The Greatest Obstacle To The Pastor & Worship Leader Relationship
Featuring Derek Williams Posted on May 14, 2008
Go to any weekend service and you will see the two most prominent leaders are the worship leader and the senior pastor. There is a unified heart message that is preached in two very different languages. One in word. One in song. Many times the worship leader is a Psalm guy and the pastor is a Proverb guy. The worship leader is right-brained and the pastor is left-brained. If the two come together they can have a significant impact in communicating the kingdom of God to a lost and hurting world. When they are aligned in vision and relationship, there is a health in their church community.
But if this is the case, why do so many worship leaders and pastors struggle in their relationship with one another?
While there may be many different reasons, there is one that quickly becomes the greatest obstacle. If you want to destroy the dream, the communication, the commitment, and the trust, the easiest way is to allow envy or jealousy to enter into your relationship.
We see in the story of Saul one of the saddest stories of leadership in the Bible. Here is Saul, chosen by God, acclaimed by the people, full of courage, vision, dreams, and hope. He begins with humility and humanity, but ends up a desperate, fear-filled, half-crazed, alone, witch-seeking wreck.
Why did this happen?
Saul could not tolerate the song of anybody else. In this case the word song means the gifts God has given each one of us. He could not make room for anyone else.
But when we read 1 Samuel, we see a different story in the life of David.
Everybody Loves David
“After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond of love between them, and they became the best of friends” (1 Samuel 18:1 NLT).
“But all Israel and Judah loved David because he was so successful at leading his troops into battle” (1 Samuel 18:16).
“In the meantime, Saul’s daughter Michal had fallen in love with David, and Saul was delighted when he heard about it” (1 Samuel 18:20).
There’s a program on television called Everybody Loves Raymond. Well, we see in Samuel that everybody loves David. God was blessing him, and Saul was on the sidelines watching. Whatever Saul asked him to do, David did it successfully. Success was everywhere. When David continued to succeed, Saul recognized this and was even more afraid of him.
But something unique happened when the victorious Israelite army returned home after David had killed Goliath. Women came out from all the towns along the way to celebrate and cheer for King Saul, and they sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song: “Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands!” This made Saul furious. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!”
From that time on, Saul kept a jealous eye on David. In fact, the very next day a tormenting spirit overwhelmed Saul. He began to rave like a madman. As David played his harp, Saul went and got a spear. Saul was so jealous because the Lord had left him and was now with David. His jealousy compelled him to kill.
The Evils Of Envy
When you go through the Bible, one of the amazing prominent things from beginning to end is the sin of envy.
Envy is “I want what you have.” In fact, it goes even further when it says, “I want what you have and I don’t want you to have it at all.”
So we have the stories of Cain vs. Abel, Isaac vs. Ishmael, Jacob vs. Esau, Joseph vs. his brothers, Leia vs. Rachel and Aaron and Mariam who were jealous of the higher position given to Moses.
In Matthew 27, Pilate says they are going to kill Jesus out of envy. Paul says they preach Christ out of envy and strife. It’s so toxic. That's why sometimes we find those seeds in our own lives. If you’re a parent you’ve even seen it in your children. It’s an uncontrollable frenzy that happens in the human heart to try to make things even and fair.
Envy is deadlier than anger.
It sent Paul scurrying out of town.
It sent Abel to the grave.
It sent Joseph to a far away country.
It caused the elder brother to act like a fool.
It sent Moses to his knees.
And it sent Jesus to the cross.
It’s that glazed look we get when the car of our dreams drives by. It’s the constant comparison of our life with someone else’s. It’s the absence of happiness for a friend who is climbing the ladder of success faster than we are. It’s even found in gossiping about the church down the street that is growing faster than ours.
Envy is worse than anger. The Bible says so.
“Wrath is cruel. And anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?” (Proverbs 27:4 KJV).
Like many sins it begins harmlessly disguised as ambition. However, the end result brings destruction of relationships and inner turmoil. “If envy were an illness, the world would need a hospital.”
