Wednesday, August 24, 2011


They say that you can only be truly excellent at 1 or 2 things. To be excellent in anything takes time, practice, and dedication, which are three finite resources. In ministry, there is no doubt that the work we do deserves, and demands, excellence.

There is a problem, though, for part-timers and bi-vocational ministers. We are called to do everything as unto the Lord, and to work as if it were for Him. Already, this puts us behind the 8 ball. If we are to strive to excel in our work, what is our second thing? It can be worship leading, but that entails a couple of things. Will we work to be great at Sunday Mornings, or foster great relationships on our teams?

And what if we are doing other things? What if we are going to grad school, or leading youth as well? What do we leave behind? What do we strive for?

I wish I could be two people, so I could be excellent at four things. Already, that sentence shows how excellent I am at math...

Darn, that is a fifth thing. Now I need to be a third person.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

You're Not Alone

There is something amazing that happens when we realize that we aren't alone. This is the reason for this blog's existence; that there is a real enemy, who wants to wear us down, and convince us that we are alone. Worship leading can feel like this, with the intense vulnerability that comes when you sing in front of a congregation (whether it be 30 or 3000). What you are doing is intensely personal, and therefore you are critiqued with an emotion and ferocity that others can't really understand.

Eventually, you are going to be hit so hard that you fall. You are going to be told something that you just can't move past, or be treated in a way that you can't reconcile with any semblance of what you imagine "Church" to be. It is in these moments that we need someone who can pick us back up.

But how do we find these people? How do we foster these relationships and this accountability? I talked last time about not being a "Lone Ranger" type of leader. Now I want to give you some practical ways to gain such relationships.

1. Seek them out: We have to humble ourselves in this, and make ourselves vulnerable to rejection. Not everyone wants accountability or a shared experience. Not everyone views you as someone worthy to share experiences with. Still, we must press on, and seek out wise counsel by asking to be mentored, and asking to be held accountable, and asking how you could serve others in this same capacity. It doesn't just happen in the world of worship leading. We need to make it happen.

2. Recognize them: We most likely have built-in accountability and encouragement in our lives through the relationships we are currently in. We need to foster that. My wife and my pastor are two such people, who have been encouraging and supportive. I am blessed with two great people, and you likely are as well. I also have some pretty good friends, although I will fully admit I've let some relationships falter. You need to keep up these relationships, because friendships don't naturally outlast time and distance except for special situations.

3. Pray for and with them: This is an intensely personal aspect of a relationship, that will lead to the type of spiritual unity that allows great accountability and mentor relationships to develop. What we do is beyond mere notes and lyrics. It is a spiritual interaction with the Creator, in which we lead others to the throne room. We need peer relationships and mentorships that operate at a higher level, because we are talking about interactions with the Eternal.

This is what has worked for me. I hope it helps!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

No Lone Ranger

Tomorrow I have the privilege of meeting with Austin Ryan and some other Worship Catalyst peeps. I am looking forward to this a lot, getting to meet with other worship leaders. It is easy, in our artistic little worlds, to feel isolated. We were never meant to be isolated.

One of the ideas that has been promoted as tough and strong in our culture is the idea of the lone wolf. The Lone Ranger, taking care of everything on our own, following the "if you want things done right, you have to do them yourself" logic. That makes sense, except that it is completely wrong.

Church plant worship leaders, and small church worship leaders... we can't do this alone.

Even the Lone Ranger didn't do it alone. He had the horribly-named Tonto as a sidekick, and he had his awesome horse. We need people around us who are strong where we are weak, because we are invariably weak somewhere. We need someone to pick up the slack when we get tired, because all of us need a break sometime. We need brothers to lean on, who relate to what we are going through.

It isn't just worship leaders who need this, but remember... we are leaders. We are examples, trying to live lives that allow us to say, like Paul, "imitate me." If we don't stay connected, and stay accountable, why would we expect others to?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Get Your Mind Right

Sometimes my perspective doesn't allow me to see God active in my life. Sometimes I am so self-centered that I believe I can do something for God on my own. It is at those times that I easily become convinced that God Is Nowhere.

