The phrases “Going to the beach” and “Going to the beach with four kids” may sound a lot alike, but they are two totally different experiences!
I think I replied something to this effect:
You didn’t go on vacation…you went on a trip! There is a significant difference between the two! 😊
For those of you with kids, you can probably agree wholeheartedly with these statements. Remember going on vacation with a toddler? Or maybe a baby? I definitely remember! While it has its exciting moments, it’s a lot of work. I know for my family, the preparation started about a week before we left. I know I would always make sure that the car was in decent shape: checking the A/C or heat, making sure the tires were good enough shape, changing the oil if needed, checking fluids and belts, checking for leaky hoses, and then cleaning the car with a wash, a vacuum, and possibly a wax. Marci was always very busy in the days leading up to a trip with the kids. She started washing clothes days in advance, and we would work together to get the house clean before we left.
When we finally got to our destination, we would let our little ones play in the pool, the sand, or walk around the hotel room, amusement park, resort, etc. Marci and I simply couldn’t spread out our towels on the beach and say to our kids, “Y’all have a good time! We will be over here napping and reading books while you play in the ocean!” As a matter of fact, those first few years, it was rare that we even sat down! We had to keep a close eye on them, especially around crowds or around water. In addition to this, there were other things we were in charge of as well:
We still had to worry about getting the kids down for naps.
There were still bath times and trips to the grocery store.
There were still diapers and dishes.
There was laundry.
There was still fussing.
There was still sleeplessness.
There was still, well, all of the things we had to do home…we were just in a different place!
There was so much to worry about…from finances, to safety, to food, to traveling, to gas, to car maintenance, etc., there was not a lot of time to rest and relax and just enjoy each moment. On the flip side, what did the kids have to worry about? Very little! Well they’re kids, so they shouldn’t have to. It’s not their job to worry about anything. Don’t get me wrong…there were moments that happened during these times that I’ll never forget that will stay with me for a lifetime. However, looking back, I believe these trips were more for the kids than they were for me. While I’m very thankful for these experiences, to be honest with you, I was happy to get home a lot of the time. I think after some of these trips, I wanted to get back to work and get some rest!
So at this point you may be asking, so what’s this secret, and what does going on a trip with little kids have to do with playing worship music? A lot, actually.
First, I must share my secret. You ready? (I’m not sure I am!) Either way, here goes:
When I’m playing music in front of the congregation, I’m usually not worshiping.
Yes, you read that correctly – I’m not worshiping the vast majority of the time while I’m playing in front of the congregation. This is not a dance around wording and semantics; this is blunt honesty.
You see, when it comes to playing on the praise team, I have too much to worry while I’m playing (In case you are interested, this should give you a good idea of what all I have to concentrate on while I’m playing: http://mpbcworship.blogspot.com/2014/06/my-music-stand.html). When I’m playing the drums, I have about 30-40 other singers and musicians depending on me to play the right parts at the right time. So, if the Spirit so moved me to step down from my drums and kneel at the altar, I would do it; however, my doing so would do a couple of things:
1.) It would draw unnecessary attention to myself, and
2.) It would cause an absolute musical train wreck.
While I’m not saying that there’s zero chance of this ever happening (I mean, the Holy Spirit can do whatever He wants to, right?), I believe that my primary purpose is to LEAD others in their worship, not to focus on MY worship. Confused yet? Let me put it this way. Simply put, I believe my purposes of playing on the praise team are as follows:
A.) to provide the music for the congregation so that they may worship freely,
B.) play skillfully as to not to be a distraction for the congregation and other musicians/singers who are leading, and
C.) smile, make eye contact, and attempt to connect with the congregation so that they can be led to the feet of the throne.
So if I’m not worshiping the entire time, what am I doing and what’s the point of me even doing this? Well, to be quite honest, my job is not to worship – my job is to provide an opportunity for the congregation to worship. This the primary difference between being a worship LEADER and someone in the congregation. To me, this parallels the idea of going on vacation with the kids. While I may have a good time on the beach with my little kids, my purpose in going to the beach with them is not so they can watch me have a good time and get much-needed rest. On the same note, I’m not in front of people so they can see me worship. Does it happen sometimes? Sure, but not very often because that’s not the purpose in my being there. If I wanted to be in front of church for the sole purpose of people watching me worship, well, maybe I would be better off in the congregation.
The way I see it, being on a worship team is a lot like being a parent taking kids on a trip somewhere. There is an absolute ton of prep work that goes into it, and there are many things to think about the entire time you are there. While you are on the trip, you may have a moment or two of relaxation (much like there are moments of worship while playing on a team), but being there is more about others than you. When I show up on my weeks off of the worship team, it’s a great experience to walk in and enjoy our time of worship. I’m free to do whatever I want. I can sit and pray, stand and raise my hands, stand in silence with my eyes shut, etc. The worship team’s job is to provide the environment for me when I’m in the congregation. I don’t have to worry about anything, just like a kid whose parents have taken them on a trip. In much the same way, the worship team “drives” the congregation to the destination, and everything is provided; all they have to do is simply worship and enjoy what’s going on around them, and it’s the worship team’s job to provide this each week. Playing music and being a parent are both ministries that, at times, can provide worship and relaxation, but that’s not the point of either of these roles I play.
A couple of final thoughts. First, I have felt like this for years. This is nothing new for me, and for the longest time I thought something was wrong with me. There were so many instances where I thought I should “feel” something as I was playing, but it wasn’t there. You know what? That’s ok. Being a leader is all about leading others, not chasing feelings. Second, I hope that this doesn’t come across as a “Woe is me, I can’t worship at church” sort of blog. Believe me when I say that I do have my moments of worship, but they happen at different times as opposed to playing the drums at church. My moments of worship happen more as I’m doing devotions in the quiet of my home before everyone else gets up. They happen as I drive to work in the fall when the sun rises just above the mountains and the light hits all of the oranges, yellows, and browns. They happen when my kids ask me to pray with them and for them. They happen as I lie awake at night with worry and peace washes over. They happen when I’m wrenching on my truck, and I’m able to fix whatever was wrong (There’s usually a bit of repentance that goes along with it!). In addition to all of these, moments of worship happen as I’m in the congregation. Maybe they don’t happen a lot as I’m actively playing, but that’s ok.
I stopped chasing a feeling a long time ago, and I’m much better for it.