I recently led a seminar for students at Biola who are studying to become church worship leaders entitled: “Hidden Agendas in Worship Leading.” I had them break into groups and discuss what sorts of hidden motivations sometimes lie under the surface in the process of planning and implementing times of worship. When we came back together we drew up a list on the white board. Here are some of the elements that made it onto that list:
- Desire to keep worship team members happy.
- Desire to prove that you are a good musician.
- Desire to not have to work too hard.
- Desire to not be viewed as old-fashioned by a newness-loving generation.
- Desire to distance oneself from the leadership of the church and the senior pastor in particular.
- Desire to impress a certain visitor.
- Desire to do music for recreation.
- Desire to prove you are in charge.
- Desire to push one’s own theological agenda through worship leading.
- Desire to avoid criticism.
After we drew up our list, I offered them a challenge from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8. In this passage, you can tell that Paul is responding to criticisms that his motivations are wrong. You can infer six of their criticisms from this passage:
- They probably said that what he was teaching was in error (v. 3).
- They probably accused him of impure intentions; that is, to take advantage of them sexually. (The word in v. 3 may suggest sexual impropriety.)
- They probably said that he was using trickery and deceit (v. 3).
- They probably accused him of using flattery (v. 5).
- They probably accused him of doing it for greed (v. 5).
- They probably accused him of doing it for praise from people (v. 6).
Now the main thrust of this passage concerns Paul describing the sincerity of his ministry among the Thessalonians. The way he does this is by making real connections with what the Thessalonians already know about the ministry he did during the short time he was with them. Notice how often he uses expressions whose only function is to make personal connections with what they already know.
- “For you yourselves know….” (v. 1)
- “as you know” (v. 2)
- “as you know” (v. 5)
- “For you recall” (v. 9)
- “you are witnesses” (v. 10)
- “you know” (v. 11)
He wanted them to remember that he truly and sincerely cared for them and was doing what he was doing for their sakes. Look how emphatic he was about it: “I did not seek glory from men, or from you, or from anyone else!”
So if Paul were here and wanted to challenge us to pursue a sincere ministry devoid of hidden agendas, what might he share? I have a pretty good guess because of what he shares in this passage. Here are five things he would want to share with you.
- Do ministry as people approved of God (v. 4).
- Aim to please the God who examines our hearts (v. 4).
- Be gentle among those to whom you minister (v. 7).
- Love them! (v. 8).
- Don’t just carry a message; share your very souls (v. 8).
My prayer for all the worship leaders reading this right now is that you openly and honestly explore in the presence of the Lord the possibility of hidden agendas and hidden motivations in your worship leading. Then allow God’s own probing Spirit to examine your heart and lead you into a more God-focused ministry—a ministry that is an overflow of his work in your heart.