Recently, I was asked to lead worship at a NC Baptist church while their worship pastor was away. I agreed to provide the leadership, but asked that the musicians be ready to rehearse 40 minutes before service time in order for me to briefly work on the music and have a time of prayer before the service. Forty minutes would not be nearly enough time to adequately prepare, but since they were not used to arriving much earlier, I made the compromise.
I arrived about an hour before the service to check on the PowerPoint for the service and work with the “sound man” on our audio needs for the morning. The sound man exhibited a servant heart and was extremely competent at his work—it was a joy to work with him.
The rest of the preparation time was not so good. At the time for rehearsal only a handful of the 15-20 musicians were present—certainly not enough to begin rehearsal. In fact, we did not have an adequate group until about 20 minutes before service time, and I still had to go to the choir room and meet with the choir!
Needless to say, we just hit a few high points in the service. Some of the group did not come to the rehearsal at all, but arrived for the service to play. The group was made up of awesome musicians who have tremendous potential.
To the person in the pew, the service went great and I sensed a real genuineness in their worship. I believe God was lifted up and His presence was evident. While I was certainly thankful for that, I kept thinking how much more awesome the time of worship could have been if the musicians had come earlier and had time to craft the worship experience into a more powerful encounter.
Then my mind returned to my former church and the musicians there. They were the most committed group I have ever seen. They had a “whatever it takes” attitude to leading worship. We would rehearse during the week and then come together early on Sunday morning to run through everything again, paying particular attention to introductions, bridges, and the arrangement of each piece. If, on a particular Sunday, we had some real challenges, I would ask them to arrive even earlier, and they would be there promptly without grumbling, but with an attitude of worship. I remember one summer we were in Asia leading worship, and we were in a small church with little resources. The drum set was an electronic pad. One of the keyboards was a small Casio battery-powered model. The other keyboard had a broken pedal. There were challenges with the sound system. I was amazed that our team went in, never complained, figured out how to best work with what they had, and got down to rehearsing. God was glorified in that night of worship!
Worship pastors need to examine their own commitment. If we don’t show the “whatever it takes” attitude in leading God’s people to worship, we cannot expect our musicians to do so. I wanted my musicians to know the high priority I placed on our times of leading worship. I usually arrived one hour before they were asked to come. During that time, I spent time looking through the morning service, the flow, the set lists, the transitions, etc. I checked the worship software to make sure the songs were correctly placed in the worship flow and the anticipated repetitions were correct. After assuring myself that everything was ready for worship, I would take time to do the most important preparation—PRAY. This of course should not be the first time the service was lifted up to the Father. I would pray for each musician and for those coming to worship, that God would be lifted up, and that the people would have an encounter with Him that day. Worship leaders, are you praying for the people you work with? Are you modeling the kind of commitment you expect from them?
It all comes down to one word—CALLING. Do your musicians (instrumentalists, vocal team, choir, etc) feel that God has called them to the awesome task of leading worship? If they feel that call, they will pursue it with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. If they merely feel like a volunteer, they will be much more lax in their commitment to the ministry.
No one says it better than Rory Noland in his book, The Heart of the Artist. Read through the following contrasts of volunteer and called. Share with your worship team and ask them to spend some time in prayer and reflection. (Send me the email addresses of your musicians, and we will be glad to add them to our weekly newsletter).
- Volunteers see their involvement at the church as community service, but people called of God see it as a ministry.
- Volunteers whine about what it is going to cost them, but people called of God are committed to serving God, period.
- Volunteers shrink back from resolving relational conflict, but people called of God seek to resolve relational conflict for the sake of unity in the church.
- Volunteers look at rehearsal as another commitment they are obligated to fulfill, but people called of God look forward to another opportunity to be used by God.
- Volunteers do little outside practicing or preparation, but people called of God come to rehearsals and worship as prepared as possible, on time and ready to serve Him.
- Volunteers are not open to constructive criticism; they get defensive about it, but people called of God are grateful for the feedback because they want to be the best they can be for God.
- Volunteers feel threatened by the talents of others, but people called of God praise Him for distributing gifts and talents as He chooses.
- Volunteers want to quit at the first sign of adversity or discouragement, but people called of God dig in and persevere.
- Volunteers find their main source of fulfillment in their talents and abilities, but people called of God know that being used of God is the most fulfilling thing you can do with your life.
- Volunteers cannot handle being put into situations in which they are going to be stretched, but people called of God respond to God’s call with humble dependence on Him.
I welcome your comments and look forward to our time together next week.