By David Manner
Scripture classifies the Pharisees as the strictest of all the Jewish religious sects. Literally set apart from others, they clung to their laws and traditions even at the expense of God’s law. Jesus rebuked them numerous times for their hypocrisy, pretension and self-righteousness.
It’s easy as worship leaders to fall into that same trap of sanctimonious arrogance. We can lead from the impression that we alone have the ability and even right to be the sole proprietors of worship. When this pretentiousness occurs we care more about elevating ourselves and our own agendas than helping others in spirit and truth worship.
It’s true that worship leaders are usually the most talented in the room, so it’s always a challenge to be both upfront and unassuming. But if in the name of excellence or musical purity we start suggesting that what we lead and the style in which we lead it is the only tenable option, then we too can slide into Phariseeism.
Thomas Merton wrote, “When humility delivers a man from attachment to his own works and his own reputation, he discovers that perfect joy is possible only when we have completely forgotten ourselves. And it is only when we pay no more attention to our own deeds and our own reputation and our own excellence that we are at last completely free to serve God in perfection for His sake alone.”
10 Signs You’re A Worship Leading Pharisee
- Worship service selections are determined by your favorite style instead of biblical and theological content.
“You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions” (Mark 7:9).
- You disappear when it’s time to set up or tear down.
“They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matt 23:4).
- You lead “Your praise will ever be on my lips” in the service and then berate the tech team after the service.
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matt 15:8).
- Your audience is not an audience of One.
“For they loved human praise more than praise from God” (John 12:43).
- You accuse any ministry more successful than yours as being stylistically superficial, musically adulterated or theologically shallow.
“All the crowds were astounded and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’ When the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man drives out demons only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons’” (Matt 12:24).
- You canonize or criticize either hymns or modern worship songs.
“When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders that he did and the children shouting in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant and said to him, ‘Do you hear what these children are saying” (Matt 21:15)?
- You measure your level of artistry and spirituality against others.
“See, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Matt 12:2).
- You’ve made dressing up or dressing down a worship prerequisite.
“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long” (Matt 23:5).
- You’ve created the false dichotomy that if your style is virtuous, then theirs can’t be.
“God, I thank you that I’m not like other people” (Luke 18:11).
- Your mic must be a little hotter and your spot a little brighter than all others.
“They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues” (Matt 23:6).10 Signs You Are a Worship-Leading Pharisee @dwmanner Click To Tweet
 Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New Haven: Abbey of Gethsemani, 1961), 58.
This post first appeared on David’s blog. Used by permission.