Worship Leading, Spotify Wrapped and the Counter-Cultural Kingdom Call to Anonymity

Social media is the great revealer of what’s important to a person. 

Every post is a platform where we present the best of who we are.  In efforts to establish an identity, we project the image we want others to see.  And most often that image is at best incomplete, if not inaccurate altogether.  

In many cases, we compete for followers, likes and affirmation.  Social media amongst creatives can be an idol factory of competition and comparison that operates 24/7.  And prolonged exposure can steal your joy and slowly rot your soul without you even realizing it. 

On social media we slave away at building the “kingdom of self” with the perfect backgrounds, filters and camera angles.  Once our caricature is complete, we sit back to bask in the glory of “likes” and “shares” from our admirers.  

It can be concerning to see worship leaders who claim their call is to Christ and His church use their widest-reaching platforms to promote self and accomplishment.

There are a handful of odd social media practices that have been normalized within Christian culture but the one I see most often is the amplification of accolades.

An example of this on Instagram is the reposting of others’ stories who mention you.  This is often in the context of another giving a compliment.  It’s not enough for us to receive a compliment privately or for another to post it publicly on their platform, but we have to amplify their compliment again to all of our followers to let our own audience know how great another person says we are.

It’s not hard to see how mixed-up we’ve become.

I always cringe at the end of November when some Worship Leaders amplify how many people streamed their music during the year.  If aliens from another planet came and observed this behavior, they may conclude we’re in this business of worshipping ourselves.

Now I recognize that when worship leaders post these stats it’s often wrapped in a statement of “shock” with a sincere “shoutout” to their “supporters” (worship leaders don’t use the word, “fans”) who helped “make this happen”.  

Whereas I appreciate those sentiments and the truth they may contain, I just don’t believe that the vast majority of Christian creatives are free from the snare of self-promotion and the glory of self-indulgence.  I know this because of how much I’ve personally struggled with this and I’m convinced, having worked with creatives for many years, that I’m not in the minority.  

When something like the amplification of accolades has become culturally acceptable, there’s less of a reason to pause and examine motive. 

Motive is a frightened turtle, hiding deep in the shell of our conscience.

Motive lives in the depths of our hearts.  Ironically, motive is often obvious to others before it’s apparent to us.  Perhaps that’s another reason why God gives us community.  Christian community is a mirror into self.  And when healthy Christian community thrives it becomes a feedback loop of transparency and authenticity where motive can be recognized and understood.

Satan delights in confusing Christian creatives.  His common tool of choice is identity deception.  If he can get us striving after anything other than who God says we are, he can render us ineffective.  

God doesn’t want us striving.  He wants us settled.  Settled in him, content and at rest.

So how can us worship leaders put to rest the culturally-induced strive to be seen, known and recognized?

By embracing the opposite: Anonymity.

Not a popular word.  Not a popular idea.  But I believe it’s the counter-cultural calling on every Worship Leader to seek after and embrace anonymity.

Consider what anonymity conveys: 

  1. Anonymity says there’s only room for one star of the show.
  2. Anonymity says there’s contentment found in being known by one and unknown by many.
  3. Anonymity says there’s freedom from the hamster wheel of striving and rest in the shadow of someone greater.

My favorite example of worship leading and anonymity in the New Testament is John the Baptist.  In so many ways I commend worship leaders to be like John the Baptist:

  • Just as John the Baptist was described as the “voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘prepare the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23), may we be a voice in the wilderness of our confused culture calling others to prepare their hearts to embrace and experience the manifest presence of God.

  • Just as John the Baptist came into direct contact with Jesus, baptizing Him to fulfill the righteous will of the Father (Matthew 3:15), may our worship leading bring others into direct proximity to Christ and be marked by radical obedience, fulfilling God’s righteous will for His church.  
  • Just as John the Baptist witnessed the supernatural voice of God through his service to Christ (Matthew 3:17), may our worship leading provoke the supernatural voice of God in the hearts of those we lead.
  • Just as John the Baptist loudly proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), may our worship leading always be deflecting of self and pointing solely to Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the greatest summarization of Biblical worship leading in the New Testament is John the Baptist’s words in John 3:30: “He must INCREASE and I must decrease”.

Worship leading isn’t about how well you are known but how well you make Christ known.

I once had a professor who, in the context of a songwriting class, asked this question: “Would you be willing to leave your name off the credits of a song that you knew would be song by millions in worship all over the world?”

It’s a heart revealing question.

In a day where “featuring” credits are normalized on worship albums, it’s a question worth re-considering.

So how can worship leaders practically practice anonymity?

Here’s three ideas:

  1. Deflect praise when it comes your way.  Instead of using social media to amplify your accolades, use it to promote another, share the credit or affirm another’s gifting.  Instead of celebrating the spotlight when it shines on you, turn it on another.

  2. Keep your ministry rooted in your church.  Instead of building a name for yourself, pick up a hammer and get on board with what God’s building: His church.  Stay rooted and connected in a local church, let it be the covering of accountability, protection and primary platform for the gifting God’s given you.

  3. Avoid excessive self-promotion.  Work on the depth of your relationship with Christ and let Him determine the breath of your ministry.  Everyone has a quiver of arrows, make sure yours always point to Jesus and not yourself.  Instead, let another person speak your praise.  Be more concerned with storing up treasure in heaven than accumulating rewards here on Earth.

I pray that these ideas are a start to larger conversation, first with ourselves as we examine our motives under the Spirit’s illumination, and then perhaps with others we create and serve with.  

To know Christ is to cease striving.  May we know Him more, strive less and embrace the paradoxical freedom of anonymity.


2 thoughts on “Worship Leading, Spotify Wrapped and the Counter-Cultural Kingdom Call to Anonymity

  1. Phil Brown

    I have recently discovered your work. Thank you for all the interviews with Integrity Music folks from the early years.

    With regard to this article: In your research into Integrity’s Hosanna! albums, did you notice that for years, they did not put the worship leaders’ names on the front of the albums? Then that changed, and as I recall, the first “big name” and face on the album covers was Ron Kenoly.

    I liked it better when it was more anonymous, with the worship leaders’ info on the back. It’s good to have that info, but it should not be front and center for worship leaders. For CCM performers, it’s different, but they should still seek at least a bit of humility.


  2. Phil Brown

    With regard to the comment I left earlier, I just now saw your previous article wherein indeed you mentioned Ron Kenoly as being the first face on the Hosanna! series. Sorry I missed that before writing my post!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s