seconds flat. Can anybody besides me relate to Peter? Jesus goes on to correct him though and explains in v10 that he doesn’t need his entire body washed. He’s already clean (born again). But he does need his feet washed. As believers we don’t read the Bible to get saved again each day, we read it (among other things) for fresh cleansing and renewal before we head back out into the world. This brought to mind for me the passage in Ephesians 5 where it speaks of ‘washing with the water of the word’. Same idea. There are so many different applications for us as worship leaders. Not only the ways in which we can pour into our teams behind the scenes, but also the awesome responsibility we have of stepping on a stage and leading and serving the people God has placed in front of us. So in light of Jesus’ example and comments in this passage, I think one of the most important ways we can serve our congregations is by being intentional in that what we say from stage, and the lyrics of the songs we choose, are Scripture infused. I’ve long asked myself each time I prepare to lead others in worship, that if for some reason someone hears the worship portion of the service but doesn’t hear the teaching that day, have I by my song selection and by the words I’ve spoken given them the gospel message, and washed them with the Word? When we do that, then I think that we are following Jesus’ example.
Well I’m sure my observations on this barely scratch the surface! If you have any additional thoughts or comments please let me know! May we as worship leaders continue to grow in our skills and in our ability to effectively lead and minister to others. ~ Michelle