When a Worship Leader is a Control Freak

I have a confession. I'm a control freak. My nature is to grab the reins if I don't feel things are going in the right direction. Some would appreciate that and recognize me as a strong leader. I do believe this controlling nature has served me and others well at times. I also know that being a control freak has hurt my leadership, especially when I fail to empower other leaders around me.

As worship leaders, we can sometimes be control freaks. This is ironic because we like to have freedom to lead. We generally don't like the pastor to put shackles on us and squelch our creativity.

So, what are the things worship leaders try to control?
  • MUSICAL CULTURE - Worship leaders come in all ages. Young and old, we all have different tastes in music. Some worship leaders love modern worship songs and some are biased to older hymns. If you're a child of the 80's, you probably look for songs that feature Van Halen-like guitar solos. If you're like me and love the 90's, you may be a sucker for those sweet Coldplay-like ballads. The current culture of churches is seeing and hearing a lot of electronic music with the help of loops and click tracks. Whatever era you're from, there's a certain direction you lean musically. The control freak will tend to stay within his or her own circle of taste, even though it might be not be the consensus of the rest of the worship team or church. That results in your own musical taste becoming the church's musical culture by default.
  • ARTISTIC CREATIVITY - This is a very broad topic. There are so many ways in which we can enhance our worship services with artistic creativity. There's old practices filled with stained glass, candles and a quiet simplicity. There's modern arts, including video, lighting and, yes, even smoke and mirrors. Every church has a different feel and flavor of sanctuaries and set designs. Most churches put that responsibility on the worship leader. One's personal taste in how things look, sound and feel can definitely be revealed in the context of our weekly gatherings. The control freak will often believe that their own personal taste in artistic creativity is in agreement with the collective mass, thus it's warranted.
  • SPIRITUAL CLIMATE - A controlling worship leader is actually a very spiritual label. He or she believes that the works of God are somewhat dependent on the quality and performance of the weekly worship set. This kind of outlook is often revealed in frustrated worship leaders who are discouraged after a worship set because of the lack of "spirituality" in the congregation. We see worship leaders trying to control the spiritual climate by publicly praying harder, playing harder and singing longer. A worship leader who attempts to control the spiritual climate of a church puts in a lot of effort, hard work and even passion.
I truly believe that the mission to control these elements is futile and frustrating. I say that because I am guilty. I've attempted to control these elements at various times in my ministry. Being a control freak has left me with more regrets than victories. 

I have also seen how it can hurt my church. When I control the musical culture, I deprive my church of songs that they may connect with on a deeper level. When I exclude artistic creativity to my approval, I greatly limit our church to sights, sounds and smells that appeal to me. This stunts my church's growth and impact in the area of creative arts. When I reduce the spiritual climate of a room to my perception, I run the risk of discipling my people incorrectly and discouraging my own spirit. No matter how much someone is experiencing the truth and presence of God in a service, I only acknowledge that based on what I am seeing and hearing. That's a very flawed spiritual thermometer and it can hurt the spiritual temperature more than help it.

So, how does a worship leader become less of a control freak?
  • BE OPEN - Everyone from your pastor, your worship team members and even your congregation has ideas. Whether are not they share those ideas can be greatly determined by your approachability and openness. Leaders who always ultimately land on their own ideas, end up strangling creativity instead of giving it life. The more you listen and implement the ideas of others, the more input and contribution you will receive from some very creative people in your church. Being approachable doesn't mean you are obligated to every suggestion. It means that you are open and listening. If someone has an inspired, innovative thought, that's when you'll be thankful that you are not closed off to the ideas of others.
  • GIVE UP CONTROL - The most fulfilling aspect of leadership is empowering another leader. When you are given a leadership role, you've been given some element of control. You can either keep that control or you can give it up. That's a lot of power and a lot of responsibility. Giving up control as a worship leader means bringing other staff or worship team members into the decision making process. It will impact song selection, set designs and all other creative results that help your church engage in worship. Empowerment happens when you say the phrase, "You decide" more and more. The ultimate cure for greed is giving. Control freaks require the same prescription. Give it up!
  • RECOGNIZE TRUE CONTROL - I honestly think that control freaks make God laugh more than anything. If you have control issues, then you probably have faith issues. When I live in the delusion that worship rises and falls on the back of my leadership, I am setting myself up for constant disappointment. I am also failing to recognize that God is truly in control. The irony of a worship leader who is a control freak is staggering, especially when you are asking people to sing about a God who is in control. When you recognize the One who is eternally on the throne (Psalm 103:19), you will more easily give up your own control.
A freak is someone who lives in an extreme state. A control freak holds on to decision making with an extreme grip. A worship leader who is a control freak is an extreme oxymoron. Control is a pride issue. Pride proclaims that everything good depends on me

Don't believe that lie.

Believe in the One who is truly in control and lead your people to worship Him alone.


Album Review - Here I Am Send Me

When I think of Darlene Zschech, I think of the word, legacy. With one song, she along with Hillsong Church inspired the whole world to start taking musical worship more of a focus in our church services. I'll never forget the first time I heard the song "Shout to the Lord." Fast-forward a few years and I found myself as a worship leader in a local church, gleaning wisdom from her book Extravagant Worship. As a worship leader, I've always been inspired by Darlene and her faithfulness to leading the local church to worship the Lord. One highlight for me happened in 2015. I was at a worship conference and got the opportunity to have some one on one time and conversation with her backstage. She was humble and generous to talk to me. 

