After meandering through the corn maze of ropes and suitcases on wheels, you finally approach the counter.
The ticket agent is distracted. You throw your luggage on the scales, waiting for her attention. Anxiously, you check the time, glance at the container of unused bag tags and the pen chained to the counter, then back at the time again. Finally, she turns and asks the most important question of the day. No matter what you’ve paid or sacrificed to be standing here now, your response will determine your destiny.
“Can I see your ID?”
Whether your traveling, heading into a warzone, grabbing concert tickets at will-call, or using your credit card to buy a really old new vinyl record, your ID is an essential item that goes with you everywhere. The same is true for the worship stage.
Continuing in our series about the most important facets of worship ministry, this time around we’ll look at why gospel identity is important for all believers, but especially essential for those in worship ministry.
WHY IDENTITY MATTERS
Jesus repeatedly point out that who we are must precede what we do. We get into dangerous territory when “what” comes before “who”. Keller addresses the difficulty of doing ministry without a clear picture of identity:
“At one level we believe the gospel that we are saved by grace not works, but at a deeper level we don’t believe it much at all. We are still trying to create our own righteousness through spiritual performance, albeit one that is sanctioned by our call to ministry.”
You can’t do what God has called you to, without a clear understanding of who he has called you to be. Paul Tripp adds this:
“I will either get my identity vertically, from who I am in Christ, or I will shop for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of my daily life. This is true of everyone, but I am convinced that pastors are particularly tempted to seek their identity horizontally.”
So before we jump in, lets briefly define gospel identity:
Gospel identity is the recognition in the believer that they have been created by God, participated in the Adam’s rebellion in nature and action, atoned for by Christ when he died in their place for their sins, and now belong forever in God’s family, both during current sanctification and in the future in God’s perfect heaven.
WHO YOU ARE (AND WHO YOU ARE NOT)
Worship leaders have several fake IDs they can reach for. We can try to emulate our mentors or heroes in the worship world. We can try to be what we think the people we’re leading want us to be. We can try to play the role of mediator, carrying the weight of connecting the congregation to their Maker.
Knowing your gospel identity will put guardrails between you and the deadly cliffs of being anything outside of what God has asked of you. Rather than entertaining God’s apathetic sheep like a rockstar, you can pastor them through tough Sundays because you are a shepherd. When you don’t see yourself as the God-man standing between creator and creation, you can lead your people faithfully as a worship leader rather than a worship mediator.
Additionally, if you don’t expect to be impressive or perfect, then feedback from your staff or volunteers won’t be crushing, because they aren’t shattering the fragile glass ornament of your ego. Instead those remarks are received as constructive and useful for consideration in our growth.
AN EASY AND ESSENTIAL CHALLENGE
Knowing and believing that you are forgiven and under God’s grace will drastically change how you lead on stage. You’ll be free to express gratitude, brokenness, and joy on stage because you aren’t captive to the opinions of others. You can rest knowing that God’s work moves on despite your imperfect execution or that moment you forgot the lyrics to verse two.
Jesus repeatedly points out that who we are must precede what we do. So then, who are we? We’re broken people that God delights in using. We are treasured sons and daughters in His family. We are servants to the highest king to have ever taken a throne.
There’s certainly a lot more to be said on this topic, but for the sake of brevity remember: we can’t lead others in worship very effectively if we don’t first know who we are. Knowing our identity gives us reason to sing ourselves and the boldness to ask others to do the same.
No matter how long you have led worship (and I would argue the longer you’ve led the more likely you are to err on this issue), I’d challenge you to do something simple. Next Sunday, just before you take the stage, check your ID. In those last moments while people are finding their seats or the pastor on stage is making announcements, whisper to God, “I am yours, and I belong to you”. Remember who Christ is and who you are too.