The last 3 months I have been on sabbatical. I've had a complete break from church, leading worship and church responsibilities.
There's been plenty of time to ponder the question 'Who am I?'
I've had no activities that I've been responsible for, other than the usual day to day life and parenting - that never stops - but there has been a niggling question of 'Who am I if I'm not leading worship?'
I have to say, after a slightly unsettling start, it's been a wonderfully freeing time. I've found such joy and peace in small things of day to day life. I've discovered space to just be who I am and a tranquility that has come with it. Now I just need to learn how to hold on to that as I prepare to step back into the rhythms of church life.
This is no great earth-shattering revelation, but here's what I've discovered in my time away from leading:
The call of worship is on my life.
It is on yours.
It is on the greatest singer and most talented musician I know.
It is on the person who really doesn’t connect through music and struggles to hold a tune.
... because worship isn’t about singing, or music, or songwriting… worship is a heart attitude that sees who God is and pours out praise to Him.
In recent years we have been blessed by an avalanche of worship songs that have been released - but, like so many good things, they’ve also come with a danger. It's possible that all these wonderful productions have given us an unrealistic expectation of what gathered worship is. As worship leaders we can strive to live up to something that we can’t reproduce in our smaller church settings, and it has left some of us and our congregations with a picture of something that we can’t attain.
This striving to live up to a certain expectation is leaving an increasing amount of worship leaders feeling the pressure to produce something by themselves that takes a vast team of professionals with a big budget in other places. And the burn out rate, particularly among young worship leaders who are just starting out, is significant.
So what’s the solution? I'm not entirely sure, but one thing is certain. For us in worship ministry, paid or volunteers, we need to keep coming back to the heart of what it is we’re doing and the truth of who we actually are.
I’m going to make a bold statement:
We are not worship leaders… leading worship is a by-product of who we are.
If all else was stripped away, we’d still be worshipping in our own private spaces, because our hearts are responding to a God who loves us, who suffered greatly so we could have an intimate and personal relationship with the living God, both now and for all eternity. We’ve received much and our response is to pour out our praise to a God who is worthy, and gracious, and compassionate, and caring, and loving, and understanding, and faithful, and steadfast, and mighty, and merciful… and… and… and… (fill in your own blanks)
… A God who makes us holy, and righteous, and clean, and whole, and changes our hearts from stone to flesh, and brings us into right relationship with Himself and others… and… and… and… (fill in your own blanks)
We worship because we love Him. We worship because we're thankful. Because it changes us. We see greater glimpses of who He is. We touch heaven.
We are not worship leaders because we have a specific skill and a job to do… we are children of the living God who cannot help but pour out their praise to Him and who love to open doors and draw others into that place too.
When we realise afresh that it is who we are, and not what we do, the pressure can lift and we’ll be more able to release others into that same worshipful lifestyle and deep, meaningful connection with our Creator Father God.