Saturday, July 9, 2016

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Reason, No Service

Over the years of worship leading ministry, I’ve learned that people are the most important asset of ministry and yet they are also sometimes the greatest source of headaches. The greatest thing I’ve learned about dealing with people is that when it comes to conflict, it is not what someone believes but WHY they believe it. This is first true of myself. After I have my ‘house’ cleaned, I can hopefully have the discernment to look for it in others.

I’m going to take you through a hypothetical conflict. As we observe this hypothetical disagreement unfold, look beyond the content because this disagreement could be about just about any subject. The point of this exercise is to look at how we communicate, how we think (or don’t think) about our positions, and how we as leaders can deal with those who disagree with us in a healthy and constructive way, mitigating the risk of escalation.

Jim: “I miss the hymns. This new music is too repetitive. I don’t like it and I don’t know these songs!”
Worship Leader: “Jim, I’m sorry you don’t like the newer music. It sounds like you’d prefer the 9:00 service.”
Jim: “9:00 is too early for me. I’ve been coming to the 11:00 service for years. Why do we have to do all this rock and roll music. That isn’t worship. It’s not God honoring.”
Worship Leader: “The reason that we do the music we do for the 11:00 is because this service is primarily geared for people who want contemporary worship music.”
Jim: “Well I don’t like how you’ve ruined the 11:00 service and I pay my tithes! I don’t think God would approve either!”
Worship Leader: “Why do you say that?”
Jim: “Guitar music has no place within the church.”
Worship Leader: “Can you show me scripture to support that?”
Jim: “Romans 12:2 says we should stay away from worldly things…”
Worship Leader: “Rock bands also sometimes use organs. And many of today’s hymns were yesterday’s bar songs.”
Jim: “You’re just being defensive you hippy! And cut your hair, you look like a girl!” (marches off in protest)

Reason is the connection between cause and effect. It is the process to which we, with an open mind and a heart for God (because He IS truth), find and discern truth.

Please forget that the above exchange is a conflict representing the worship wars. Jim could have just as easily been an advocate for contemporary and the worship leader a traditionalist. Let’s look past the WHAT and look at WHY (or lack of it) behind each person’s arguments.

Notice that Jim starts out with the word *I*.  This can pretty much sum up most of his position. He doesn’t like the music being done in the service and refuses to attend the alternative service better suited for him. Notice that he does NOT point to a picture bigger than him. He does not for instance, make a case that this service should do different music because it would better minister to people. He doesn’t bring statistics, research, or even anecdotes supporting the notion that his church would be better poised to do different music because it would better minister to people within its body or outside of its four walls.

A reasonable person who wanted to advocate, in this case, for traditional music might point to their church’s age demography and make the case that they’d better be poised to go traditional to better minister to that predominant group. Such a person might point to a book or say Barna research that shows a trend with growing churches doing traditional worship music vs contemporary. A reasonable person might point to research suggesting that the majority of younger generations actually prefer hymns over contemporary.

Secondly, notice that when things turn theological, Jim points to Romans 12:2, but when the worship leader calls his interpretation into question, instead of engaging the worship leader, he simply accuses him of being defensive, throws in some ad hominem personal attacks and storms off in protest. A more open-minded person might have admitted they had never thought about organs being used by rock bands. They might have asked for evidence to support the claim that many hymns are reworked bar songs. Upon receiving such evidence, they might have even asked about what the proper criteria is to understand what Romans 12:2 means by ”worldly”. Here’s a hint there: the rest of the verse says we should have a “transformed mind” which shouldn’t have anything to do with the presence or absence of any musical instrument.

So what makes a person like Jim? The simple nature is our sin nature. Every one of us has it. This recognition will help us to approach the Jims of this world with humility, first guarding ourselves of this same infraction. Unless we get ourselves out of the way, we will make our world no bigger than ourselves. In such a small world, it is our desires, preferences, agendas, and insecurities that trump anything resembling facts or reason. Because we set ourselves up to be god of such a world, the ‘word’ is simply our desires. Have you ever bought something that said “no assembly required” on the box? This world is in a box that says, “no reason required”.

