Posted by Matt Redman on 10 November 2014

One of the ancient Desert Fathers once noted that “Humans need humility and the fear of God, like the breath that issues from their nostrils.” And when it comes to being a lead worshipper, the heart standard of humility is just as irreplaceable a quality.

The heart posture of humility recognises that God alone can do powerful and meaningful things. By His grace we may get involved with such ministry, but we are ever the carriers and never the cause. The humble heart recognises the difference between entrustment and achievement. Great is the temptation to think that we had something to do with a particularly poignant success in ministry. Dangerous thoughts. Next thing we know, we’re praying less, preparing less and generally less dependent. As Darlene Zschech wisely puts it:

Momentum can be your best friend. It’s like the breath of God causing one day to be more valuable and worthwhile than a thousand . . . But you can abuse that momentum if you stop digging for the gold that gave you it in the first place. Momentum can give you a false sense of security . . . “We can do it”. . . . But at what cost? Before we know it, we’ve abused the privilege and lost sight of the higher call.

Sometimes we have an incomplete picture in our minds of what a humble person really looks like. Humility is more than just a meek and mild “Oh no, no—it wasn’t me, it was the Lord” response when someone encourages you in your worship leading. False humility is a tempting garment to wear—but even that involves thinking about yourself. At the end of the day, it’s simply another cover-up for pride. Humility only truly blossoms when we stop thinking about ourselves altogether and start to fix our gaze elsewhere.

A former United States senator once commented:

Humility is a manner, a viewpoint, an all- encompassing thing. . . . Humility is expressed through actions; . . . it can be demonstrated simply by stopping and listening to someone. Its essence is putting others ahead of yourself. . . . A real test of humility is how you handle criticism. The natural reaction is to throw up an immediate defence, a quick excuse, a spontaneous rebuttal. The humble way to handle criticism is to try to understand the reasons for the criticism, to look for what truth there might be in it.

These great insights from the world of politics are just as poignant for our role of lead worshipper in our churches. Humility isn’t just how you carry your- self on a stage in front of people. It’s not even what face-shape you pull when they say nice things to you. True humility starts long before we get up to the front of the church, and touches every area of our lives. Do we seek to put others ahead of ourselves?

Do we spend time with individuals, listening and preferring them? Or are we only good with crowds? And how about when someone offers some constructive criticism of how we lead, or of a song we’ve written? How do we respond in the depths of our hearts? These are all good tests when it comes to the irreplaceable quality of humility.

Humility is picking up litter when no one’s looking, just because you want to serve your community. Humility is letting someone else use your idea. And then telling no one it originated with you. Humility is listening to another, even when you yourself have plenty to say. Humility expresses itself in random acts of kindness performed day in and day out, for God’s eyes only—invisible acts that only you and God get to witness. These are some of the telltale signs of a humble heart.

At the end of the day, true humility can never be mustered up or learned by striving. It is the heart instinct of someone who has seen the greatness of God. The humble person thinks about God, and because of Him, about others, too. And as C. S. Lewis once wrote, if you meet someone who is truly humble, “he will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking of himself at all”.

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