This blog can also be found on the Austin Stone Worship blog here: https://www.austinstoneworship.com/4-vital-practices-heart-worship-leader/
Recently my family and I moved to a new house. If you’ve ever experienced the “joy” of moving, especially with kids, you know it can be a long and stressful process. All of the boxes, the packing, and the miraculous return of those missing socks once you move your dryer—it can add up to pure madness.
Packing up a house can also reveal unwanted surprises. Like when we moved our couch for the first time in 2 years only to find a mountain of dust, a plethora of missing toys, and a very questionable half-eaten Chick-Fil-A nugget. During our move, I found myself asking my wife numerous times, “are we really this messy?!”
Then comes the worst part—when everything is out of the house and all that’s left is cleaning up the aftermath. After googling the cost of a hazmat suit, a realization finally set in: With more maintenance, the house would have been in much better condition.
As we transitioned into our brand new house we immediately felt the urgency (maybe even a little too much) of what it would take to maintain our home. We vowed to be intentional on a daily basis to faithfully steward our home, even in the things that aren’t visible.
This same illustration can be applied to the heart of the worship leader. Intentionality is important with your craft and leadership, but also in maintaining the health of your own heart. There’s a reason Jesus stresses the importance of the heart so much in the Scriptures, because it’s the life and breath behind everything you do. Sadly, you may be able to fake things on the outside with talent or charisma but I believe that the pastor whose heart is far from God is of no value to the kingdom.
If you’re a worship leader, I think it’s healthy to ask yourself a few questions:
- What is your life like underneath the surface?
- If you stripped away the surface would your life reveal a heart that has a zeal and passion for God?
Nothing is more vital for our churches, our families, our spouses and the people we serve (and serve with) than for our hearts to be healthy. Here are four vital practices we must have in order to make sure our hearts are constantly chasing after God. These disciplines may seem simple, but they are crucial if we’re to avoid the pitfall of honoring the Lord with our lips but our hearts are far from Him. (Matthew 15:8)
Drink from the Well
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” - Psalm 119:105
Be in the Word daily. While this discipline seems to be a no-brainer, it’s often overlooked amongst the many tasks, emails, set lists, and volunteer lunches we have on our daily plate. To have any strength and impact in ministry, our days have to start with the self-care of being in the Word. It’s truly that simple. The inspired Word of God is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and reminds us of who Jesus is and what He’s done for us. Run to His Word daily, and drink from the well that never runs dry.
Sit at His Feet
“And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.” - Luke 10:39
Most of us know the context of this story of Mary and Martha. Jesus enters the house of Martha and while she is consumed with serving, Mary just wants to sit at Jesus’ feet. It’s a familiar passage to most people but it’s easy to overlook the simple concept that sitting at the feet of Jesus through prayer is everything. While God certainly calls us to do good works, above and beyond that He wants us to remember that we are His sons and daughters first. He wants us to spend time with Him, He wants us to know and rely on Him more. One of the ways we can pastor our own hearts away from self-reliance is by spending time with Him through His Word and through prayer.
Stop and Listen
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” - Exodus 20:8
One of the greatest detriments to our ministries and the people we lead is failing to rest from our work. I remember early on in ministry I felt like I needed to be “on” at all times, even the weekends. This drove me far from my family and most importantly away from the Lord. Taking a Sabbath day of rest each week is not only a good practice but is a command of Scripture. You must have it, God designed it to be this way!
Use this day of rest to disengage from “work” and the toil of ministry to refocus your heart and soul back on the Lord. Take time to stop and listen. This day of rest will recharge you, and remind your heart that whatever ministry tasks you have are under the sovereign hand of God. Pastor your heart well by obeying the regular rhythm to Sabbath.
Be in Biblical Community
“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” - Galatians 6:2
One of the best ways to grow as a believer, much less a pastor, is by being in solid biblical community. This may look different in your context, but you need to surround yourself with people who will walk alongside you in the Christian life. This includes people who you give permission to call out sin in your life and see your blind spots. Being in biblical community is about being with people who know everything about you. Your strengths, weaknesses, sin struggles, and pitfalls. It’s about constantly being “gospeled” by other people so that you’re growing in Christ-likeness. Take care of your heart by surrounding yourself with godly people and living in biblical community.
While this is not an exhaustive list, these four practices will help to maintain a healthy heart and prevent the cobwebs that apathy and neglect create. Our churches need pastors who are not only skilled at leading people’s hearts to behold the glory of God, but who are also diligent in pastoring their own. May we be worship leaders who strive toward these disciplines with hearts aimed towards glorifying the risen Christ.