Leading Without Love

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My apologies to Eugene Peterson for tweaking his beautiful translation of 1 Corinthians 13 (from The Message) , but I thought all of us worship leaders could benefit from thinking about what our true calling is in light of this passage of scripture. Last night when I led worship, I realized that my truest calling is not to sing, play, create, lead, have a vision, or write songs. While God may call and gift me to do all these things, when we get down to the basics, my truest calling is to proclaim the truth, hope, love and salvation of Jesus Christ while I love God and love others. Using all of my gifts, without love, is just a clanging cymbal……

So here it is, 1 Corinthians 13 for worship leaders…………

If I speak with human eloquence and sing and play my instrument with angelic ecstasy and have an incredible vision but don’t love the people I’m called to serve, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with assurance or play my Taylor guitar (smile!) with skill and power, revealing all his mysteries through the songs that I write and sing and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, and the skill to move people to tears and thrills as I lead worship, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and do Advent Conspiracy or take up an offering for Blood:Water:Mission every single Christmas and even go on a mission trip every year, but I don’t love my team or my congregation or those in need of knowing Jesus, I’ve gotten nowhere.

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, how well I play, or how skillfully I sing, or how great a leader I am, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up. Love cares more for my band and congregation than for myself. Love allows others center stage and hears other’s ideas. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have and is not jealous when others succeed. Love doesn’t strut and insist on being the center of attention and the one to lead or sing or preach all the time, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others and promote itself endlessly, isn’t always “me first,” or “look at me” or “give me the mic”. Doesn’t fly off the handle, or throw artistic tantrums. Doesn’t keep score of the sins or musical mistakes or shortcomings of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth and in the gifts and successes of others, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best and cheers others on, Never looks back, keeps going to the end. Love never dies.

Inspired speech and musical gifts and creative ideas will be over some day; planning services and creating videos will end; our ability and understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say and sing about God is  – at our best – always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled…… We don’t yet see things clearly, even on our best, most inspired and creative days. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist, painting a picture of an Indescribable God. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.

As worship leaders we often focus on skill and ability. This week let us focus on love.

( I am not “adding” to the Word of God, only using a scripture as the basis for sharing my thoughts. Think of it as expounding on a passage in order to teach a point.)



is the Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church, where he mentors, oversees and helps lead Family and Student worship environments. He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community and at HighestPraise.com.

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