Could it be possible that I am writing more than one post in less than 24 hours? I hope you will lend your ear and eyes my way once more…
To all of my friends in ministry, how much time have you spent this past year asking God to increase your worship team? I know that in the past that was my focus, “more folks on the team.” As God began to answer that prayer I realized that I might have been more specific in my prayer time. As is the case in several places that I have served, bigger is not the answer. I currently am blessed to work with a wonderful group of musicians who love and fear the Lord. Our team has seen growth spurts and growth stunts. We have experienced a lot of frustration and turmoil as we sought to “grow” the team, all of which was new to me as a worship pastor. God had always blessed me with a very healthy worship team. I have always had people wanting to join the team and become heavily involved.
SIDE NOTE: As I write this post I am thinking about all of those folks whom I have had the privilege of serving in ministry with and see how they have nurtured and encouraged me in my walk with the Lord and to them I am extremely grateful. Without that influence in our lives on a consistent and daily regimen we have a much harder time becoming and staying healthy in our walk with the Lord.
Recently, I have experienced something that has been hard to learn but extremely necessary to learn as a pastor. Pretty much everyone in ministry knows about Matthew 18 and how it instructs us to handle conflict resolution but how many of us are actually practicing it? I attended a break out session at the National Worship Leader Conference in Leawood, Kansas this past July and had an opportunity to talk with author and pastor Rory Noland. I shared with him some of the struggles we were having within our team. Please note that we were not dealing with any immoral issues within our group or habitual sinning but the cohesiveness of our team. Becoming one voice and one spirit as we lead the saints to the throne room on a weekly basis was a struggle for us. Pastor Noland was very gracious and considerate as he shared with me some ideas. He asked me if I had the members sign a worship covenant? Yes, I have always had worship team covenants at every church I’ve served. Did I demand excellence? Always, demand excellence – not perfection. After another 40-45 minutes of his peeking into my ministry and asking very poignant questions I began to ponder, “I’m two for two, could it be that Rory Noland doesn’t have any advice for me.” Then he reached into his bag and pulled out His own copy of his latest book, “Worship on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
I began to wonder if he was fixing to sell me an answer. However, he quickly told me that the conference and the book store had completely sold out of this book but he felt it was for me and our team. He knew I was a fan because I had already told him I have several copies of his other books concerning worship leaders and pastors. As Pastor Noland handed me his book he asked me one more question, “Isaac, have you been challenging your team.” I was very quick to respond, “Yes, all the time.” His response while measured and precise was softly spoken, “Spiritually, are you challenging them spiritually and holding them accountable.” DUH – Who does he think he is to admonish me and at a worship conference no less. “Yes, I am challenging them spiritually,” I thought to myself. But then things started to click. I had been challenging them spiritually but not in the same way as I had been at other churches.
I had never been afraid to challenge my worship teams spiritually or musically before. However, this is the first time I had an unexpected response. I know that you are never going to get 100% commitment from everyone you have on your team. As I carried this new revelation with me home I began asking God to show me what I needed to do to help our team be spiritually healthy not larger.
At that conference I had the privilege of having 5 of our worship team members with me. It was wonderful to see how they were able to bring back the enthusiasm, encouragement, vision and passion for worshipping a risen Lord as I had from past conferences. It also gave me the opportunity to invite them into the discussion as well. Spiritual growth, accountability and commitment are three major components that have to be present in every single member of your worship team. Don’t allow any of those areas to slide. I have experienced what happens when I relax and become loose with any one of those three components. I was quickly realizing that I had allowed the fear of having a smaller team (and what that may look like to the church) keep me from allowing our team to become a spiritually healthy team.
After several weeks in prayer, I did something that I have always done before with the worship team but this time it was different. My focus was on our ability as a team to really help the saints sit at Jesus’ feet even if only on Sunday morning. I could no longer allow the desire for a bigger team effect our ability to usher the body of Christ before His throne on a weekly basis. Pastor Noland’s book “Worship On Earth As It Is In Heaven” has helped me to see that. As my approach to the team changed so did its composition. We are a smaller team now but we have a solid foundation. They are asking me what’s next. They are excited about being held to a higher standard and being accountable to one another. I also extended my scope of my worship team to include all of our worship leaders, not just the praise team.
Immediately God began showing my that the worship team He had given me was much larger than I was seeing. We have a gentle spirit within our team and God is really maturing us and getting us very healthy. I guess the whole reason for this diatribe is this: In order to “grow” a healthy ministry, most of the time, God has to whittle us down to the core and then fire us together. It is much easier to build on a solid foundation than an uneven, shaky, and cracked one.
I am looking forward to many more years of service with our worship team at Heartland. I believe God has mighty things in store for His kingdom. I pray that He will allow us to be a part of that Kingdom growth.