Can we get spiritual for a bit? I got to sit in on the sermon at Waypoint Church this week (I usually go lead a youth study), and got to thinking about how anxiety can be a sin. Philippians 4 tells us not to be anxious, and there is no way to explain that away. This is hard for me, because there is always something to be anxious about, like a microphone that is shocking you because of a loose ground, or a distortion pedal always on "crappy crunch". There is always the band member randomly (or not so randomly) not showing up for some reason, or the tech guys all out in the same week, or that buzz that seemingly won't go away.

If it isn't church, it's life that's got me anxious. There is always something out of my control, that I wish were under my control. And that is my issue... I want control. And when God doesn't pave the way for me, and when I encounter struggles and roadblocks, I feel... for just a moment... like God is Nowhere...

But when I give it all to God, and realize that He is and always will be in control, I stop worrying about a lot of things. It's like when my wife is in the car... she isn't worried about where we are at that present time, instead focusing on music or her phone or a book. I used to wonder why she never looked around at where we were or what was on the road ahead, but I suppose it is because she has the gift of faith and trust. I admire her in this way.

When I have the same mindset that she has, I realize that God Is Now Here...

Because for some reason, I always want to be behind the wheel. Leaders tend to feel this way, but Jay said something else that hit home this week... the Bible tells us to do that which does not come naturally to our sinful selves. To trust God is to know His constant presence, but that trust does not come easy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day Job

I wonder if Paul liked making tents.

I mean, I know he felt the apostle call, and had purpose in his work and writings. I am sure he had much bigger concerns than an unfulfilling job; imprisonment and beatings probably sucked worse than a boring day stitching tents.

But still... did he get bored? Did his mind wander, or his work suffer because of his preoccupation with saving the world? Or did Christ bless him with fulfillment and skill in his stitching and mundane patch jobs?

I think those of us who are bi-vocational deal with these questions on a daily basis. I rock a headset and get yelled at and hung up on and lied to all day, by people who asked for help getting into college. I love people, and it hurts to constantly hear humanity at its most pathetic. Perhaps, though, this is how God feels with us. He can help us, and inside we are crying out for help, but we refuse to receive it. We cop an attitude and act like we've got everything under control, or we promise to act and never actually follow through.

Perhaps this is the insight we gain working "day jobs." We learn more about the world around us. Plus, we are given opportunity to talk about God to someone other than our church friends.

Still, I gotta wonder if Paul ever looked around and told himself "If I see one more tent today, I'm gonna lose it!" I'd like to think so.
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Monday, August 1, 2011

Sound System Gremlins

Any of you seem to have a few gremlins in the church sound system?

It rarely fails. You are getting set up, and for no apparent reason, the amp/speaker/snake/mic doesn't work. Your guitar is popping and your bass player has some sort of Sunday Morning flu. The epic worship service you had planned and gotten excited for has turned into you, a drummer, and a keyboard. Oh, and by the way... the keyboard is making the soundboard peak and the compressor kill every other sound attempting to come through the system.

Somehow, you hit some semblance of order about 5 minutes before service (when you planned to be ready 30 minutes before... haha, silly you). You pray and try to get focused as the timer goes to 0:00 and you step to the mic.

And then a baby runs across the back of the stage. Well, technically it's a 3 year old, but that doesn't change the fact that it shouldn't be running across the stage. You start to lead, everything sounds decent, and maybe this week will be alright. You had a good laugh with the baby, and now everyone is smiling and praising God and clapping, and then the guitar... is just... gone. No wait! There it is again... nope, never mind. It's done.

"Let's just sing out to God" (as I frantically wave to the incredibly focused drummer to stop). Of course, your frantic waves cause him to stop immediately, and everyone in the church to look around you to see if a bird or some small woodland creature has attacked you. You attempt to bring the focus back to God, and as you take your seat after the songs are over, with your head hung low, your pastor gives you that smile that says "if this were a bigger church..."

Okay, so maybe not all of that has happened in one Sunday. The baby thing happened on Easter Sunday. Everything else...

Yeah. Can you top that? Let's hear your best story.