One of the most common faith analogies I heard growing up in church was the “Dead Sea” analogy. It’s a body of water that has inlets, but no outlets (or so the story goes). The water comes in, but nothing goes out, so the end result is a stagnant body of water with no life. This is basically what’s called an endorheic basin (or closed sea). Its waters converge into lakes or swamps, permanent or seasonal, that equilibrate through evaporation.
Water in, no water flowing out.
As a follower of Jesus, we have the beautiful privilege for multiple lifelong opportunities to be exorheic, or externally drained. In the case of the Worship Leader, serving the congregation through the leading of musical worship is one way to allow what God has poured in, to “drain” out (or overflow) into others.
Oswald Chambers says this about water (streams and fountains):
“The sweetness of your vital relationship to Jesus will flow as generously out of you as it has been given to you. If you find that His life is not springing up as it should, you are to blame— something is obstructing the flow.”
Referring to John 7:38, where Jesus says “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.‘” he goes on to ask:
“Was Jesus saying to stay focused on the Source so that you may be blessed personally? No, you are to focus on the Source so that out of you ‘will flow rivers of living water’ — irrepressible life.”
A worship leader who hasn’t matured to the place of seeing this wonderful opportunity will remain like The Dead Sea – receiving from the Lord through times of musical worship, but not actually seeing the weighty gift of stewardship of those streams from Heaven. They will continue to be given favor and blessing in the presence of the Lord as they encounter the Lord, but just like an endorheic basin, those sweet opportunities to overflow those blessings to others will eventually evaporate away leaving nothing that produces life.
Most endorheic basins are lined by salt pans. The salinity levels of the water in these lakes and swamps are so high that not much life, if any, can survive there.
So, to be a blessing to others, you must first receive the blessings from the fountain that Jesus offers us. There are not many worship leaders that I’ve ever encountered or seen who, at the very least, don’t get this concept. It’s a basic, almost entry level assumption: Worship leaders should be plugged into Jesus.
“Literally, it says, out of his belly. But the point is our inner being, call it belly, heart, soul, spirit. What does this mean?
It means that when you come to Jesus to drink, you don’t just get a single drink, but you get spring, a fountain, a well. You get Jesus. Rivers of water will flow because a River-Maker is in you. That’s the point. You will never have to search again for a source of satisfaction for your soul. Every river that needs to flow for the joy of your soul will flow from Jesus. When you come to him, you get him. And he never leaves.”
What might be hard to believe, though, is the amount of worship leaders (including myself) at times, who’ve missed the big picture. We’ve missed the overall mission of The Church – and that mission isn’t to sit around basking in the presence of Jesus all alone by ourselves – but it is to be ON MISSION (AND basking in the presence of Jesus!).
You see it’s not either/or, it’s BOTH! We are to both abide in the streams, AND to overflow the streams. We are to rest in the presence of Jesus, and we are to work by sharing the presence of Jesus. We are to worship at the feet of Jesus, and we are to bring OTHERS to worship at the feet of Jesus.
How that looks might be different for all kinds of churches and traditions, but ultimately the overarching plot line of God’s story looks something like this:
Be AND Do.
So as worship leaders the challenge for us week in and week out is to BE in the streams, receiving refreshing and blessing from the Lord while we soak in divine waters while also allowing those waters to overflow from us as we serve those around us. See yourself as an OPEN LAKE not a closed lake. Don’t let opportunities to bless those around you evaporate away.
How To Lead Worship (this post has 10 helpful tips about serving others through leading).
Russ Hutto 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.