You could say that John the Baptist was the wildest worship leader that ever lived. To our knowledge, he wasn’t wielding an electric guitar in the wilderness but, in my opinion, musical skill isn’t the most important attribute of a worship leader. What defines a worship leader has more to do with the heart than the hands.
Without a doubt, John the Baptist had the heart of a worship leader. The following are three of the many lessons I’ve learned from the life of this wild worship leader.
1. Make His Joy Your Joy.
The main reason I view John the Baptist as a worship leader is because of what drove him. This drive is revealed in John 3:29, “The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
In first century Jewish culture the friend of the bridegroom (akin to our “best man”) notified the bride of the bridegroom’s coming when it was time for the wedding. His joy was to facilitate the much anticipated coming together of the bride and the bridegroom.
John the Baptist’s deepest passion and highest joy was in facilitating the coming together of Jesus and His bride. His personal joy was tied into Jesus’ joy as the bridegroom coming for His bride. When they did come together, John, much like the friend of the bridegroom, backed out of the spotlight.
A worship leader is someone who desires to facilitate the joining together of Jesus and His people and knows when to take himself/herself out of the picture as it begins to happen.
2. Straighten the Path.
Since the coming together of Jesus and His bride was John’s ultimate goal, it was in his heart to see that every obstacle was removed from the path.
John used Isaiah 40:3 to explain to the inquiring Pharisees who he was, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said” (John 1:23).
John boiled his purpose down to this: make it as easy as possible for Jesus and His people to come together. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. His aim was to straighten the path.
The majority of the obstacles between God and His people were in their heads. Their minds were filled with inaccurate views of what God was like. This always leads to impure hearts and unclean hands. This is why John’s message was one of repentance which simply means, “get rid of your stinkin’ thinkin’.”
A worship leader is someone who works to make it as easy as possible (not to be confused with as cheap as possible) for God’s people to encounter Him.
3. Hold People Loosely.
John was concerned with promoting Jesus’ name and ministry, not his own. He did this even to the point of frustrating the religious leaders. After answering their inquiries into who he was by only telling them who he wasn’t he finally gave them this answer: I am a voice. Not a face, not a name, just a voice. (see John 1:19-23).
The only name John was concerned with was Jesus’.
It’s amazing to me that John’s disciples didn’t even get this. They found Jesus’ increasing influence and John’s decreasing influence to be alarming. Their insecurity led them to warn John of what was happening (John 3:26) to which he beautifully replied, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”
John was secure. Because of this, he held people loosely. He even encouraged his disciples to leave him and follow Jesus (John 1:35-37). John knew that if losing his followers was a win for Jesus, it was a win for him too.
A secure worship leader holds his/her team members and congregation loosely because they know that God’s “River” is much, much bigger than their little tributary (i.e. church/ministry).
These are just three of a number of lessons I’ve learned from, who I believe, was the wildest worship leader that ever lived.