November 19, 2015
(originally published by Worship Leader Magazine on December 12, 2015)
All we worship leaders share many of these common dreams...
That all of our volunteers would respond to PCO schedule requests right away and not ignore them completely
That our sound team would take the time to learn the songs as well as the stage musicians and know when to highlight that one voice or instrument and when to drop it back down
That our visual media folks would get the words right, get them on the screen at the right time, and make them look good at the same time
That our musicians would learn their parts ahead of time and show up to rehearsal prepared
That our musicians would commit songs to memory effectively so that we could spontaneously move from the planned into the unplanned during our services
That our musicians would play with the confidence and proficiency deserving of a professional symphony
That our sound team would be able to dial out weird noises, feedback, and achieve the desired volume level and mix in the house
That our musicians would be able to get the monitor mix they need to follow and play well
That all of our song choices would be gladly received by our churches and responded to passionately
That our church would respond appropriately to the Lord through songs with clapping, singing, and loud shouts
All of these dreams are things that are entirely within the realm of reality, and possible for us to bring to fruition as worship leaders, if we take the time to properly set and hold the standards, train and equip the people the Lord has brought to us to steward. Every one of these issues can be improved by us loving our church in a more Christ-like, humble, passionate, sacrificial, gentle, instructive, compassionate, kind, tender-hearted, patient, long-suffering way.
Every. Single. One of them.
Can be improved.
Which is not to say that the road getting there is not going to be long – sometimes much longer than we’d hope for – and fraught with frustration, challenges, and difficulties.
And it’s also not to say that when you get there to a place where all of these things are finally happening, that the Lord won’t say, “Great job here! Now I’ve got need of you to do likewise over in this other church of mine” and move you along to the next assignment, and you may not get to enjoy the fruit of your labor for very long before you find yourself neck deep in another mess of miry clay...
The struggle is real.
The frustrations are real.
Sometimes we can move as worship leaders from one moment of success, feeling very pleased with the progress of our teams and our churches as they grow in worship, to a moment where our spirit is absolutely crushed by the disappointment of an unexpected situation arising, stealing our joy.
That’s the job.
If this is not something you’re called to, these experiences and frustrations are the sort of thing that will weed you out and force you to go do something else. You’ll be much happier elsewhere, if you’re not called to this. Get out while you still can... it’s too late for me!!!
However, if this is indeed the call on your life, then despite setbacks and obstacles and pain and frustrations and the broken people and their bad choices and the poor responses, then it’s something you cannot walk away from. It’s something you can’t not do. You don’t have a choice. It’s written into your DNA, inscribed on your heart, more than just a gentle tugging on your spirit. You have to do this.
So for all those who are experiencing the hard times, and wrestling with the never-ending questions of “Why, O Lord, is it so hard? Why can’t all this stuff just happen the way it needs to?”... be assured that this is indeed the life to which we were called, the fight we were created to fight, the race we were gifted to run, and there is work to be done. Training. Hard training. Put-an-Olympic-athlete-to-shame training. Training our hearts to be soft, pliable, and loving toward others. Training our minds to be renewed by the transforming power of the Word of God. Training our lives to reflect the glory of Christ in us. Training our responses to the failings of those around us to be full of grace and forgiveness, compassion and love.
Yes, even toward that one elder who thinks we should be doing things the way they did in 1956 and wants you gone.
Yes, even toward that drama queen who claims that 78dB is WAY TOO LOUD for worship and makes a public spectacle of holding his hands over his ears and he runs out of the sanctuary.
Yes, even toward your team member who, despite you spending hour upon precious hour of individual instruction in addition to group rehearsal, has once again forgotten his parts and flubs it during the service.
Yes, even toward that parent that doesn’t think their screaming baby is distracting anyone else during the worship service and remains in their seat.
Serving them. This is living the dream.
A messy, wildly imperfect, emotional, sometimes stinky work in progress, full of shortcomings and hurts, which is all of us, if we’re honest.
When we see others the same way the Lord sees us, and show to others the grace He has shown us, the struggle becomes less our struggle and more His. When we learn to have His heart toward others, we feel less frustration and more compassion. When we learn to be forgiving more like Christ, it’s easier. When we see His Church as His Church – His Bride – His called out ones – His sheep – His people – His – and not as a group of misanthropes, transgressives, miscreants, problems to be remedied, or any other label we want to throw at them...
When we have Jesus’ heart for these people that we are given stewardship over...
Then we start living the dream in earnest.
Then we start seeing the people as He sees them. Saved. Redeemed. Forgiven. Cleansed. Purified. Loved so much more than we can ever really wrap our heads around.
Let us all refocus our hearts and model being doers of the Word, not just hearers of it.
Let us be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave us. Let us be like-minded, be sympathetic, loving one another, and be compassionate and humble.
Let us learn to dwell in unity together and together taste and see that the Lord is good.
This is the dream. THE dream. So much better than the combined mish-mash of whatever short sighted goals we can come up with for our dream worship/church environment. It’s the Lord’s playground, and when we learn to play together nicely in it, then we’re on our way to so much better than what we imagine and dream.
As the great hymnist of the 1980s, Howard Jones, expressed in song:
“I need an everlasting love
I need a friend and a lover divine
An everlasting precious love
Wait for it, wait for it, give it some time
Wait for it, wait for it, give it some time
Is this love worth waiting for?
Bitterness will die for sure
Something special, something pure
Is this love worth waiting for?”
Yes. Yes, it is.
This is the dream.
Brendan Prout is a husband, dad, pastor and worship leader. He loves training and equipping others to do the work of ministry they are called to, all things geeky, good food, cars, and not driving off cliffs anymore.