What’s it like to be on a stage in front of 16,000 people?
Ah, yes. The Urbana stage. How do you prepare to set foot on a stage like that? Yes, we practiced a lot and made sure we knew our music. We also studied Luke together so that we were personally shaped by the scriptures that the Urbana delegates would go through. But aside from that, one thing that we really had to do to prepare ourselves: get our egos in check.
There’s No Room For Egos On This Team
Sometimes people would say, “Oooh, so and so should have been on this team! That would have been fun!” and Sandra’s response would be, “No. At this point in their life, their ego wouldn’t be able to handle it. And there’s no room for egos on this team.”
One thing that I don’t think is often talked about is that when you step onto a platform with that kind of influence you’d better let God shape your character to be able to handle it all.
You see, the stage–and not just the Urbana stage, but any stage or platform–is a double edged sword. On one hand, the stage is a place of influence; a means by which we are able to bless people. From it we get the chance to speak and to minister, to lead people into deeper relationship with God, to offer hope and healing and reconciliation with God. On the other hand, it can be kind of a dangerous place for a worship leader. Because truthfully, the stage can really mess with your head and with your soul.
When you’re on stage in front of a crowd, large or small, you all of a sudden become known. And let’s be honest: any of us that has the nature of a performer, an artist, or an influencer also has a hungry ego. We like being known. We like being affirmed. We like feeling useful. We like feeling important and recognized. We like feeling like we have something to offer. We like displaying our gifts, and we especially like being admired for them. It’s okay, I can admit it, and so can you. We are broken and sinful and in need of God’s grace and redemption. But as such, let’s not be naive to understand that for us the stage can be dangerous territory, giving us and our hungry egos a complex if we are not careful.
How easy it is to bask in all the people that now know us, all of the praise we get for a job well done, all of the thanks we get for touching someone’s life, and all the admiration we receive for our gifts. And how easy it is to feed our hungry little egos that say, “Look at me! I’m so important! I’m so awesome! I’m talented, really I am!” Honestly, I don’t think it’s completely wrong to want to be known, loved, or affirmed. We all need a little encouragement, and we all need to receive love. But as worship leaders, our job is to lead people in worshipping and glorifying the Lord, and when we crave that attention for ourselves, then it is no longer about glorifying God, rather we’ve made it about glorifying ourselves. Instead of genuinely working for God to be worshipped and glorified we are secretly working for affirmation and praise–for us to be glorified, for us to seem important, and for us to seem worthy of something. For a worship leader, that’s not okay.
Like we said, there is no room for egos here.
Check Your Ego, Shape Your Character
So, how do you prepare to be in front of 16,000 people? You have to constantly let God check our ego at the door. You have to invite him to shape your character so that you can handle being on stage and getting that much attention yet remain a person with integrity, transparency, authenticity, selflessness, and humility. Over and over and over again. Believe me, it’s hard to do with even 30 people, and much harder at 16,000.
To let God shape your character is to constantly ask him for brokenness and humility and to let him do the hard, painful work of chipping away at our egos. It is to ask him to purify us of selfish ambition and vain conceit. To take the risk to be transparent with ourselves, with others, and with God. And to repent. Often.
And really, it doesn’t start when you find out you’ll be on a stage of 16,000. It needs to start when you are on a stage of 16. Because our egos can be that hungry. Otherwise, one day your monstrous ego that you’ve fed for so many years will get the better of you. And if you ever do get to be on a stage of 16,000, your ego and your complex will only be magnified by 16,000.
I don’t want to be the kind of person who can get on stage and say the right things, lead people in an amazing worship time, minister to people in the power of the Holy Spirit, yet secretly be really into myself and how awesome it all makes me feel. Secretly be a self-focused glory-hog with a big head who wants glory more for myself than for God to be glorified. I don’t want to be the kind of person who can help others draw near to Jesus while missing out on the authentic intimacy with Jesus because I’ve paid more attention to what others say about me rather than what Jesus says about me. And I especially don’t want to be the kind of leader who forgets that I am a broken and sinful child of God who is desperately in need of grace, just like everyone else.
If I can lead a great worship time but my character sucks and my relationship with God is more about me than it is about him, then I will have some deep regrets when I face the Lord. I don’t want to miss out on God because I’m too into myself. So yes Lord, shape my character and kill my hungry ego all the days of my life. I want no room for egos here. Not now, not ever.