What Does Worship Pastor John Larson Say About SUCCESS — congregation of 35,000 and growing

If you could get behind the curtain — so to speak — of one of the fastest growing churches in America, what would you see?  What is the key to their success?

 I personally love to study churches, to see what lies behind their success or lack of success.  I have been a worship pastor and very passionate about worship for a couple of decades.  I have led crowds of a few to crowds of thousands.  But in the last couple of years, I have been making a transition from being a ”player” to being a “coach”.  Eventually all of us should, at some level, make this transition.  It’s God’s design. Look at any team:  the coach may not be able to play as well as the players (sports, music, debate — any team), yet the coach is still crucial to the success or failure of the program.  The coach sees things that the players never can.  They are the ones that will lead the players to victory or defeat. 

 As a coach, I love seeing those who have “done well”; as a worship leader, I also love seeing worshippers who have done well.  And, of course, I want to know why.

417431_10150587796521871_118629768_nRecently, I was at a conference at one of the largest churches in America: Church of the Highlands, in Birmingham, AL.  To be honest, I didn’t even want to be at the conference.  I had another ministry opportunity that I did not want to miss.  I went into the three day event with hesitations about being at another “trendy, American church”.  Highlands has been one of the fastest growing churches in America since it’s start in 2001.  They have averaged over 2000 new people every year.  Today they are over 35,000 strong.  Weekly.  Not every year; or every decade; but every week.  And they keep growing….

 Walking into Highlands, I was expecting an incredible “show”; I knew that the teaching, as well as the worship, would be entertaining and inspirational.  What I didn’t expect was the heart behind it all.  The heart of David — and, of course, the heart of Jesus.

 The Highlands Worship Department is led by John Larson, and I had the privilege of spending a few minutes talking with him about the success of Highlands.

 You have to be open to new people, and allow them to succeed — even if they end up taking your position.  It’s all about others!  We are successful, not because we had a good “show” this morning, but because we are reproducing people.  We have all seen the older leader with the slick hair and shiny shoes, that’s still living in his decade.  He may be good at what he does, but he’s not open to new people”.

 I was feeling a little uncomfortable.  Was I one of those leaders?  I had black shoes on that morning; and my hair was pretty slick.  Was I still living in my decade of ministry, totally out of touch with the generation around me?  Great question to ask….

John went on, “According to Ephesians 4:12, our job as leaders is to equip the saints — not to perform well, but to equip well.  If we are not equipping and raising others up, we are not successful.”  He went on to say, “My pastor grades my success when I am raising others up and equipping them for works of ministry.  The Holy Spirit is always ‘making things new’ (Revelation 21:5).  God is a creative being and He is with us today.  Things AND people have to change.  God is making all things new.”

Personally, as a worship leader and pastor, I knew that I was called to raise others up, but I also struggled with wanting to do it myself.  I enjoyed being used by God.  I loved seeing others taken to the Throne of God, and being a direct part of it all (from the stage, of course).  It’s often hard for leaders to raise others up, because we so enjoy the “game” ourselves.  But, back to being a coach, this is our job.  It’s not about us.  It’s always, always, always about others.

 “It’s tough”, Larson states, “for all of us.  I still struggle with that one.  But I also know that we are called to develop others — which only takes place as we give up ‘our spot’.  According to Phillipians 2, we are to do nothing out of selfish ambition.  It’s never about us.  It’s all about others — developing them to be all that they are called to be.  And creating opportunities for them to shine.  We are called to give ministry away.  It’s all about others.”

 As I was walking away, I couldn’t help but feel convicted. The heart behind Church of the Highlands was so obvious.  They’ve got the look.  They’ve got the gifts and the talents.  But that’s not the reason behind their success.

 Slide3According to II Chronicles 16:9, “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  God will always elevate a pure heart, over a cool look.  I want the cool look, honestly; but so much more than that, I want the heart that pleases God.

 Don’t you?

About Stan Sheridan / Genesis Group

Worship Leader. Singer. Songwriter. Teacher. Has appeared on the largest stages in the nation...to the smallest classrooms down the street. Founder of the Exodus Group -- equipping teams, churches and leaders to worship and the Genesis School of Music -- equipping students for the stage. For more information, call 205-661-8410

Posted on February 17, 2014, in Worship General. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Hi Stan! Just read your post. Awesome. So glad you visited Highlands… And even happier you walked away with the secret to our success! My husband and I have been blessed to serve on staff there for a few years now. Life changing. I read your post before I realized who you are! We were school mates back in Pinson. Hope you are well.

    Stacey (Godfrey) Benson

  2. Reblogged this on Leading Small in a BIG way. and commented:
    Highlands has done a fantastic job “equipping the saints” in those around me and in my life personally. It’s a pleasure to get to serve there.

  3. Enjoyed the article

  4. We are a small growing rural church.

  5. Reblogged this on John_Francis's Blog and commented:
    It’s an honor to call this church home.

  6. That’s my pastor! YOU’RE THE MAN, PASTOR JOHN!

  7. Reblogged this on Laura Jernigan and commented:
    I love my church and the leadership. The example they set makes me want to grow and be better every day in my own walk and ministry.

  8. Reblogged this on LauraJernigan.wordpress.com. I love my church and it’s always nice to hear when people can admit that they were misguided in their prejudgment! The heart and soul of our church is to make Jesus famous and to equip people to be ministers of the gospel. Plain and simple, no fluff.

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