Healthy Leaders Healthy Churches

Over the past three weeks I have led two churches through aWorship Renewal through Congregational Singing weekend experience.  The times of studying, remembering, sharing, and of course, singing, were laced with sweet moments of fellowship, inspiration, discovery, and encouragement.  Some very practical realities were clear through these and all the experiences I have had sharing these conferences in churches. Stated simply; if the leadership is healthy and is prepared and deeply engaged, it seems the church most likely will respond positively and there seems to be a freedom for the Spirit to work among His people to renew worship through expressions in song and singing.  It is very important to me that you understand there is no “formula” here, I am just seeking to state my experience and to reflect on that to encourage your thinking toward principles that I believe are applicable out of that experience.

 

This is fresh on my mind and heart as I just returned from a church where I spent a weekend conducting sessions of such a conference. Without saying too much, I think it is fair to tell you that this church has seen difficult days in its very recent past. Combinations of factors contributed to the turmoil.  Past tensions over worship music styles took a toll as persons wanting something other than the church’s offerings left the congregation.  Declining attendance and membership over a number of years combined with tensions between leaders had the church on a trajectory of demise.  Through concentrated prayer, consultations with staff of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, associational leaders, and others the church sought an intentional interim pastor to lead them through a time of difficult transition.  A retired pastor came to assist the church, sought to love the people and preach the Bible, built a staff of likeminded colleagues, and established a spirit of prayerful openness in the congregation.  The Lord has blessed by giving a new direction, a clear sense of new life and a palpable sense of love and unity among these people.  In fact, the church called this man to remain as their permanent senior pastor to serve along with their student minister and their interim music minister, and has continued to watch growth occur that is only explainable by, as one choir member put it, “God is at work.  That’s all you can say, He’s doing this.”  Amen!  All of the staff members along with the church’s instrumentalists were great support and very hospitable through the whole experience.

 

Talk about a “perfect setup” for one of these worship renewal weekends!  When 75 – 100 leaders show up on a rainy Saturday morning for three hours of study on worship through congregational singing, you know these are faithful and committed folks.  The experiences of each session were rich for me, and the Lord blessed through conversations, communications (open and private), and added to His church through six commitments for baptism in the Sunday morning service.  Thanks be to God!  Two rows of middle and high schoolers populated the front two rows of Sunday services accompanied by their student minister and his family.  A good crowd returned for Sunday night’s congregational rehearsal despite pooring rain that continued all weekend.  Indeed, not only was grass watered, but the Lord’s church continued to experience showers of blessing.  Great is His faithfulness!

 

Some practical applications I want to share are these:

1.      Unified leadership focused together on building a healthy church of believers who love one another and seek to reach others for Christ fosters meaningful worship.

2.      One of the ways the pastor and staff encourages unity and healthy relationships in the church is by their own mutual respect and encouragement of each other.  Words of genuine affirmation abounded, especially in private conversations, among the staff as they commended each other’s work and shared ministry.

3.      Open expressions of positive expectations toward the behavior of fellow church members encourages self-fulfilling prophecy.  A departing soldier (a mom with two teenagers) was promised in the worship service that the church would pray for her and watch out for her teens while she was deployed in Afghanistan.  Staff and lay leadership affirmed to me the expectation of their people’s attendance and participation in the worship renewal weekend.  I heard it over and again, “Oh, they (the people) will be here.  They will do what you ask them to do.” (I asked people to move from their seats to populate the front pews – normally lonely spaces in a Baptist church – during the Sunday evening session).  The staff was right. They did whatever I asked.

4.      A prelude to any effort toward spiritual renewal must be a concert of prayer.  When we are seeking to see God at work among His people we must lead His people to seek Him beforehand so as to be watching and waiting.  Soli deo Gloria!

5.      One of the means of raising awareness to ways God is at work in the present is to remember ways and times He has worked in the past.  The focus in such activity must be on the dynamics of the Spirit’s work and movement, not a romantic nostalgia.  Our prayer is for the work of Him who “makes all things new.”

6.      Each church must be sensitive to the Lord’s provision for its ongoing deliverance and health, rather than just seeking to pattern itself after other churches.  In the case of the church where I served last weekend, the Lord brought a pastor out of retirement to steer the congregation toward renewed life in Christian community.  The church’s worship language and methodology flies in the face of philosophies that would imply a “latest and greatest only” mentality.

7.      Awareness that the Lord is at work in and through the church nurtures sensitivity to ways He might desire to work in individual lives and throughout the whole community.

 

There is nothing profound in these insights, but there is much profound that can be ingested when observing those environments where the Lord is at work among His leaders and His people.  There is a close connection between His working in the former and the later.

 

Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church. (1 Cor 14:12)

 

Amazed in His Presence,

Paul

 

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Shared Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leader Relationships, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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