“We’re here to serve, not to serve ourselves.” If there is indeed a main key for a musician or worship leader, it is this one. A principle that I persoanlly can learn and discover from being in contact with Stéphane Quéry but also from serving in my local church.
Musical excellence or not?
One of the misleds we can fall in very quickly is when we form or direct a worship service to be the only quest for musical excellence. Warning, musical excellence is an essential asset. But it is not an end in itself. We serve a great God, a glorious and creator of all things.
The worship service must not be a service taken lightly. Sometimes God comes to the rescue in our lack of preparation, but it is not a behavior that we must cultivate. In any case, good prepared or not so much, we depend completely on the presence of God and the action of His Spirit during the moments of praise, regardless of the size of the audience.
Good preparation is a sign that we are taking the talent that has confided to us seriously. Let us not bury it by contenting ourselves with what we have and what we can produce in the moment. On the contrary, we cultivate and exercise it for the glory of our Master.
The study on the parable concerning talents (Matthew 25: 14-30) is very rich in the teaching of the service of God. The Talent (or “Mine” in Luke 19 12:27) certainly refers to a currency, but in this parable, the term talent can very well be applied to the meaning we hear today.
I remember very well while sitting at the drummer’s post during a worship service on a Sunday morning literally crying with shamed of the poor quality of what we had intended for our God that day. Not because the musicians were not competent enough simply because none of us who were on the platform had ever realized that our lack of preparation was above all a lack of seriousness in front of our God .
But the preparation for a musical excellence is not the objective. That is one of ways to do it. Nevertheless, it frees you from the musical imperatives and to play more naturally, and to be completely attentive to the direction coming from God. Once again, it is not by our strength that hearts are touched and rise to God. During our service, we are only engines or launchers for an anglophone term it sounds more appropriate.
To serve or to be used?
To illustrate my point, let me take an extremely pragmatic example and in the secular musical circle. Yes, to illustrate my point about praise, you read well, but let me explain.
There are two English musical groups, contemporarie from each other, with a relatively comparable notoriety, in musical styles that I would describe as cousins, and which nevertheless provide two radically different or even opposite approaches to music and the role of the musician. These approaches can in a very pragmatic way also apply on how to apprehend our worship service as a musician or leader. These two groups are Muse and Coldplay.
In the case of Muse, we are dealing with 3 exceptional musicians (with a 4th one behind the scenes or backstage). Everyone on their instruments (including the singer’s voice of course) have technical levels and artistic contributions completely hallucinating and each of their new songs testifies more. Each piece is objectively a musical success and each song is an opportunity for these 3 artists to shine. For example, one of their biggest hits is the Hysteria song which starts with a crazy bass riff, riff also sacred best bass riff of all time by a very serious international music magazine.
On the other side of the music scene is Coldplay. The cartoon band, I know all their albums, all their EPs, and yet I am unable to rule if the members are musically technical monsters or average musicians who work well together. Unlike Muse, guitar riffs are simple (commercial certainly, but Muse is very commercial too), the drum rhythms are within the reach of a drummer of a average level. Yet, like Muse, they have a musical universe of their own and they greatly influence modern music through their creativity. Even “Christian” music. Just listen to the musical arrangement of Touch the Sky, the latest single from Hillsong United to be convinced (or move).
Coldplay is a band whose musicians know how to put the right note at the right time, without doing more. Take for example their flagship title “Viva la Vida” from the eponymous album. I’m touched by the drummer’s attitude. Why ? Like each of Colpday’s titles, each member is credited as an author / composer because everyone must take an active part in the creative process. Yet in terms of arrangements, the role of the drummer on this piece is only to tap with a mallet on a big toe on each time. And nothing else. In short a simple trick and probably dashing to play night after night. And this guy, during the release of the album, made the tour of the TV shows to present this title to the world with the whole group, typing only on his big Toe (he did not even have other elements of the battery).
Considering this approach, I tell myself that this man is really at the service of something bigger than his own ego as a musician: his music. And are we, as worshipers of the Creator God, at the service of something greater than our own ego as a musician?
With Heroic Nation, I often say that our loyalty does not go to a style of music but to the message that our music contains. To the call that God has entrusted to us and to the message he has given us to communicate. No matter the style of music, because it is simply a way to get in touch with his audience. When we serve for praise, we must not shine, nor draw attention to ourselves. For, behond the fact that we pass on the side of the objective, if not we really steal from God the moment destined to Him.
We must not shine because we are not there to shine. We do not try to show our technique to the Muse, but simply to place our little note by the Coldplay way to serve a cause much greater than our little person.
This is why I particularly like this term of Launchers to describe our approach to praise. In the case of a space shuttle place in the orbit, these “launchers” (the large white columns all spacial launches) are technology and power jewelry. They represent hours of preparation and work. They are essential for the shuttle to leave the Earth’s atmosphere. But you know what’s great? Once the rocket is in the orbit, it will definitely detach and leave the rocket free. Their work is done.
This article is also available on the site Leader Chrétiens