Needless to say, I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to review her new release called Here I Am Send Me. This is a live album recorded at her church, Hope Unlimited in Australia. For me, the album is a progression and a journey. It began with a call to worship our great God with songs called "You are Great" and "You Will Be Praised" and culminates with the title track and a final commissioning-like song called "Go." The standouts for me were "You Will Be Praised", " Kingdom Come" and "Here I Am Send Me." The album is vintage Darlene and provides the pure praise focus of the original Shout to the Lord album. If you love Darlene, you'll love her most recent gift to the Church.

Thank you Darlene and Integrity Music for this release!

Click Here to download it on iTunes today!


Album Review - Still Vol. 1

Rivers & Robots is a worship band from the UK. Per their website, they are "missionaries, and spend their time leading worship in churches, clubs and festivals."

Their latest release is actually an instrumental album full of worship songs that range generationally from the Millennial era all the way back to the Boomer era. I'm a Gen-Xer and I especially appreciated the nod to one of my favorite Matt Redman songs "Lord Let Your Glory Fall."

I love worship instrumental albums, especially as I spend time with God in the Word. This is presently my quiet time music.

I'm sure most people will be familiar with one or more of the songs on the track list:

1. King Of My Heart

2. We Have Overcome

3. Interlude 1

4. Good Good Father

5. The Lion And The Lamb

6. Majesty

7. Boldly I Approach

8. Interlude 2

9. I Exalt Thee

10. Be Still

11. I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever

12. Interlude 3

13. Saviour Of The World

14. Lord Let Your Glory Fall

15. Lord I Need You

16. Revelation Song

Thank you Rivers & Robots and Integrity Music for this release!

Click Here to download it on iTunes today!


Dear Worshipper

Dear Worshipper,

Thank you for coming to church. You don't have to be there, and we sometimes forget that as leaders. The fact is this: You don't have to be at church. You choose to be at church. My prayer is that you will be blessed because you came.

Please know that you have another choice. That choice is what or whom you worship. Worship is not an optional activity. Everyone is always worshipping something or someone. That's why I'm calling you a worshipper and not an attender. As much as you may want to just attend a worship service, you're actually in some sort of act of worship 24 hours a day, everyday of your life. My hope for you is that you give all of that energy and attention to God every time you come to a service.

As you come to church, relieve yourself of the responsibility of inspecting our God presentation. You will always find flaws, because we are flawed. Instead, come expecting the presence of God. God is not flawed. He is perfect. When you seek God in a fresh way every week, He will show you something new every time. His presence is way better than our presentations.

When I ask you to raise your hands, don't assume it's a stick up. I'm actually encouraging you to be biblical with your expression. It's a great thing to express your love for God and get excited. God has also asked us to sing, clap, shout, bow down and even dance. If you do those things at a concert or sporting event and not at church, you should probably do some introspection regarding your worship.

I truly appreciate your song requests. Keep those coming. Sometimes, you have some good ideas, but not all of the good songs are on Christian radio or even on your radar. There's actually a whole bunch of incredible songs written for the church that just don't get the airplay or exposure. I have a pulse on that and I strive to prayerfully consider all the options. Give me some trust and don't get mad if I don't sing your favorites, but please keep requesting, because you enlighten me at times.

Speaking of songs, you may want more old songs, but they probably won't be predominate. Maybe you want more new songs, but just know it's not about staying up to date. Maybe you just want more of the same, but please realize it's important to "sing a new song", at least according to scripture. As long as we are all focused on God, the songs should play second fiddle at best.

If you could be on time to church, that would be great. This may seem insignificant, but it can be an impact. We actually practice and rehearse the set list every week, including the FIRST SONG. When you habitually come in late, it tells me that what we do is not that important to you. More importantly, it says that worshipping God in song with the gathered church is low on your priority list. Not everyone has this punctuality problem, but some do. You know who you are.

Perspective is huge. Make sure you have the right perspective of your role. Look in the mirror and say this to your self: "I am not a part of an audience." An audience is a gathering that needs to be entertained. The gathering of God's people should not be an audience that comes for a show. You are way more than an audience. You are part of a choir of children who call God their Father! We're united in lifting up anthems of praise to an audience of One - the One true and worthy God. When you keep that perspective, you won't settle for merely being entertained by our talents. You will intentionally strive to join the praise to our Almighty Audience of One!

It's one thing for me to give constructive criticism, but I'm not perfect. So, let me take a moment to apologize. I'm sorry for bringing my ego to the stage at times. I'm sorry for judging you based on your expression or lack there of. I don't know your heart, so I'll trust that it's in the right place. I'm sorry for occasionally choosing songs and neglecting to pray about it. I have fallen short at times and will fail in the future, so I greatly appreciate your grace as you continue to come.

Finally, please know that I love you. When I play and sing songs every week, I am also praying that you will be inspired to not see me for very long. My hope and prayer is that the songs will inspire you to look to God and love Him more and more. 

I really want you to be a part of what God is doing in our midst.


The Worship Leader