So how do we deal with people who aren’t reasonable or open-minded? First of all, one can be reasonable and be wrong. One can also be right for the wrong reasons. So an unreasonable person isn’t identified by their position. They are instead identified by the WHY behind their conclusions.

If we have found such a person on the opposite side of a disagreement, here are some things I have found which can work:

Give them questions not answers. Your goal is to inspire them to use the reason they tend to abandon.

 Speak in their “language”. Unfortunately that language is a childish language of self. Therefore speak to them on a visceral level. Avoid engaging them with reason because that will likely cause them to simply cast you as being too defensive or even obstinate. Let them know you love them and tell them you are sorry they feel the way they do. Agree to disagree.

Be empathetic. This is probably the most important thing you can do. It is very much related to the previous point. Unreasonable people have abandoned reason because it has been eclipsed by their selfish nature. Such people don’t care about facts, research, reason, logic, anecdotes, Bible verses (unless those things support their position). But authentic empathy can at least defuse their emotions and defang a potentially acrimonious situation. If you struggle to be AUTHENTICALLY empathetic, pray for such an individual. Prayer does a world of good for changing OUR hearts, not just the person to which we are praying.

Say as few of words as possible. I can think of at least two reasons to do this. One is in keeping with the first point of giving your antagonist more questions than answers.  Secondly, sometimes an antagonist might have nefarious motives and try to use your words against them. Proverbs 17:27 says “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” (NIV)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Worship Boss, Organizer or Leader?

There’s a fine line for a worship leader to walk between being a ‘worship boss’ on one extreme or a ‘worship organizer’ on the other.  Are you a worship leader, worship organizer or a worship boss?

Worship Leader

Leaders lead the willing. They can sometimes convince the unwilling to submit, grow or learn but when they can’t they learn to repel such mindsets.  Leaders learn how to meet people where they are as opposed to meeting people where THEY are. As a result, leaders learn to ‘feed the hungry’ by teaching the teachable, equipping the child-like to mature, and leading those who are willing to submit. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Leaders learn to do the same. Proud people never grow because pride never admits to weakness or any sort of lack.

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1 (NIV)

Leaders always try to speak the truth in love.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15

Worship Organizer

The Worship organizer is someone who merely plans the music, makes sure the appropriate worship team members are scheduled and organizes rehearsals. The worship organizer does the ‘backbone’ work of a worship leader but stops short of anything that risks making anyone uncomfortable.

Hospices make people comfortable because they’ve generally lost hope for their patients. Hospitals, while valuing comfort, will sacrifice it for long-term healing. Worship Organizers would make great Hospice workers but lousy doctors.

Sometimes worship team members don’t want their leader to be anything more than a worship organizer. This is because they want to serve on the worship team only on their own terms. They don’t want to admit that they might have room for growth. They are closed to learning, unteachable and therefore unreachable.

The same things that hold these people back musically, hold these people back spiritually. The worship leader who gently and lovingly challenges these folks, is not simply teaching musical concepts, they are teaching spiritual truths.

When it comes to musical skill, IF a team is full of members who have professional-level, ‘top shelf’ skills, the worship leader can THEN sit back and lead more like a worship organizer. But IF your church is like most, and has untrained volunteers, it will need a worship leader to bridge the gaps between mediocrity and excellence IF it values the worship music as an essential element for growing kingdom communities.

Sometimes a worship leader is instead a worship organizer because they lack the musical skills to correct or even discern the musical gaps. If you are in that boat, find a mentor, a teacher, workshop, conferences and training. The growth has to begin with you before it can flow outward to your team in your ministry.

Worship Boss

The worship boss, goes to the other extreme of the worship organizer. This person lacks the sensitivity and soft people skills necessary to direct people without being crass. A savvy worship leader is always guarding themselves against the danger of being a worship boss.

