Facing Challenges

This week’s QUESTION FOR RESPONSE was:

 

What aspect of your ministry through music and worship leadership gives you the greatest challenge while striving for Kingdom accomplishment?

 

Here are some of the responses I received to last week’s posted “Question for Response.”  Several of these are compilations of multiple responses that were very similar.  As promised, names are withheld to promote candid responses:

1.  The greatest challenge for me is to forego personal preferences and opinions of the congregation while striving to present a blend of both traditional hymns and contemporary worship songs. It is so easy to allow personal preferences to creep into decisions, when the key should be scriptural content and properly comparing the congregation for worship. 

2.     My greatest challenge is struggling with so many schedule conflicts that people have in their busy lives.  It takes me more time trying to compensate for time they are either unable or unwilling to give.  Some people who take on major leadership roles simply do not fulfill their responsibility leaving the task for others (like me).

3.     My pastor does not seem to think I am really a minister.  He asks me to do certain songs he likes or thinks the congregation will like, but I want music to be much more than something to appease him or the people.  I don’t know how to get his attention without risking my position or creating a bigger problem with him.

These three responses reflect the three primary areas involved in all the replies I received from last week’s question.  I want to briefly address each area of concern for your consideration and prayer – not just for your own setting, but for all who are serving in worship and music ministry leadership and their churches.  The ongoing need for revival and renewal in the American evangelical church seems to be at the core of each of these expressions.  I believe that is confirmed in what I hear coming from so many of our leaders who are calling for prayer that God would send a Spirit breathed revival on us.  Let us join in that prayer first and foremost.

In response to the three included replies above:

Regarding #1- personal preference issues, dear brothers and sisters, this is a clear manifestation of the need for renewal that is being called for among leadership.  I have to straightforward enough to say that the truth is that we have all participated in this manifestation in some fashion.  In some cases pastors have demanded changes in order to reach people without recognizing all the ramifications of the message we may be sending our own people as well as those we claim we are trying to reach.  The bottom line is that in a sense “the medium is the message.”  That is to say, if we are seeking to reflect Jesus who sought to serve not to be served, then we cannot drift into worship that characterizes Christian faith as something that will give you exactly what you want when you want it.  While we must raise our sensitivity to proclaiming the message in a contextually relevant manner, we must never reduce worship to a commercial enterprise where we are selling fire insurance or peddling prosperity gospel.  Burger King worship is nothing more than idolatry.

It seems imperative that we have open and honest conversations with our senior pastors and other church leaders to better face our need for “takin’ it to the streets” (bearing witness through music in coffee shops, street corners, and dare I say even in bars).  What may be relevant on the bandstand stage in the community park or at the beach may be irrelevant in sacred worship.  We NEED our preaching pastors to speak the truth in love that will help our people practice Christian worship that practices the presence of our Holy God and demonstrates love and unity (See Romans 12 and John 17).  For you and I, music ministers, who are “second chair” leaders, we must approach this conversation in love and deep respect.  Prayer is foundational to any such conversation that risks misunderstanding.  The Holy Spirit is our only hope.

Regarding #2- concerning busy schedules, I would have two points to express to all of us: First of all, we cannot make up for others’ lack of commitment to the church’s worship and/or the ministry through music.  One of the reasons I believe people fall into allowing everything else to come before the church is that we cover for them.  I have seen music ministers who allow their family life to suffer while they work to keep music presentations afloat, only to end up relieved of their position as music minister because of troubles at home.  Secondly, our people are often busy at being busy.  Our culture admires busy-ness for its own sake.  Our message is countercultural in this way.  I recommend consideration of the music schedule – are you doing too much?, and of the church schedule – are you (and others) doing too much?, and finding ways to ease the pressures (often brought on by performance mindset).  Christian worship is an engagement with God, not a weekly production.  You might be surprised how meaningful it might be for your congregation to spend a few moments in reflection while an instrumentalist, soloist, or choir shares a familiar song of worship to encourage such reflection.

Regarding #3- concerning relationship and respect from the senior pastor, I am deeply burdened about this recurring prayer request.  I am hopeful that more conversations in the building where I work (every now and then) will result in conversations with and among your pastors to help address the issue of shared ministry.  Just last week I shared with Dr. Randy Davis, our Executive Director, that I know of very few worship music ministers who do not have a deep desire to serve their pastors and to practice a complimentary ministry.  Even so, the mutual respect is sometimes not shared.  So many senior pastors feel immense pressure to be perceived as “successful” as measured by “nickels and noses” and that pressure is shared with the rest of the staff.  The Worship environments of other larger churches are misperceived as being the key to growth. This is not to say the problems all reside with the senior pastors for we all have opportunity to earnestly serve one another.  Resourceful music ministers can find many different ways to serve their senior pastor and to foster a good relationship.  Respect in both directions is earned over a period of time where trust becomes foundational in the relationship.  Once again we are dependent upon the Lord, thus daily prayer is critical to this process.

I invite all of you to join me in praying for one another regarding these three areas of concern, not only for those who entered these responses, but as they apply to all of our churches and ministries.  The Lord IS our strength.  We need the Gospel to reign in these matters, and only He can provide.  One way He provides strength is through our relationships with one another.  I hope all of you will take advantage of the grace gift we have in one another.  Fellow worship pastors and other music ministry leaders understand your situation perhaps better than anyone.  Do not hesitate to call them and/or to call me to share the load.

Faithfully,

Paul

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Uncategorized, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship thoughts

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