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Worship leaders, there’s something that all of us need to hear. We need to hear it because we are in a constant battle with our egos, pulling us toward whatever is most visible, whatever gives us the most chance of recognition, whatever offers even the faintest glimmer of hope of advancing our status and position.
Worship leaders, your most important ministry will not happen on the stage.
It can be an uncomfortable truth to those who enter ministry. We all love music. We love to lead. And those desires were given to us by God, preparing us for the call he would place on our lives.
But if you’re like me, perhaps during your first few years of ministry you were surprised by how little time was spent leading worship. There are meetings and hospital visits and Bible studies and children’s events and budgets and on and on and on.
And then there’s the people. Did you know you’d have to deal with so many people? People complaining, people who don’t like you, people with issues to manage, people in need of ministry, people in need of training, people in need of a swift kick in the…well…there’s just a lot of people.
And if we’re not careful we’ll let this disconnect bother us – or rather, our egos will start pushing back.
These people don’t realize how much I do for them.
This Bible study isn’t worth my time. I should be writing worship songs!
This person is so needy. I don’t have the time or energy for this!
For some worship leaders, the solution is to pull out of ministry all together. Others content themselves with being minimally involved – I plan the worship, I rehearse the band, and I tour 20 weekends a year. (I’m not knocking touring – I’ve done it. Maybe God is leading you there – or maybe he’s leading you to the greater humility and deeper sacrifice of more significant involvement in the lives of people in your ministry.)
If you’re willing to stick it out with the people – and to subvert the ego that constantly wants to drive you to the stage where you can feel the applause and adulation – you might find more meaningful connection, community and ministry than you imagined.
For me it was the Old Ladies’ Bible Study. At the first church I served there was an Old Ladies’ Bible Study that met on Tuesday mornings, and every so often they would ask me to come and sing for them. They weren’t much interested in the kind of music I preferred. They liked hymns, thank you very much.
Although I led the “loud service,” I’d sung a hymn or two in my day and loved the songs I grew up singing. So on Tuesday mornings I’d grab a hymnal and head over to sing with the Old Ladies, but not always with the most cheerful of hearts. There was always a part of me – an ugly part, to be sure – that felt like it was a waste of time.
One day I was playing Great is Thy Faithfulness – my Grandma’s favorite hymn – and the doggone hymnal wouldn’t stay open on the piano. It kept closing on it’s own and threatening to fall off its precarious perch with a mood-killing THUNK! on the hard tile floor. Finally I’d had enough, and I closed the hymnal, set it on top of the piano and began singing the hymn by memory.
After I’d finished I was amazed by the response. Several of the ladies commented to me just how meaningful it was that I had known and loved the hymn well enough to play and sing from memory. They were touched, and I was humbled.
I realized that here was an incredible opportunity for me to reach into the lives of these lovely old ladies. Far from “wasted time,” this was a chance to bring joy to their hearts, facilitate meaningful worship, and lead them into God’s presence.
And as I began to serve those ladies, they began to care for me. They called me by name, they cared for my wife, they loved on my son in the nursery.
None of it would have happened if my ego had gotten its way. And that would have been the true waste of time.
And here’s the bottom line: if God has called you into ministry, he hasn’t called you to be a musician. He’s called you to serve his people, and given you music as a means to do it.
Your ego loves the stage. But if you truly want to minister to people – if you really want to make a difference – you have to step off the stage and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43-45
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