Last weekend, something happened for the first time in my life as a worship leader. I came down with a bad stomach bug and couldn’t lead. I had to ask Becca, one of our other leaders, to fill in for me at the last minute. As it turned out, I ended up going in to run the audio, which gave me a chance to see something encouraging. Becca leads worship a lot like me. She has the concept of leading people into God’s presence and getting out of the way deeply imbedded in her nature. She thoughtfully put together a group of songs that engaged well, and led them with confidence and skill. She didn’t draw attention to mistakes and did a solid job leading the band. Even though I wasn’t feeling too well, it was good for me to be there to see it. I’ve only seen her lead in “I lead, you help”, or “you lead, I help” situations. This time, she was leading and i was watching. She led the way she leads, which looks a lot like the way I lead. I’d feel confident having her teach a new worship leader, and she has a daughter coming along who just might be that next one. There’s a saying in churches that people are hired for skill and fired for character. I knew quite a bit about Becca’s character development before she developed worship leading skills. It’s easy to see her lasting for the long run, because the personal, family and community relationships are strong. Character outweighs competence, but in this case, both parts are doing really well.
The week before Easter is one of the very best times of the year, here in the Diablo Valley. I’m aware of the irony in that last sentence. Our hometown area has a dominant feature. Mt. Diablo is about 4,000 feet in elevation, with a nearly as tall north peak joined to it. It’s a beautiful mountain, and it has an incredible view from its peak. The legend I choose to believe about the mountain is that the Spanish originally named it “Montaña Doble”, or double mountain. When American settlers came in, they renamed it Diablo and came up with some Native American legend about what went on up there in ancient times. I think they just didn’t understand Spanish very well.
Here in Diablo Valley, we have a multi-denominational family of churches named Church Without Shoes. During holy week, we share in 40 hour prayer time on Monday and Tuesday, followed by a community wide communion service on Maundy Thursday. There are about 35 churches involved, to varying degrees. The pastors even go on a yearly retreat together.
This year, the worship band for Maundy Thursday consists of 13 musicians and tech folks from 9 churches. We play pretty universally known worship songs, but the biggest thing going on is relationship. We’re excited to see how God will use us together in worship, in relationship and in mission.
Have a great Easter Week!
Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. Psalm 51:16-17 MSG
Recently, a young family man suddenly died. He was a friend of our family since childhood. We are heartbroken. As I hugged his stepfather after the funeral, to express my sympathy, he said “We have hope, because he’s with Jesus now, and we’ll see him again.” On a very dark day, I could hear God speaking through him and giving both of us comfort. The young man and his family are Catholic, many people in my home church know the family and share in their grief.
For a worship leader, there’s challenge in times like these. Hard times for ourselves and people we love are kairos moments, revealing our depth of character and strength of heart. If we’re going through the motions in regular days, we’re going to come up very short in extraordinary ones. The moment will swallow us up, and we won’t be the leaders were called to be. How do we prepare our hearts?
Well, in the section of Psalm 51 above, it looks as though we need shattered pride and hearts. From experience, I can tell you it’s true. But the shattering isn’t as bad as it sounds; because we don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. When people say bad things about us, our family members are sick, or we’re out of money, God loves us. When we pour out our hearts to Him and come to Him every day, He loves us. He does answer prayers. As worship leaders (or for any believer), it’s imperative we develop our relationship with Him through His Word and through prayer.
Here’s a good way to start a rhythm. Read the Moravian texts each morning (). It has a weird name, but trust me, it’s just a daily journey through scripture. You can have it emailed to your inbox every morning. Spend a few minutes reflecting on something in those verses that strikes you. At first it may seem rote and boring, but if you stick with it, you’ll be amazed at what comes to you.
Next, when you pray, start out with being thankful. Here’s something cool Linda and I started doing. Get some small river rocks. As you pray for something, get out your Sharpie and write it on the rock. Put the rock in a jar. Keep praying the prayers and adding rocks. When the prayer is answered, move the rock to another jar containing rocks with answered prayers. Go through the rocks often, giving thanks for the answered prayers and continuing with the ones still on your heart.
Your heart will grow three sizes. It will show in your worship leading.