Breaking the Competitive Spirit

I’m learning so much from reading Joel Osteen’s book, Every Day a Friday. It’s a book all about living with the right attitude and so much of it is applicable to those of us in worship ministry.

Today, I want to look at the spirit of competition. My next post will deal with the sort of people you want on your team.

I think worship leaders tend to be naturally competitive. As much as we’d like to deny it, it’s a ministry where your skills and talents are on show.

When I first started in worship ministry, I couldn’t sing very well. In fact, when I was in school, they wouldn’t let me sing in the choir because my voice wasn’t quite “ready”. In our team, we used to have heaps of brilliant singers. One guy I sung with used to be able to sight read notes and sing in Latin. And then there was this other singer. You just had to ask for a note and he could sing it for you pitch-perfect.

Actually, when I think about it now, I’m not that great a singer still. I can hold a pitch, but often I get caught up in the moment, lose concentration and go flat.

Joel Osteen shares a great thought about Saul and David in 1 Sam 18:7 (Every Day a Friday, p 133). After David had defeated the Philistines in battle, the women began to sing “Saul has slain his thousands, David his tens of thousands.”

Saul became angry and jealous. First Samuel 18:9-10 (Msg) says:

This made Saul angry—very angry. He took it as a personal insult. He said, “They credit David with ‘ten thousands’ and me with only ‘thousands.’ Before you know it they’ll be giving him the kingdom!” From that moment on, Saul kept his eye on David.

David and Saul could have been a great team. But their relationship began to deteriorate. And in the end, so did Saul’s hold on the kingdom. It seems to me that David had such an attitude that he would never have wrested the kingdom away from Saul. He would never have “touched the Lord’s anointed” (a verse, which by the way is often taken out of context in Charismatic church culture) and he would have been an invaluable resource to have at Saul’s disposal. Instead, Saul’s attitude made it impossible for David to serve under him.

Osteen observes:

One of life’s tests requires learning to celebrate the successes of others. You may be tempted to be jealous or critical when someone rises higher, passing you up, whether it’s in the office, on a team or in an organisation…

The real test as to whether God continues to promote you is how well you handle the successes of others. Can you celebrate what God is doing in their lives and not be jealous or critical, or feel you are in competition with them?

When John the Baptist was baptising people, a certain person asked him “Who are you?”. His response was telling: “I am not the Christ.”

As worship leaders, we need a healthy understanding of who we are, and who we are not.

Whilst the temptation still arises from time to time, I am becoming more secure as to the giftings God has given me. I accept that I’m not the best singer. I don’t have much of a musical ability. But I celebrate the unique talents God has given me.

In fact, someone said to me the other day they thought I had a great voice. I told them that actually, that’s not my thing. My gfit is as a worship architect. I have a great sense of envisioning the flow of a worship set from start to finish; I was good at linking songs, thoughts, themes and prayer together. This person said he thought I also knew how to say the right things to exhort people during a song. I was good at that too, and I accepted the compliment!

Knowing and appreciating your place in the body is an important attitude. But even more is the belief and the hope that those who work with you; who train under you will one day exceed you.

A couple of years ago, we were leading a pioneering ministry of some 30 singers and musicians. Early on, my co-leader and I told the team that we hoped that, a couple of years into the gig, we would rotate the leadership. We saw leadership potential in our midst and we knew that it was entirely possible that that potential would soar beyond our own.

I believe God is accelerating the generations. The next generation could well be savvier, more interconnected and more forward-thinking than my generation. I hope to keep up; when they surpass me, I’m going celebrate and support those who will reach further than I could ever have. And I hope that with my support, they will go further than they could have on their own.

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