This year marks my 10th year of being in full time ministry. I wanted to take a pause and look back at some things I have learned, things that have stretched me, things that may have brought me to tears (happy ones and sad ones) and share them with you. Some of this list is MY opinion, and some is from scripture. If you disagree with some of it that’s fine, but I hope it is the part that is my opinion and not the latter….
1. God’s Sovereignty.When I look back it is so very easy for me to see God’s hand at work. His sovereignty is evident in so many ways, even though in the midst it definitely was not clear to me. I was probably called into ministry in High School but really just kind of avoided it, probably due to the fact that my dad and brother were pastors and I wanted to be my own special little snowflake. Anyways, I gave in my senior year of college, yes took me that long, and because of that I left college with a degree in Communications: Advertising and Public Relations. Cool. I’m going to use that a lot…But I realized in my first month it was not just helpful, it was essential. I took a job at a church of about 80 people and there was no communication guidelines whatsoever, the website was, um, how do I say this nicely…poor, and things were just happening without any thought on ‘how’ they should happen. I am not saying I was the key to make everything right, but I had a degree in exactly what was needed for that time. I remember sitting in my Avid video editing class my Jr year at Liberty, editing my really terrible video’s and thinking ‘well I know I am not moving to Hollywood to direct movies, so this is a waste’…wrong. Web design, graphic design, how to effectively communicate in every medium, public speaking, on and on, there was even an elective in there about stage design I took as an easy credit, and still use those basics now. It is pretty crazy how much I leaned on this training my first two years of ministry. The first year was a lot of getting media stuff up to a better standard and the second year was having effective communication with the congregation in a year without a lead pastor. There are tons of ways I can look back and see how God moved, this is just an easy practical way I see His plan was better than my plan. So be encouraged if you find yourself in a place that seems like a ‘waste of time,’ you will come out with some pearl of wisdom, some story or some skill that will help you in the future.
2. It’s Hard. Ministry is sometimes hard. Sometimes it is hard work, labor and time intensive, but mostly it is hard in an emotionally draining and frustrating way. There are numerous ways that I mean this. Hearing about, and from, broken people with broken lives, broken marriages, death, sickness, addictions and so on is hard. Don’t get me wrong; it’s hard in a good way. I love praying with and hearing from and counseling with these people! I feel kind of uniquely gifted in this, because I grew up with a dad that was/is a pastor, and mostly what I learned from my dad was seeing him being a counseling pastor. My dad loves people, and my dad seems to specifically attract hurting people; people that sometimes need help being put back into a right mindset. I’ve seen my dad raise his voice on the phone with people to hopefully get their attention; I have seen my dad drop everything he was doing to pray with someone on the phone (but even a more likely scenario would be him getting in his car and driving to that person). So, I have had some behind the scenes training, and for me, my dad modeled what a pastor is. It is not just someone that effectively communicates the Word, but that loves people regardless of where they are spiritually. Pastors are more than just communicators. //On the flip side, when dealing with members or regular attendees and hearing complaints, whines, objections, when church isn’t what ‘we’ want it to be is probably the most taxing, and this is a different side of being ‘hard.’ Let’s be honest there is quite a difference between trying to be helpful and suggesting something, and just complaining. Usually, one is for the overall benefit of the church (or Church) and the other is the overall benefit for that person (or clique). But, this is also part of being in ministry as well. Ministry sometimes means growing thick skin, and also putting my feelings aside and being able to hear and accept criticism discerningly. (Here is a bonus one *Just throw away the comment cards that don’t have a name. If it’s anonymous, well then, anonymously share it with the garbage can). Which leads me into number 3…
3. Be Moses not Aaron. When we look at Moses we see him continually going to God for guidance. Every single time the Israelites complain, he seeks and asks God for answers. God answered in very real ways: Water from rocks, bread from heaven, parting the sea… Moses could have tried to manufacture something on his own or tried to figure it out, but he didn’t, he always sought what God wanted for His people. Aaron, well not so much. Aaron was approached by the Israelites who were complaining that Moses was gone to long (you know, talking to God on the mountain which they could actually see!) and needed to worship something. So instead of Aaron consulting with God he just set his own plan in motion and made a golden calf, while God was literally meeting with his brother just up and around the corner. So, I want to be a Moses and not Aaron. I want to always do what God wants me to do for His people. I will not just set a plan in motion that doesn’t have its roots in scripture or bathed in prayer. I have learned that I will and will continue to pray for any leader I serve under, that the vision is God honoring and for the benefit of the Kingdom and not just our local church.