A worship boss corrects people publicly instead of privately (when possible). A worship boss calls individuals out instead of attempting to preserve anonymity. An example might be if the bass player is dropping the ball on the bridge of a song, the worship boss will specifically correct that bass player in front of everyone, while the worship leader will say something like, “we’re a little lost on that bridge, let’s rehearse it again.” The worship boss will directly address the rushing drummer in front of everyone, while the worship leader will say something like, “WE are rushing, let’s try it again….” The worship boss will say, “Sally, you’re flat on that verse”, while the worship leader will say, “we’re a little pitchy, let’s try it again….”

WHO are you offending?

Even worship leaders will offend people.
“Woe to you when everyone speaks good of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.“ (NIV) Luke 6:26
It is better to suffer for good than to suffer for doing evil
                “For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (NIV) I Peter 3:17

It is impossible to please everyone. So the question is not whether you will offend someone but WHO will you offend and WHY are you offending them. IF offending people is inevitable, make sure you offend people for being a worship leader, not a worship organizer or especially a worship boss.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fire Starter - Leading a Worship Ministry With A Vision

Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; But he that keepeth the law, happy is he”.

I have sometimes served churches where the leadership did not communicate a clear vision. I found myself at risk when I asked for one to be communicated. Unfortunately, the lack of a vision DID explain the stagnation or dying at these churches.

As worship leaders, it is also important for us to communicate vision. Your vision may look different but I thought it might be helpful for me to at least communicate my vision and values as a fire starter. I derive these values from the Word and from reason coupled with experience.

I'll add comments/explanations below each item:

Communicate the counter-cultural message of Christ in a culturally relevant way.

I've never had a church disagree with this in wording but I've served plenty who violated this by their actions, being so in-reach focused and enabling that they lost sight of the bigger picture.

What is the counter-cultural message? Well examples would be doubting yourself (the essence of humility) and having faith in God and His work in you instead of simply believing in yourself. Other counter-cultural messages would be valuing ‘other-esteem’ (Phil 2:3) over self-esteem (or as the best way to acquire self-esteem).

How would those values be communicated in a culturally relevant way? Well, musically, they might be better communicated in modern music styles (since that is what the world listens to) vs in classical music or hymns. This is not to condemn those styles nor is it to suggest that we should soley style our worship music for non-believers…

Worship is the purpose of man and is defined in Rom 12:1-2.

This expression can include music, especially for corporate worship, but worship should never be reduced to it. Biblical worship is 24/7. It is not to be limited by church services.

The Worship music is a picture of Rom 12:1-2 worship.

It symbolizes the 24/7 worship model. What we do with worship music when the church gathers is really just one way of expressing worship corporately. Love, for God and each other, is the chief way we worship Him. Everything else should be an outworking from love. I Corinthians 13:1 says that without such love we are nothing but clanging cymbals.

Give God our first fruits.

Related to the 24/7 worship model expressed in the previous point, we should worship like Abel & not like Cain. This means that musically we DO care about excellence, not for purposes of putting on a show but to paint the picture of giving God our entire life (again back to Rom 12:1-2).

We ARE performing but God is our only audience.

Again, this helps put the previous point on “first fruits” into perspective because oftentimes people confuse excellence with showing off, showmanship or putting on a concert.

The Little Drummer Boy played his best for Him.

Attitude produces altitude/aptitude.

This is where I start to get practical. I care more about my worship team's willingness to grow then I care about their current abilities (beyond core competency).

I'd rather lead a team of beginners who are hungry for growth than proud virtuosos or obstinate, stuck in their ways musicians at any level. This is not merely a preference but a picture of the attitude we are to have spiritually and not just musically.

People don’t care how you know until they know how much you care

As a leader, build relationships and love people. Leadership is not a right, it is earned. Love provides the merit. Until Godly loving relationships are established, you’ll never have any long lasting influence to lead.

Meet people where THEY are, not where YOU are

If you treat others as if they are you, that will only work for people like you. But what about leading people who are significantly different than you? For instance, I prefer text messages if you’re simply wanting to tell me you’re going to be late or something else informative. But with others, I know I can’t text them because they don’t do text. The same goes for different personality types.

So what is YOUR worship leading vision?