Envy is the feeling in your gut when someone calls the church office to ask if the pastor is preaching this weekend or if the worship leader is using the “A” team and you’re not included. Any time we feel left out, a sense of unfairness rises up within.
Mory Silver, a social psychologist, said, “I can’t imagine anyone who hasn’t experienced envy at one time or another. To be human is to compare ourselves with others.”
People can be compared in careers, income, looks, ministry accomplishments, and just about anything else. That’s what fuels envy. When we compare ourselves with others, we open the door for us to feel deprived.
When our life is consumed with fairness, we’ve turned our head on celebrating other’s above ourselves. We’ve embraced that desire to become greater than everyone else. We’ve gone from giving ourselves away to taking what we think belongs to us. When life treats us unfairly, the hardest choice is to continue giving ourselves away. But it’s in those moments that God reveals the enormity of his love for us.
Making Life Fair
I dare you to try and make your life fair. It’s impossible.
God can never give enough to satisfy the envious heart. We see in the story of David and Saul that even Saul’s son, Jonathan, and his daughter Michal, loved David. Yet Saul wanted it fair and refused to sing the song of David. So David mounts up the success stories and suddenly Saul is filled with a jealousy that brings him to a malicious grudge. He believes that by picking up a spear and killing David he will eliminate his envious heart.
Spears have been thrown since the beginning of time: in families, in friendships, in businesses, between denominations, and between nations. Believe it or not, it even happens in your church community. If we have brokenness among us, we make a mockery out of the unity of the Body of Christ. That is why we must deal with the toxins of envy that creep into our hearts and we must deal with our jealous eyes.
Imagine two people who attend Bible College. When graduation comes, one goes to a church of several hundred while the other starts a church plant. After several years in ministry they get together for lunch. The first person has seen the church of several hundred grow to several thousand while the second person is still struggling to get the church plant off the ground. How does the first person feel?
What about when the worship team gathers to rehearse for the weekend service. There’s dissension in the group when the vocal solo or instrumental solo is given to someone else. Or maybe there’s someone who has worked in ministry behind the scenes. They’ve seen how God has increased the influence of a particular leader, only to be left out when their position changes. You may even be a worship leader or pastor who has seen the gifting of someone else rise above your own. You’re left with that feeling of envy that begins to eat at your very soul.
Isn’t it amazing how we allow things that seem so big to us keep us from experiencing the magnitude of what God longs to reveal in us?
Celebrating The Song Of Another
The relationship between a pastor and worship leader must be one of vulnerability. It must be one that fights against feelings of envy, even when in the days when both must sit and talk about their jealous eye or fear that one or the other will go further than the other can catch up to. When dreams unfold and opportunities occur, both must learn to support one another even if one leads thousands in stadiums and arenas while the other stands in the background with a heart overflowing with joy.
It's when we learn to place out status in the church aside and become less so that God becomes more. It might be a pastor who travels on a missions trip with his or her worship leader simply to carry luggage and be part of the team. Or it might be a worship leader who chooses to sit on the front row and support a pastor who gives a message that is burning within his or her soul. In these moments, I believe, God offers a glimpse of how we can overcome envy and become leaders who truly serve in community.
In the end, Saul and Samuel die and David orders tears for Saul. But not one person cried. They may have cried out of regret for what his life could have been, but for Samuel it was different. He was a fiery spirit, who did not compromise, and they loved him. They cried because of what he became. Some day, tears are going to be shed for every one of us and we get to choose. Our jealous eyes will be the one thing that kills the presence of God among us and our churches. It will also continue to be one of the areas that worship leaders and pastors need to embrace and overcome.
When we find that jealous bone creeping into our hearts, let’s deal with it in Jesus name. Let’s fight against the sin of envy that keeps us from celebrating the song of others. Then we will be a force in every community and every city for the glory of God.
We pray this in Jesus name.
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