(Austin Stone Worship Note: This post is the fourth in a series developed from content from our Worship Leader Development Program, other posts can be found here: Post 1, Post 2, Post 3.)
My name is Justin Cofield, and I’m one of the worship leaders at The Austin Stone Community Church. My shepherding role is primarily at our West Campus, as well as shepherding the guys in my band. I’ve been leading worship for about 15 years, and I spent about 12 years on the road leading anywhere and everywhere. I came on board with the team at The Austin Stone in 2011. God has been faithful in that transition to give me a heart for shepherding the same men and women every week, as well as a heart to develop leaders in ministry.
As I’ve grown in ministry over the years, the great importance of leaders serving off the stage became obvious to me. It’s a given that, as a worship leader, one of the ways I serve the body is through leading in corporate worship. However, it seems as if today’s Christian sub-culture has elevated the worship leader position to a celebrity status. There seems to be a very grey line between the leader who serves, and the leader who is served. One great fear I have, is that young worship leaders would begin to have a sense of entitlement and expect the “rock star” treatment. I believe that great leaders are defined, not by the number of their followers, or even the precision with which they lead, but by their cognition that the mission of the movement is far greater than they are. A great leader recognizes that he or she cannot accomplish that mission on their own. A great leader believes in what they’re doing so much, they are willing to be involved on any level; to sacrifice their time, opinions, agendas, and even their own life to accomplish the mission.
When I think about this type of leader, I tend to think about the word “humility”. What is humility, and how can I get it? Humility is defined as: having a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance. Humility is the understanding that you’re a piece of the puzzle, but you’re not the most important piece. It’s a character quality that most people aren’t typically born with, however, it is a quality that is developed through our relationship with Jesus. Often times, the character quality of “being humble” is a direct result of where your heart is or where your motivation comes from. Humility is not a means to an end, it is seeing the contrast between what is perfect and my inability to achieve that perfection. When we recognize that God and His purposes are supreme, humility is born.
One way that humility manifests itself is through the ability to put other’s interests before your own. Selflessness continues to be one thing that our culture vehemently speaks against while the life of Christ tells us otherwise. Our world screams at us to promote self and pursue individualism, but in contrast, Christ was the picture of selflessness. Philippians 2:1-11 gives a great account of what humility should look like. The first half of this passage tells us, as believers, to live in community for one purpose: “being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord…” in essence, Paul tells us to love one another and to look to other’s interests before looking to our own. Verse 5 tells us to have the same mindset that Christ modeled for us. The passage goes on to give record of what mindset Christ had. The passage uses phrases like “emptied himself”, “being born in the likeness of men”, “took the form of a servant”, and “obedient to the point of death”. Christ did all of these things, and the end goal is revealed at the end of verse 11: “…to the glory of God the Father”.
Practically speaking, what does this look like for us as Worship Leaders? I believe that Worship Leaders are supposed to love God, people, and music (in that order). In our pursuit of worship for God, we must be willing to put others’ interest above our own. That doesn’t mean that we take song requests before each service or let Cletus play the drums just because he asked. It does mean that we live outside the bubble of Sunday morning corporate worship. It means that we serve in ways that are outside our comfort zone. It means that we ask God to give us opportunities to serve others in ways that no one else sees. As leaders, sometimes we need to do the things that no one else wants to do. There’s no equation for serving off the stage. Just make yourself available and open and see what God does. Serving in a way that is outside of what you’re used to opens your heart to all kinds of possibilities. It’s what a disciple does, and it’s also what Christ has called us to.