Thursday, May 10, 2018

Break Down the Walls

I'm not sure what the age is, but eventually in everyone's life there are moments when you say to yourself "if only I knew then what I know now".  I'm currently in the middle of one of those times.  It's like a light bulb has flipped on in my head.

I've spent most of my professional ministerial career planning, practicing, and preparing.  There is always more to do, so it never stops.  And that nonstop pace includes Sunday and Wednesdays.  So, up until service time I am always working on some last minute detail.  And then once the music is done, I head to the sound desk where there is more to do.  It never stops.  For most of my career it has been like this.  I'm a worker at heart, so this feels very natural to me.  

But recently, it dawned on me how much I have been missing and neglecting in my role as Worship Pastor.  I want our church to be a church that worships.  I want our Worship Team to be the best that they can be musically and spiritually.  But the thing that I've been missing out on is the importance of building relationships.  Not only with the worship team and tech team (I try to do that), but with the congregation.  Too many times I'm running to or from the stage trying to get something done right before a service begins and I'm just flying right by people that I need to reach out to.  Our people want more from me and our Worship Team than to just hear us sing or play.  They want and need us to lead them.  But we make that difficult when we don't take the time to get to know them. 

So, now when the music is done I walk slowly around the edge of the congregation and shake hands, hug necks, give high fives to kids, and smile and say to hello to as many people as I can.  Before services I try not to rush around quite so much.  I try to talk to as many people as I can.  My hope is that if they know me better, they'll be more open to me leading them in worship.  

If you are a worship leader, then let me encourage you to do the same.  Let's break down the walls between our people and our stages and let the people really get to know us.

Worship Big!

Brad


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Refined Through Fire

Have you ever considered how much trials affect every aspect of life? Recently, I’ve done that exact thing. Everyone goes through difficulties, and everyone experiences their effects. In our human finiteness, we tend to look at things from a very subjective point of view. That being said, it’s easy for us to think that our hardships are just utterly relentless. Sometimes it’s almost like the break in the storm is always just out of sight, or the light at the end of the tunnel is just out of reach. To be frank, all the despair in life just makes you feel stuck sometimes. That feeling has this uncanny way of sneaking in and affecting one mentally and spiritually, which in turn, affects one’s worship. You see, when our minds become preoccupied with the affliction that we face, our attention can be diverted from God. As worship leaders, our job is to facilitate worship to people so that they may experience the fullness of Jesus’ presence. The condition of our hearts plays a tremendous role in the way worship ministers to people. For example, when one leads worship with a prideful heart, it can be an obstruction to others. Absent-minded or diverted worship leading can have the same effect. One Sunday morning quite recently, my heart was burdened with things that I had been dealing with. I had just finished playing the worship set for that day when a member of our congregation pulled me aside and said: “You didn’t seem like yourself up there today. You didn’t seem into it.” That was all they said. I didn’t think anyone really noticed that I was disheartened that day, but that person did, and it affected them. 

It became clear to me just how important it is to be 100% intentional in my worship, even if that requires me to “suppress my mess” or lay down my burdens. So, how are we supposed to do that? How do we respond to our difficult circumstances so that our worship is wholly unreserved? Some time ago, the bible study group that I’m a part of did a wonderful study on the book of James, and I was reminded of a truth that holds the answer to those questions. James 1: 2-4 says: “Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” In the study, that passage was compared to the process of refining silver. Initially, silver is laden with all sorts
of impurities. To refine the silver, the silversmith must heat it to its boiling point. This causes all the impurities to rise to the surface, which the silversmith carefully removes. Once that is done, he allows the silver to cool. He continues this process of heating and purifying the silver until he can see a perfect reflection of himself in it. That’s when he knows the silver has been fully purified. 

God does that exact same thing in our lives. He refines us through the trials in our lives so that when completed, He may see a reflection of Himself when He looks at us. You see, it’s only when we walk through fire that we can be purified. The beautiful thing about it is that no matter how high the flames get, we will always be carried through by One who loves us with the most ardent and infinite love imaginable. That knowledge is so important to us as worshipers and lovers of Jesus. We can offer Him our uninhibited praise because we know that our trials are meant to purify us so that we may be a reflection of Christ. I sincerely hope that upon reading this, you would always be encouraged by this one thing: we are refined through fire, but He ​NEVER​ fails to walk us through!  

Keep smiling,  

Maddie