Confessions of a Worship Leader – Guest Blogger: Laura Cooke

Confessions of a Worship Leader: a bit of my story.

To my friends, the ones I actually know, have never met, and my mother who will inevitably read this…

I ask you to bear with me, because I need to share some things…

I should most definitely be asleep right now. In 7 hours, I will be on my way with the team to lead worship at a Southern Baptist Church in another city. Well, I think It’s still southern baptist, last time I was there it was. All I know is that we have to dress up, and the sun is rising sooner than I would like it to.

I’ve been thinking a lot about worship over the last 2 months. A lot about Kingdom. A lot about Jesus.
I don’t write this as a positioning piece, nor do I pen as a 95 thesis type of declaration. I’m going to blog a bit… and in so doing, hope to level with the truth… and end up on the side of the Lord…

I merely write because the idea of Kingdom burns so deep within me that I can’t not write. I have recently been asked a lot of questions about worship and my thoughts and beliefs..and, not that my position means any more in the kingdom than the beggar in Malawi, I humbly submit to you my story….

When I was a freshman in college, I got cut from a Music Ministries audition. I was crushed. In my extremely small self enveloped expanse of worldview, my life was over. I was hurt, I was angry…and I wanted answers. That ( as small as it might sound) started the most amazing journey. I remember when I sat on the stage of Christ Chapel at 18 and wept and asked the Lord to show me himself, because I realized the weight of the self-worship and idolatry I had engaged in in the name of ” contemporary worship”. I said the name Darlene more times than I said the name of Jesus, and I had entirely too many long coats and high heels in my closet and a perfected Australian accent to boot. ( insert as many jokes here as you would like about how many Hillsong songs we do in chapel…go ahead…)
And I remember the day that my journal read the following:

“Ah, so this is what humbled feels like. Weird, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt this, and that might be a really bad thing. I don’t care if I ever set foot on that stage again. I wouldn’t dream of trading in knowing You for standing on a stage. I want to know You. I want to fear you, and truly understand repentance and grace”

and I meant it.

With all the will and fear of the Lord that I could muster. I meant it.

And He meant it when He said
: Love the Lord Your God with all your heart mind soul and strength”
He also meant it when he said
: Thou shalt have no other gods before me”

And the two thoughts were perspectives to connect…

And so i sought. And I found.

Except, it wasn’t Jesus Christ Super-star that I found. He didn’t have a tour bus, or a record lable. He wasn’t sitting on the front row of the GMA’s. And he didn’t feel proud of himself when more hands in the building were raised than not during a power bridge of a song.

It was Isaiah 53 Jesus that I found.
( message version )
” There was nothing attractive about him , nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was OUR pains he was carrying, our disfigurements all the things wrong with US. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was out sins that did that to him. that ripped and tore and crushed him, our sins!…..”

Whoa. Talk about a perspective check.
And suddenly, I couldn’t make right in my head what I had felt for my whole life I was ” Called To” –
Standing on a stage, in fancy clothes, while pre-teen girls wanted to be like me, dancing around and smiling, not even thinking about Jesus because I was too preoccupied with singing the right parts, and looking the right way…making the show happen to keep people coming back..Conjuring up the Spirit of God and emotionally manipulating them to make me their favorite worship leader…. Rubbish. It’s ALL rubbish before his throne. Every last single bit of it. trash.

Repentance. A true desire to change.

To leave behind the mental conclusions that what our western culture has deemed as acceptable, maybe, just maybe in light of the King…isnt?

I’m not saying that the stage in itself is bad. I’m not saying that the western culture is bad. I’m not saying that dressing fancy is bad. I’m involved in all three of these…

I do wonder, however, at the depth of the heart, if we were to expose every motive and ambition, sweep out the dark corners and open wide the closed doors of our lives, would modern day worship , and the modern day celebrity worship leader look ANYTHING like the Lord wanted his worship to look like in the first place?

I’ve heard more interpretations of the verse ” The time is now coming…. when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” …..
I’ve heard people say that if you are not worshiping in technical excellence, that you are not worshiping in ” truth’ – I’ve heard it said, if you are not worshiping honestly you are not worshiping in truth. I’ve heard many things…and I would say this…

If your offering of worship before the Lord comes from a pure heart and clean hands- regardless of what it looks like, sounds like- no one- NO ONE can tell you that it isn’t good enough.

