I recently talked to a worship leader who asked about how I’d handle a situation he just went through. His pastor asked him to lead a specific song to close the meeting. In fact, he insisted on it, although the worship leader expressed doubts about its effectiveness. When the end of the meeting came, another leader accidentally dismissed the congregation prematurely. The worship leader was ready to start the final song but people were already streaming out the doors. The pastor caught his eye and signaled that he should start the song. Thinking that most people wouldn’t even hear him, the worship leader decided not to sing the final song.
The next day the pastor made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the worship leader’s decision and viewed it as insubordination. The worship leader asked me for my thoughts.
First, I should let you know that I think the pastor describing the worship leader’s actions as “insubordnation” was an overstatement, rooted either in sinful judgment or an exalted view of his own position. It lacked the grace and mercy that God has shown to us. I also know this worship leader is a humble guy who really wants to serve his church and pastors. That being said, I still thought the worship leader made a wrong choice.
At any point, if my pastor communicates to me that he wants me to do or not do something during a meeting, I should gladly submit. Why? Here are a few reasons.
It gives me the opportunity to consider others more highly than myself. Phil. 2:3 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Counting others as more significant isn’t simply a mental exercise. It works itself out in real life when I choose to lay down my opinions and preferences and gladly serve someone else’s.
I’m not always right, and when I’m not, I don’t always know it. In the moment, I can be “absolutely sure” that I’m perceiving things rightly. But I’ve been wrong too many times to think that the strength of my belief corresponds to its accuracy. Actually, I’ve found that the stronger my conviction that I’m right, the more likely my thoughts are being clouded by selfish ambition. Prov. 28:26 says, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”
It’s better for others to confirm later that I was right than force them to see it now. God’s purposes aren’t hindered if I don’t get my way during the meeting. If my pastor is wrong, God is able to handle his mistakes or miscalculations. Besides, I might be the one who’s wrong.
Trust is earned through experience. The relationship between a worship leader and the pastor works best when there’s a high degree of trust. Trust is built up over time, as I seek input before a meeting, respond humbly during a meeting, and ask for more input after a meeting. The more the pastor trusts me, the more freedom I’ll have during a meeting to vary from what we might have planned.
Christ is glorified when I submit to those over me. We’re commanded to submit to “one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). As the rest of the passage makes clear, God isn’t saying that everyone should submit equally to each other, but that we should submit to those God puts over us: wives to husbands, children to parents, employees to employers. And in the church, worship leaders to pastors. I can’t be 100% sure that God agrees with my perspective, but I can be 100% sure that he wants me to humbly submit to my pastor during the meeting.
If this has been an area of challenge for you, I’d encourage you to talk to your pastor, specifically confess any selfish ambition, and communicate a desire to gladly follow his lead. Who knows what grace God might pour out in response to your humility?
UPDATE 9-22-10: The worship leader told me that he asked the pastor’s forgiveness, apologizing for not honoring his desire to sing the song, and expressing his heart to support him. He said the pastor was gracious. He also mentioned that the pastor realizes he’s been a jerk and wants to meet to talk about it. Sounds like God is using the situation to reveal hearts and bring unity in the gospel.