Pride is a killer — a red-eyed, fire-breathing, leader-slaying, bloodthirsty, vicious, and uncontrollable killer. Christians every day face this malicious and malevolent force. The sober reality is that many Christians unfortunately succumb to it. How do we fight back?
Let’s be honest. We worship leaders often have a tendency toward pride. After all, when the lights are on, the volume is up, the mic is live, and the crowd is watching — who can be numb to the thrill? It’s like an invitation to lead the parade down the Main Street of Pride City.
Have you felt it before? That buzz of admiration as you bust out a flawless riff, or hit the high notes without squeaking on “Amazing Grace / My Chains Are Gone.” That palpable sense of awe as you elocute some skillful verbal nuance in your spontaneous prayer. That goosebumpy thrill when you hear hundreds of people singing an amazing worship song — the one that you wrote!
The snipers of pride are everywhere in the worship leader’s life and ministry. Worship leaders stand in a spot that is rife with temptation. That’s why we’re focusing on worship leaders in this article.
Pride is no joke.
Here’s what the Bible says about pride and its effects:
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Leaders are among the biggest targets for pride. When a leader bits the dust in a bout of destruction, others will see his demise. The results ripple out to thousands of Christians whose faith may be shaken and their outlook clouded by the disaster. There is a tendency to laugh off pride as just a little foible, maybe a tiny fault that trips us up now and then. “Ah, that’s just my pride,” we may joke, as if brushing a pesky fly off our shoulder. But pride — that truly sinful and destructive heart condition — is no pesky fly. It’s far more serious.
Before reading any further, let this point be clear: Pride is a big deal. Pride is no joke. This is dangerous stuff.
How to Get Rid of Pride
We want to get right to the point — how to fight this plague of pride. When we’re drunk with pride, we want a clear path to sobriety. But just like it’s hard for a drunk to walk the white line, it’s hard for a prideful person to follow the path to humility. We all experience this to some degree — I want to be humble, but I’m not sure how to be humble, because all I’m thinking about is my humility, which doesn’t seem very humble, and besides I might be wanting humility just because I’m so prideful and want people to notice my humility, which is actually pride anyway except it seems worse, so what in the world do I do?
Have you ever gone through that confusing mental tangle? Apparently, you’re not alone. Paul’s cry for deliverance in Romans 7 sounds remarkably similar: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (See Romans 7:13-20). Here are the four facts you need to know as you do battle against pride:
1. Know that it’s going to take time.
Getting rid of pride isn’t a one-and-done deal. You can’t just expect to have some whizz-bang devotional time some morning and obliterate all your pride. Doesn’t work like that.
Christian brother: “How were your devotions this morning?”
Worship leader: “Awesome, man, I got rid of my pride.”
Christian brother: “Woah. Praise God! Amen!”
Now, let’s get this clear. God forgives sin — even pride — in an instant. However, our sin-stubborn hearts have a hard time giving up that sin. We have a daily battle to fight, and the persistent, nagging, pet sin of pride doesn’t go away immediately. Dig in for the long haul, because it’s going to take a lifetime of prayer, devotion, pleading, hard work, and a faith-filled vision to live in true humility.
2. Know your identity.
Pride problems are identity problems. We think more highly of ourselves than we actually ought to. Basically, we have an identity crisis. If you think of yourself as a “worship leader,” “musician,” or “singer,” then you will undoubtedly benchmark your success or lack thereof on those marks of identity. In other words, when you hit the high notes without squeaking, you might feel prideful because you are fulfilling your identity as a “singer.” When you lift the people to heights of worship, you might feel prideful because you’re fulfilling your identity as a “worship leader.”
You have a different identity, however. You are a child of God. Dispense with titles, labels, and job descriptions. Instead, look at yourself as God looks at you — a redeemed sinner, a blood-washed saint, a child of the King. That’s who you are. Before your identity as an insanely talented guitarist or golden-throat crooner, you’re a disciple, a follower, a Christian.
3. Know that you can’t do this on your own.
One of the most prideful things you can do is attack pride on your own. Trying to do so isn’t just arrogant; it’s also extremely foolish. God is the one who successfully dealt with pride. He did that when he sent his son, Jesus, to die on a cross. Christ died for the sin of pride and a million other heinous iniquities. Christ died so your pride can be forgiven. As you face your nemesis of pride, do so with Jesus’ help. He defeated sin, and his power is yours in the daily battle against pride.
4. Know God.
Here’s the real secret to fighting pride — forget about it. Forget about your sin, forget about your problems, forget about that awesome job you did on Sunday morning, forget about the fawning admiration of the teen girls when you did a particularly exceptional job at the youth rally, forget about the lights glinting off your sweat-dappled brow, forget about the way that the auditorium pulsates with the rhythm of your drums. Just. Forget. Everything.
Know God. Gaze at him. Look toward the one who made your hands. Look to the Creator who designed you that sense of rhythm and cadence. Observe the master sound engineer, who adjusted his heavenly mixing console to create the exact voice he wanted you to have. Look to your God.
God is the answer to our pride. When we look at God, we can’t help but look away from our pride. Instead of gazing at the dark, smelly pile of pride, we turn our gaze upward to the glorious person of God. Meditate upon his attributes. Praise him for his character. Think about what he’s done. By looking at God more, you will look at yourself less. And as you look at yourself less, you will be living out the reality of what it means to be truly humble.
As a worship leader, you are to be a tool of God. Tools don’t have an overrated personality complex. Instead, they fulfill the will of the one who uses them. As a tool, you will bring great glory to God. And his glory is the only glory that really matters.