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 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.
- 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.