In His most famous sermon, Jesus tells His followers, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged… The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2 NLT). I like the way the New Life Version puts it: “Do not say what is wrong in other people’s lives… You will be guilty of the same things you find in others.”
This is super good advice, but insanely hard to do. It takes a lot of practice to be a person that only thinks and speaks well of others. So, just know that I’m aware of how I’m writing about a topic I haven’t mastered.
I want to touch on three areas of judgement that may tempt us in the worship leader world. Obviously not everyone does all of these, and some people have totally different areas they may judge in. Some of you may not struggle with being judgmental at all! God bless you :) But for the sake of this blog, please allow me to bring up three categories of judgement that I hope we can all take a sec to reconsider.
1. THE TEMPTATION TO JUDGE BY APPEARANCE
Sometimes we accidentally create an unspoken - or spoken! - expectation that worship teams and bands need to look a certain way. It’s possible that this is even a little worse where I live in Southern California than in some other places.
Every leader has to decide where they draw the line regarding outfit guidelines and style choices, but I hope we never go beyond that to rating people by their hip-ness, or putting teams together that favor the best looking people. It sounds gross even saying it, but it happens.
Remember to honor your church’s values. If one of your church’s top values is diversity, do everything you can to reflect that in who you involve in serving, as well as who you speak and hang out with.
If your church values being inter-generational, then that’s all the more reason to avoid treating the young, stylish members with special favor or more opportunities.
If your church has a value that states everyone is welcome, then do everything you can to make sure it feels that way. When you’re serving on a Sunday, do everything you can to act the same level of excited to see everyone. And definitely don’t base your interactions on who you feel is cool, influential, or trendy. I would just never want a church to feel like a high school.
2. THE TENDENCY TO JUDGE BY OUTWARD RESPONSE
If you’ve gotten to lead worship in different churches, gatherings, countries, or denominations, you’ve probably noticed that some groups respond more expressively that others. Remember to never judge their hearts by their outward actions.
Someone can be standing quietly, reading lyrics and honoring God in their heart. Someone else may be singing and waving their hands in the air but having way more trouble meaning it.
Plus, if there is a group of people somewhere who maybe don’t major in catching on to lyrics quickly or displaying their passion for God during the music time, but they do go out and serve the community and live with love, they may be the ones worshipping in the biggest way.
For a lot of worship leaders, it is harder to lead a group of more reserved people. You feel like you’re pouring out energy and not getting a lot back. But the Bible is pretty clear that worship is more about the heart. There’s a reason they call our job serving - it’s not easy. But don’t get judgy with the people God’s calling you to love.
So may we embrace each style of worship, church tradition, personality, and group culture that is bringing people closer to God, and refrain from rating their spiritual superiority.
3. THE TREND OF JUDGING OURSELVES HARSHLY
It takes a mature person to be able to stand on a stage and not be self-conscious. It’s so tempting to judge ourselves, and imagine our imperfections as blaring and hindering. To dismiss our strengths.
But over time, God teaches a leader the difference between humility and false humility, and I think the most effective leadership happens when we can accept our own flaws and move on to focusing on others.
Don’t be self-critical. The goal is to show grace to everyone - including yourself. We’re all growing, and the best way to grow is to celebrate the new ground you’ve gained, not get hung up on the distance you still have to go.
I hope these three areas have helped you examine your heart and your leadership, and encouraged you as a leader, and follower. :) What are some things you’ve learned about this tricky topic? Leave your comments below!