Wanna Know A Secret?
It can be funny (hmmm, not funny, haha) to be professionally tasked with leading others in worship. Truthfully, the daily tug-o-war between perfectionism and humility is tricky. For more than twenty years, I have practiced the presence of God, tasked to lead others to worship God. At times, the responsibility has merely been attached to tickling the ears of the listener (wanna know a secret, I failed). Other times, I have tried to recreate the music of other people/churches (failed). I have tried to polish everything from the musical arrangements to the clothing choices worn on stage (failed). I have led from an empty place (failed), while _______ (you fill in the blank) still failed. I failed because I neglected to do the quintessential something attached to worship. Somehow the most remarkable story got lost in a lackluster personal narrative laced with everything from A to Z. I lost sight that God didn’t merely want a hip, perfectly sounding chorus of mega-churched humans; instead, he desires an honest collection of sons and daughters singing and responding to Him with all of their heart, all of their mind, all of their soul. A people determined to place their moments of joy and pangs of sorrow under the power of His great name, choosing to worship through surrender and faith in all seasons and at all times.
John 4:23–24 [The Message Translation] says: “It is who you are and how you live that count before God. Your worship (your song) must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That is the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself — Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
After being confronted about his endless quest for harnessing the light within a bulb, Thomas Edison is quoted saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Maybe this is the same for those of us that lead worship. Perhaps the conversation has less to do with failure and more with missing the point. Could it be we’ve tried to create something that man cannot articulate?
Genuine worship (Biblically noted) led humans to places of wonder, reverence, and awe — these holy moments nestled into the pallet of life are the reverential places where everything stops and time stands still. In these places, human hearts beat out of their chests, and the visceral intensity causes a pause leading lungs to adjust simply from being in the moment with God. Furthermore, here, in these holy places, we search our hearts and find that we are wanted and welcome; and building up faith, we approach left with a loss of sufficient words in our mouths and ears lost to the captivating sounds of his singing over us. His song brings about change as we sweat out our shame while tears flow from a heart full of love. Here within this beautiful mystery, we know as worship. Jacob described this experience with God as “…the place where Heaven and earth meet.”¹
When I look back over my life, I believe I have witnessed a similar place that Jacob describes. I’ve seen miracles and felt the weight of God’s presence. I’ve rejoiced in waters not made by human hands and witnessed the power of unity. Reluctantly, even at times, I ran away from the ultimate prize of being with God. I fear sometimes this is because I built worship sets with progressions that selfishly manufacture emotion. Or, even more significantly, didn’t fully surrender to the truths that were the story of the lyrics being ministered. In my rush to accomplish the grind of Sunday to Sunday, I was forsaking the tools that God gives us — power, love, and self-discipline.
The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. — 2 Timothy 1:7 [New International Version]
These tools help move us forward while fear keeps us stuck even worse, potentially moving us backward, further away from the presence of Christ.
One of my favorite books is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch²; in this book, he says, “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough, they’re there to stop the other people.”
I wonder if it’s the same with worship. The failure we feel as leaders (i.e., the brick walls) reminds us that we are not mini-gods but humans needing to take our rightful place under the authority of Father, Son, and Spirit. Maybe these moments of failure are not tattoos to wear on our skin but rather mountains to scale. Now, I’ve never climbed an actual mountain, but I hear it can seem challenging, even impossible, for some. Much like operating under a failure mindset, the temptation to give up can be intense. If we turn around, it’s all downhill. But “Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery of why we climb.”³
Friend, don’t give up; keep climbing.
Be strong and courageous.
Be brave in surrender.
Be bold in your faith.
Be constant in your song.
Be … real.
This is just the beginning, and when we get to the top of our mountain — we will once again be at a loss for words. Stay strong, and I will wave to you when I get there.