The worship podcast is finally back! And for this episode, we tried something new...audio AND video! Two questions about the worship wars, plus some encouragement on dealing with the worship music industry! For those who would rather not see my face, we still have audio version available as well!
Or check out the audio here.
One of the biggest challenges worship leaders face is balance. On one hand, your job is practically (and intrinsically) artistic. On the other hand, it's about something more than just being creative in front of people.
This isn't made any easier by church leadership, either. Lots of churches can list off what the worship leader should do, but not that many have a solid idea of what the worship leader should be.
If you read the blog, you've "heard" me say it before: your job is NOT to be an artist. Despite what the hiring team told you or what the job description said or what the other staff tell you...you're there for more than that.
Never forget that a worship leader's job is to help people think rightly and reverently about God. Yes, we use the arts to do that, but if the art ever becomes the priority, we are in real danger of unique-ing our self out of the job. We say it/think it all the time - "Our artistic efforts should move people." But we have to ask a second question - move them where?
For believers, connection should always trump artistic vision. How do the arts help people connect to the truth about themselves and connect to the truth about the Father? There are lots of worship leaders struggling every single week because what they're doing doesn't seem to be working. So they put in more hours and try even bolder projects. For a lot of these leaders, their ministry would be radically transformed if they just connected with people.
[This isn't a popular view, by the way. The stuff I'm writing runs counter to almost every mainstream worship resource in Christian media. But I'm gonna' keep saying it. We've built an entire worship music industry around rock stars (not pastors) and that system is going to crash one day. When it does, we're going to have some shattered worship leaders all over the country because everyone knows how to be awesome but nobody knows how to connect.]
In part 2, I'll offer some questions I often ask myself. These questions help equalize my artistic vision on a regular basis; maybe they'll be a help to you, too!
I'm a sucker for any inside look at the work habits of creative people. If I'm being honest, I don't think any of us are at the level of creative genius of the folks listed below. But we can learn from this sort of info.
This is an amazing list. Two things struck me. First, how diverse the individuals were when it came to their daily schedule. Can you imagine going to sleep at 6pm so you could get up at 1am to be creative?
The second thing is the hours. All of these people had the same amount of time as you and I. As diverse and disconnected as they might be, they're all still working from the same length of time that you and I have every single morning. You probably need more sleep than Mozart did, but don't forget to make sure every hour of your day counts.
One of my first “big” gigs was leading worship at a DiscipleNow weekend for a friend of mine named Brent. He had been at his first church for a little over a year and brought us in for his big youth event. I booked a drummer and a bass player and even asked a friend to play electric guitar! I was pumped. I worked up all the sets weeks in advance and just knew it was going to be the start of a very successful worship leading career.
It was a disaster.
We were too loud; we played songs they didn’t know; In addition to that, the senior pastor was awful. He was inappropriate and arrogant and, at one point, was quite suggestive to my wife. My friend felt terrible. He apologized constantly and kept telling me how great we were doing. I was miserable, but felt bad for Brent. So we kept our heads down and endured the weekend.
Weeks later, I was back at home complaining to a mutual friend about the trip. He had been in ministry for a long time and knew that Brent was struggling. After listening for awhile, he finally spoke up.
“How long has Brent been there?”
“Almost two years.”
“Yeah, it’s almost time for Brent to move on.”
I didn’t understand what he meant, so I asked him. His answer was nonchalant, as if everybody knew this fact about ministry. “Nobody lasts more than two years a their first church. Everybody leaves after two years. Your first church is just too hard.”
Most worship leaders hate conflict. When ministry starts getting a little too though, we immediately go to that list in our heads. You know the list I'm talking about...the list of other church other jobs that seem so much better than the one you currently have.
But here's the challenge - your people are wanderers, too. A lot of people in your congregation are quick to exit if stuff gets weird or convicting, and they need a worship leader who knows the value of sticking it out. Somebody’s gotta’ stay and invest in the church - it might as well be one of the ministers! Having wanderlust but staying faithful is like a worship leader superpower - it gives you a unique perspective that allows to you see gaps in the way your church connects with people. If you know this about yourself, you can be a better worship leader - and minister - because of it.
Some of you are struggling right now. Maybe your church is in identity crisis; maybe you're mad. maybe you're bored. But before you rush off, stop and asked the Lord if this is the exact reason why He put you there. Do wander...lead!