I recently was reading the values of a church on their website. Dead center on the webpage it read, “Modesty: We value personal and ministry modesty, making Jesus famous, not ourselves”. When I read that something immediately resounded deep inside me. All my heart’s deepest desires were awakened.
We’ve all been programmed to worship, but our deepest satisfaction in life comes when our worship is aligned to our manufacturer’s specifications. In other words, we are the best versions of ourselves when our affections are solely set upon Jesus Christ. It’s hard to do this when we are so easily distracted. Our hearts are idol-making factories, ever ready to create false deities eager to take up residency on the throne of our hearts.
Like David, I often find myself praying Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”
What practices will starve our divided hearts? What behaviors can we as worship leaders implement, cultivate and participate in that will keep our hearts pure and properly aligned so we can live in the fullness of our calling?
One Word: Modesty.
Modesty challenges nearly everything in our culture. Our culture screams at us to self-express, to find identity within ourselves and to project realities about who we are that are at best, incomplete and worst, fabrications of the truth. Modesty on the other hand assumes no right to self-expression, finds identity outside of one’s talents or capabilities and is content with the imperfections of reality.
Modesty is a heart posture that is revealed through how we express ourselves.
Many worship leaders are creative people and creative people are often compelled to express their creativity. Modesty is the characteristic of how our creativity is expressed. A worship leaders job is done well when those who observe them walk away talking about how great God is. One of the greatest tragedies any worship leader can face is that anyone observing them would walk away only thinking about how talented they are.
Yet it happens all the time.
Celebrity culture is a heinous monster that feeds off talent and has slipped into the church, manifesting itself through gifted preachers, worship leaders and musicians who are easy pawns for the enemy’s plan to divert worship from where it truly belongs. God’s not interested in sharing His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8), much less His rebellious creation. What depths of deception we plummet to when we become numb to the message and direction of our worship songs while consumed in our hearts with the presentation of the messenger, our talent, image and performance. The messenger is nothing, the message is everything.
It feels strangely convicting to me that we live in the “preachers in sneakers” era where we’re willing not only to tolerate and align with the immodesty of some Christian leaders, but we’re actually entertained and distracted by it. But that’s exactly what immodesty does, it distracts us from where our affections ought to be placed. Our internal heart compass becomes skewed and our worship becomes misdirected.
So how can worship leaders cultivate and practice a lifestyle of modesty that keeps their affections dialed-in and directed solely to the heart of God? Here’s four practical ideas:
- Pray for others. Prayer is the fire in the furnace that heats your worship culture. Pray for your church, your pastor, your team, those who will gather under your worship leadership. We starve our heart’s appetite for grander when we’re preoccupied with pursuing the glory of God by interceding for others.
- Be mindful of what you wear and say. Sometimes the sacrifice of an effective worship leader is self-expression. Wearing and saying things that draw attention to yourself defeat the primary goal of worship which is to ascribe worth to Jesus Christ. Dress and speak in a way that is reflective of the leader God has made you to be without agenda or intention to make artistic statement. Biblical worship isn’t about your artistic ability, personality or creative expression. God may use these things as tools to serve Him and lead others but his willingness to do so isn’t reflective of your greatness, but rather His graciousness. Worship isn’t about You at all. Communicate that in how you look and behave on a platform.
- Put blinds on your eyes. We live in a very visually stimulating world, one that our eyes and minds were never designed for. What we see informs how we think. Just as a plant will surely wither with too much exposure to the elements, we too will wither into immodesty if we do not limit what our eyes are allowed to see. Our heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9) and will seek to normalize immodest behavior the more we are exposed to it. Know when to lower the blinds and shade your eyes from the immodesty that surrounds us.
- Teach your heart silence. Similar to the last point, we live in a loud culture and often the loudest voice is our own. Our flesh is constantly lying to us, making demands that we must be noticed, heard, valued and appreciated. When we teach our hearts to be silent, we can better hear the only voice that matters, the still small voice of God’s Holy Spirit who models our calling to glorify the Son (John 16:14). Vanity is eroded when our fleshly voice is silenced and the voice of the Spirit is amplified. Proximity to the Spirit and His voice causes us to hear and see Him more clearly and the more consumed we become with Him, the less room there is for arrogant self-exaltation.
What are some of the disciplines you are practicing to cultivate modesty in your life?
What is the testimony of those observing your ministry? What do they leave talking about?
What sacrifices of self-expression need to be made so that there’s no mistaking who’s the star of your platform?