“…if I am not doing a good
job leading worship off
stage than I am just a
musician, and not a
worship leader, and my
influence really is non existent.”
4. Worship isn’t Music. Music isn’t worship and worship isn’t music. Music can be used to worship, but it isn’t inherently worship. Worship is a lifestyle and worship comes from the heart. Which means, worship is everything we do for Christ when done with the right motive. When we do anything in Jesus name, truly for Him, it is an act of worship. My job being a worship leader is maybe 10 percent on stage and the rest off, and I can tell you if I am not doing a good job leading worship off stage than I am just a musician, and not a worship leader, and my influence really is non existent.
5. God, Wife, Family, Ministry. It has to be in this order, and not just in words, but also in practice. My wife and family are technically my 1st ministry. I will minister through my family being strong and Christ centered more than I would by myself with a neglected family. How does this practically happen?
- Use your vacation days, no one will ever reach the end of their life and think, ‘shoot I used way to many vacation days.’
- Date your spouse. We budget money to use specifically for babysitters. Hold your wife’s hand while there isn’t a little person holding the other one, it goes a long way.
- Spend alone time with your kids, together and separately. My kids are completely different, I can spend 10 minutes spraying Titus in the face with a squirt gun and I am the greatest. Harper needs quality time with me just talking and being interested in what she likes or ice cream:)
6. The Lead Pastor is also the lead worshiper. He is the one that sets culture. I am not. I can do my very best to lead people into being a worshiping church, but when they see the lead pastor not singing, not participating, they will follow suit. When you serve under a worshiping pastor you will find your church worshiping openly and free. So I beg you pastors, sing, at the very very least. It doesn’t show weakness, it shows strength.
7. People Are Afraid of Change, But That Shouldn’t Stop You. All people do not like change, not some people, but all people. When someone is comfortable in his or her own lane, change is the last thing that is wanted/desired. But that and that alone should not stop us from change. Just because you hear ‘we have always done it this way’ doesn’t mean you should continue to do it that way. On the flip side, don’t change stuff just to change stuff, that’s just annoying, and you will burn out your team.
8. Long Practices Are Just Awful. If your team can’t get the set list down after running through it a few times, that means they haven’t done anything before rehearsal. Challenge that, and make your practices short and sweet and actually purposeful, or don’t have them. Change the culture to be one of excellence, we can celebrate an excellent God, which means we need to have preparation to pull that off.
“God isn’t on the throne
fretting and wondering
what to do if you don’t
show up with your
finely tuned Taylor 410.”
9. Delegate and Purposefully Try to Work Yourself Out of a Job. Leadership starts with you, but should also continue past you. Don’t try to do everything yourself, raise up others by giving responsibility away to capable people. Do everything possible to multiply yourself, raise up other worship leaders, sound techs, and creatives to do what you do. It is not about your kingdom, it is about His. When you view your job that way and you start to create more workers for the harvest, you are doing what you are meant to do. Approach everything with humility, and remember these 3 words…”I am replaceable.” Seriously, please do yourself a favor and remember that God isn’t on the throne fretting and wondering what to do if you don’t show up with your finely tuned Taylor 410.
10. I Will Never Know It All. I am okay with this truth. When we start to think we know everything, we have reached our leadership capacity. Read more and be willing to learn, stop being prideful. Remember that the next big thing (movement, idea, etc.) will come from the next generation, not yours. Pay attention, put the ego to the side and be willing to learn.
There have obviously been more then 10 things I have learned, but these are the ones that rattled down to my fingertips.