It’s About Stewardship. Not Showmanship.

    In 2 Samuel 24:18-25 we are given the record of one of King David’s more costly acts of worship. Convicted of his own sin, David personally purchased a parcel of land from Araunah the Jebusite in order to build an altar to the Lord for burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Though Araunah offered to give the king his threshing floor at no cost, David responded with his classic words, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (vs. 24).

     Through the intercession and worship of David, God brought an end to a 3-day plague which fell on the people of God in response to David’s sin of “counting the fighting men.” When David chose to get a head count of his most able soldiers he was essentially saying to the Lord, “God, I’m not really sure you can and or that you will take care of our enemies apart from my help.” This was a clear act of unbelief and self-salvation.

     We sabotage the intent of this text if we fail to look forward in the history of redemption to the day the true and greater King, Jesus, arrived and completed the most costly act of worship conceivable. Jesus didn’t simply purchase one small piece of property upon which to build an altar to intercede for one nation. He purchased—that is, redeemed and bought back—the entire cosmos and family from every single race, tribe and people group. But it was not for his sin, but ours, that the King of Kings served as both our high priest and the sacrifice for our sin. Jesus exhausted God’s judgment against our sin as he paid the full price of our redemption for all who trust in him.

     This now means that though he will discipline us in love as the best Father imaginable, as a judge, God will never ever again deal with us according to our sin or reward us according to our iniquity; he dealt with Jesus according to our sin and rewarded Jesus according to our iniquity. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). This is the gospel and if anything less than or other than the gospel fuels the worship of God today it is simply unacceptable to God. King David is not our model to be followed. King Jesus is our Savior to be adored! It’s not David’s sacrifice, but Jesus’ sacrifice that makes worship acceptable.

     What are the implications of this conversation for those of us called to serve as worship leaders in our churches, communities and culture? First and foremost, we simply cannot afford to lose a sense of gospel-astonishment in our own hearts. That is, when we primarily lead our teams, choirs and congregations as hard-working worship leaders, rather than as grateful and humble lead worshipers… God have mercy on us! We may be skilled at our craft, but dead in our hearts. I pray each of us knows the difference, for we will reproduce after our kind.

     To be a gospel-driven worship leader is primarily an act of stewardship, not showmanship. We’re privileged and called to be stewards of the unsearchable riches of Christ freely given to us in the gospel of God’s grace. We aren’t showmen, pragmatically trying to earn our way or make a name for ourselves. We’re stewards, resting in the finished work of Christ, doing everything we can to reveal the sufficiency of his finished work and the glory of his name. The greatest gift you can offer as a worship leader is to keep your heart filled with the beauty, grace and glory of Jesus. Don’t count your “fighting men”—that is, don’t rely on the most gifted players or singers, or the newest technology and songs, or the most creative arrangements and worship accoutrements. Make great art from a heart filled with gospel-astonishment. Trust boldly in Christ! He can and will bring much glory to himself! What more could we possibly want?

Hear from Scotty Smith at the The Worship School's 2016 One-Day Conference in Spokane, WA. He will be joined by Jesse Reeves, Charlie Hall, Evan Wickham, and more. Get more info here.

Scotty Smith
Pastor, teacher, and author. Graduate of University of North Carolina (BA in religion); Westminster Theological Seminary (MAR) and Covenant Theological Seminary (DMin). Adjunct faculty for Covenant Seminary, Westminster (Philadelphia), Redeemer Seminary (Dallas), RTS in Orlando, and most recently, Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

The Song I Couldn't Sing

For a long time, I had a serious love-hate relationship with these lyrics:

“All to Thee, my blessed Savior
I surrender all”

I loved what it says about Jesus, that He’s worthy of our all, but I hated what it says about me. If I’m honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ever surrendered all. It felt disingenuous to stand up, in front of my congregation, and sing I Surrender All. Regardless of how badly I wanted to mean what I sang on Sunday, I knew I'd fail to live up to it on Monday (or more likely on Sunday afternoon).

