Don’t Worship Your Work

Travis Sterrett Character, Featured, Worship Leader Blog Leave a Comment

My name is Travis Sterrett. I’m a 25-year-old business-school graduate and I absolutely love my job in full-time ministry at The Austin Stone Community Church. I’m a worship-pastoring resident, which means I raise the financial support necessary to work and am participating in a two-year discipleship program with one of our worship pastors.

While I get a lot of joy out of doing ministry here and pray that I will get to continue for many years, the Lord recently helped me discover a darkness lurking in the deepest places of my soul. As it turns out, I often fall into the sin of worshipping my work.

We all desire to be significant and to be acknowledged as such, but ever since coming on staff, the worst form of that desire has reared its ugly head almost every day.

It comes in three primary ways:

  1. Coveting what I don’t have
  2. Wanting complete control over my circumstances
  3. Slaving for the approval of my employers

I thank God for His grace, for what I hope to show here is how He has set me on a path toward repentance from something that otherwise could have consumed me.

Covetousness

Being surrounded by so many gifted people, I feel like I’m not good enough most of the time. My fellow residents are incredible worship leaders, and many of them have a unique gifting I often wish I had. I’m constantly experiencing feelings of insecurity, wondering what everyone thinks of me and how I measure up.

One of the most difficult parts of my residency has involved a relationship with a friend who’s on staff as a worship pastor. He and I share a lot of our lives in common – we both lead worship, primarily in the student ministry, and we’re close to the same age. The main difference? He is working full time on our worship staff and I am here as a resident. I covet his job all the time, and because our roles are very similar, I often try to boost my sense of self by comparing how well we both are leading. My thoughts are like this:

  • ‘How many students events did I go to this week? Was he there? Am I more plugged in than he is? That makes me feel more valuable.’
  • ‘He got to play main stage at the Austin Stone this week with his band. I wish I could do that. I want people to look at me the same way they look at him.’
  • ‘He wrote a great song, but our arrangement of it is way cooler. I think the students like it more. I also hope they like hearing me lead more than they do him. As long as I know I’m better liked than him, I can lay my head down and sleep at night.’

Harsh, right? I told you – I’m struggling. The truth is this daily testing of my faith is God’s grace. For the first time in my life I really have to search the depths of my soul and trust that Jesus and the story He’s writing with my life really is better. I don’t have to help Him write the story.

Control

I think it’s ok to have desires for where we would like to see our life go, where we would like to live, and ministries we would like to be a part of. In fact I think the Lord gives us those desires. But from the smallest little things to massive subconscious, systematic scheming, I’ve come to realize I have an inordinate desire for control over my life.

I always try to be strategic about when I lead worship and who’s present when I do. I’ll think, ‘If I can just pull off enough good sets at the right time throughout this next year, I’ll be able to get hired and be comfortable in life just the way I am planning it.’ Or I’ll walk around the office and try to build relationships with the right people, thinking, ‘If the right people see me living the way I do, they’ll put in a good enough word for me over time to get me where I want to go.’

The truth is I’m terrified by the thought of going a direction in life that doesn’t sound fun or comfortable. Taking off after my residency to lead worship at a church in some random small town in Texas sounds like the most uncomfortable thing I could think of doing. But again my God is gracious in my struggle. Jesus has shown beyond all doubt that He is good to me and His will is perfect. However small the odds my wife and I would find good friends our age in another town, however small a congregation He lets me lead, however my life as a worship leader works out, Jesus is trustworthy.

Approval

Lastly, leading worship at The Stone I often find myself desperate for the approval of people. Ironically it’s not of the people I lead, but what everyone on staff thinks of the way I lead.

During my weekly prep, during Sunday morning rehearsal, and – for crying out loud – during a worship set, I catch myself consumed with what my leaders are thinking about me. My attention and focus completely leaves the flock God has given me to shepherd and centers on what kind of an image I am constructing for myself.

Again, God is the ultimate approver I must look to, and how fulfilling it is when I do. He looks at me and sees nothing less than the perfect life of Jesus, and no matter how clunky my transitions, no matter how off my sound, His heart toward me is the same it’ll be the day he calls me home and says, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

I hope this post encourages you to not get caught up in my same struggle, but if you relate to it, know that I’ve been encouraged by this: Christ’s victory over sin and death means that none of these struggles have to define me. But also know that the struggle remains, and my heart burns even as I write this about what you, my reader, will think of it. Praise be to the one who is sanctifying us day by day!


I hope you will take a quick minute at the end of this post to turn with me to 1 Peter 5 and feel both the gentle correction and the grace from the mouth of our Lord. As under shepherds, God is calling us to shepherd our flock just like our Chief Shepherd has led us: with all humility, meekness, and quiet strength. When we fail, He is good to offer us grace and pick us back up to empower us to lead well again. Praise be to the one who is sanctifying us day by day!

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About Travis Sterrett

Travis is a former Austin Stone Worship resident who worked closely with Jimmy McNeal at the West Campus of the Austin Stone. He is now a worship leader at Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City and is married to Lauren.

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