Growing up my dad used to say, “ministry would be a whole lot easier if people weren’t involved.” I’d always laugh a bit nervously at the sheer honesty of his statement, wondering if the heavens would open and a lightning bolt would cut down the middle of us. He was a pastor of a local church who had seen it all, so I figured he had the experience and scars to make such a bold statement. Even Jesus had a moment in Mark 9:19 where he said to the disciples,
You faithless generation, how much longer must I remain with you and put up with your unbelief…?
I figured if the Son of Man felt frustrated by those he was leading then I too would struggle in leading those entrusted to me.
Growing up in ministry was a constant cycle of loving and hurting, celebrating and grieving, trusting and being disappointed, leading and being left. Once I became an adult, I did everything in my power to avoid full-time ministry. I went to a state university, majored in the field of science, went into full-time teaching, full-time sales and yet I couldn’t get away from it. I couldn’t stop loving them. Those people that made things so hard. I couldn’t stop loving God’s Church.
No matter how hard I tried to leave, I spent 15 years with a foot in the secular world and a foot in the sacred, working two or three jobs so I could lead worship getting paid in gas money, love offerings and gift cards. It was in this season the Lord was teaching me how to love His Church, not as a pastor’s kid but as a worship leader and pastor.
He began to show me that I couldn’t sing over a congregation that I didn’t know how to love. I couldn’t write songs for a church I didn’t take time to really know personally. I couldn’t effectively lead people I wasn’t praying for everyday. It wasn’t until my early thirties that I finally understood why my dad kept loving and serving even in the midst of pain and disappointment.
My dad didn’t quit; my dad kept going because he knew something I hadn’t yet figured out on my own. What an amazing day of personal freedom when I learned for myself that God’s Church is beautiful and complex, she is brilliant and she is brutal and she is worth serving and loving with every fiber of our beings. She is worth protecting, worth fighting for and worth every tear and scar.
For those God has called to lead worship in the local or global church, either as a staff member or a volunteer, we are not just worship leaders. We are pastoring His Church. If we write songs for His Church, we are pastoring His children. Be it once a month or every week we are taking people from the Outer Courts of a busy week into the sacred Inner Courts of Worship and we’d better be spiritually prepared to protect them and serve them on that journey.
We are not a warm up act before the preacher. We are not the entertainment. We are not the stars of the show. We don’t get to be moody and aloof. It doesn’t matter if every personality test says you’re an introvert or if you have the Enneagram 4 tattooed on your forearm or if you’re not exactly “a people person”. When you say yes to leading God’s people into worship you become a humble servant. You decrease so He can increase. You become invisible so He can be seen. Your song preferences take a backseat to what God wants those people to sing in this season. You become “sub to the mission” of that body and what God is speaking to leadership about the trajectory of that Body in that moment, you submit to those above you and do so with a cheerful heart.
The job of the local church is not to make us feel good about our gifts. The congregations we serve are not our fans. As worship leaders and pastors, our job is to encourage and love the Church by leading them week in and week out in songs that point them to the truth of who God is and His promises to His people.
What an honor to be chosen and entrusted to lead God’s Church in worship. We get to do this! We can’t quit!
I will leave you with the words Paul spoke over Timothy:
“Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well,19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. - I Timothy 1:18-19
Remember the words spoken over you. Remember God’s promises. Fight the battle, don’t grow weary, don’t stop loving, and don’t give up. You have been called, anointed and appointed and the Holy Spirit will guide you as He leads you in leading His people.