But after singing it one morning I found myself wondering, Will I ever be able to sing those words and truly mean them? I couldn’t figure out how to answer that question—that is, until Philippians 3:8-12 answered it for me. 

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

To get me to see that I was looking at this all wrong, the Spirit directed my attention to three words, “depends on faith,” in verse 9. I saw how my surrender had become a law to me; I was basing my worthiness to sing the song on whether or not my spiritual performance was up to snuff. I neurotically looked inside myself to see how well I was surrendering. 

Then God obliterated my neurosis with the wrecking ball of the Gospel. He showed me that my surrender depends not on human righteousness—which is polluted and corrupt—but on faith, which is an indestructible gift He gives in Christ (Eph. 2:8). 

I began to see my inability to surrender all as a powerful reason to sing it all the more. After all, Jesus surrendered everything to God for me. Through His flawlessly righteous performance, God has begun a work of true surrender in my heart, which He has promised to complete (Phil. 1:6). 

Therefore, my surrender is not contingent upon the goodness of my performance, but upon the glory of His surefire grace sanctifying me day by day. Singing this song has become a powerful way of conforming my heart to His will.

Now I no longer look at myself when I sing about surrendering all; I look at Christ, and I sing it by faith in Him alone.

Tyler Greene is the Associate Pastor of Worship Ministries for LifePoint Church in Ozark, MO.

How We Grew From Being Uprooted

During my freshman year at Georgia College, I (Billy) met Mary. We started dating, began leading worship together, and in the summer of 2014 decided to intern together at a church in Ft. Worth. Just before our drive out to Texas I had lunch with one of my old youth pastors, Randall Tonini. 

He asked us if we would pray about planting a church with him in San Diego, California. 

After the excitement faded (mainly about the potential to live somewhere without humidity), we started praying about getting married and moving to the west coast. Over the next several months we felt like that was exactly what God was calling us to do. So, after dinner one night, I asked Mary’s parents if I could marry their daughter. They said yes. We celebrated for a few minutes, and then I asked them if I could move their daughter across the country. By God’s grace, they said yes again. Their answer was a surprisingly quick confirmation of where we felt God was calling us.

When we told people we were going to be missionaries in San Diego, we were mainly met with “Wow, that’s going be so rough for you,” and “I hear the weather is terrible!” Sarcasm aside, we knew it was going to be the most difficult thing we've ever done. We were married last August and moved from Georgia to California three days after our honeymoon. 

The move hasn't been the easiest. 

Although we’ve experienced culture shock and homesickness, we’ve learned that, more than anything, we have to depend on God to provide for us. When I’m (Mary) deeply missing my family and friends, God is reminding me that my security is in Jesus. When I’m (Billy) stressing about financial support, God is reminding me that He is my provider. We’ve seen Him provide exactly what we need at exactly the right time, and it’s been through the difficulty and struggle that we’ve seen God do incredible work in the church he’s called us to.

We launched Grace City Church in October of 2015 and have already witness six baptisms and multiple people gain knowledge of the Gospel. While our job is to lead worship, we’ve learned that God didn’t just call us to San Diego to lead a band on Sunday mornings—He called us to be faithful and tell people about the goodness of God in Christ Jesus everyday

The most rewarding thing about being part of Grace City has been seeing honest expressions of worship in our church family. We get to see God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s comfort in people’s lives when they honestly sing to Him—even in painful or uncertain situations. There have been several Sunday mornings where someone at Grace City is grieving the death of a close family member, or doesn’t know if they will have a job the next week. It is a great joy to be able to know that person’s story and hear them sing truth in the midst of uncertainty. 

We may gather to sing songs about God’s character, mercy, grace, and forgiveness on Sunday, but our hope is that those songs will remind us that God is still loving and faithful on Monday. 

He’s loving and faithful when you’re in a place of insecurity, when you’re in a place of uncertainty, and when, out of nowhere, you’re in a place across the country.


Billy and Mary Kilmer

Learn more about Grace City Church at