The fear of the Lord is missing in most worship settings. Why is it that the modern day worship leader thinks that what they do and how they do it has ANY control over when the spirit of God comes or doesn’t come?
And I wonder if what we call the ” spirit of God” the Lord would consider to be part of Amos 5:20-24….
( message version)…again…
” I want nothing to do with your religious slogans and goals, your public relations and image-making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music : When was the last time you sang to me? ”

Fear and reverence of the Lord-knowing at the depth of who He is- is for us. How could we not worship?

Your Thoughts?

Laura Cooke is a worship leader at Oral Roberts University, Tulsa Oklahoma. You can friend her on Facebook here and follow her on Twitter here.

7 replies
  1. Rebecca Alderman
    Rebecca Alderman says:

    Right on! Thank you for being so transparent and honest. Let’s all follow your lead to examine the depths of our real existences and allow the real things that matter to God matter to us now before another lost soul dies without our true witness in power being made available to them here.

  2. Dean O
    Dean O says:

    Come on! That’s good stuff. The church as a whole needs a good dose of humility as a whole not just worship leaders. Heck, I need a good dose of it. Good stuff. There is more in you!

  3. AnnMarie Hurston
    AnnMarie Hurston says:

    Wow! That was such a heartfelt blog! Thank you for sharing! I am a worship leader as well, and this was very encouraging to me! I am in a time where I am not on stage very often, and it’s weird. Sometimes, it gets me a little sad…but I worship at home and I know it means just as much to God. It has been awesome to find myself in true worship just standing in my own bedroom…instead of on a stage. God is real, no matter where we stand. Thanks for the encouragement that I don’t have to be on stage to worship God in spirit and in truth. I know someday I’ll be on stage again and He will use me to bring others into true worship, too! I can’t wait!

  4. Heather
    Heather says:

    Wow. Wow. All so true. Beautifully said. Needed to be heard. I’m 38, have been a worship leader for oh around 20 years or so and I can tell you I have wrestled with some of the same thoughts, feelings and scriptures. Thank you for being so brutally and humbly honest. I’m going to read this a few more times and look forward to more of what you share.
    Thanks Dave Lawrence for Posting it on impelLIVE. love and miss you!!!!!

  5. Pam Bedenbaugh
    Pam Bedenbaugh says:

    Hi Laura! I am SO thrilled to see your heart for Jesus. God called you to “Come Up” and you responded. Now you are really free to worship!!

    I have some thoughts about worship -actually have had these thoughts since first came in to contemporary worship after salvation (24 yrs ago!) – and now, after completing a two year worship leadership program (surprise!), am even more convinced. I believe it is not possible to be truly involved in worship in the current stage, concert format – not for the praise team and not for the “audience”. I know there are some times when worship is deeper than other times, but in general it is a distraction, lacks spontaneity (controlled flow time) and encourages passivity. I have considered some alternatives such as: lose the stage and put the team in front facing the same direction as congregation (like in Old Testament where the singers marched in front – 2 Chronicles); or just simply have the congregation turn around facing the back and the band/team are on stage behind congregation. The current stage set up totally lends itself to spectating. Even when people (keeping their eyes closed of course)are able to get into the worship, the cues and coaching from the leader can interfere/interrupt the worshippers and cause them to get focused on externals. I remember in worship leadership being taught to keep sufficient “eye contact” with the congregation to “draw them in”. To me, now you have the leader focused on the congregation and the congregation focused on the leader – nobody’s worshipping God – it is just a form of worship. Worship is simply a response to who He is, and that is caught in your heart and expressed individually. Sometimes that is seen externally, sometimes not. Of course there’s always the option of keeping things as they are but allowing people to just listen to the songs and be more “reflective”. (Kind of like listening to your iPod;-)

    I certainly don’t have all the answers, but am thrilled to know He is “messing with you”. I believe the result will be life changing for you and others. Praying for you. Love to you and your precious family. Pam

  6. Steve Sisler 1987 Rhema grad
    Steve Sisler 1987 Rhema grad says:


    It appears that you have crossed the threshold of what I call “Dying the Death that Counts.” This takes place when you are finally content to “know nothing, do nothing and be known for nothing.” Like Moses on the backside of nowhere…

    I appreciate you as I appreciate your dad… true and sincere…. the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree my dear.


  7. R Renner
    R Renner says:

    Very impressive writing. Thanks for opening your heart, Laura. Keep your heart pressing into the kingdom of God. Nothing else matters.


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