My wife Ann and I lead busy lives. Yet, despite the flurry of activity, God has protected us from the ravages of spiritual collapse. One of the reasons is that we’ve been able to keep up a daily personal devotional life. For us, it’s a key to sanity!
Many of us are task oriented. What we DO is the measure of our success. If you ask people why Jesus was successful most will point to the to the things he did. “He healed the sick…cast out demons…raised the dead…preached to the multitudes”…and the list goes on. And yet, there’s an aspect of the Messiah’s life that involved doing ‘nothing,’ but spending time alone with the Father. So significant were these times that all four Gospels mention them. In fact, Luke 5:16 says that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Worship leaders are some of the first people to get to church and some of the last to leave. We plan all week for a practice, only to find the singer we’d hoped to feature on a song has called at the last minute and says she’ll be out of town. We work hard to lead a team toward excellence, yet we all know the feeling of finding out five minutes before rehearsal on Sunday morning that our drummer is sick and won’t be there.
God, did you really intend for me to go through this? I used to ask this often. Our church secretary can attest to the number of times I’ve said, “I just wanted to play my trumpet and my piano, and that’s it; God got me into the rest of this thing!”
As I was thinking about these all-too-common worship leader experiences and pondering a point from my pastor’s recent preaching, something clicked for me. God knows what tree I’ve climbed! Let me explain.
In Luke 19:2-8, we find Zacchaeus strategizing so he can encounter Jesus. The short man ran ahead of the crowd traveling with Jesus and found a sycamore tree to climb to boost his chances. I imagine him saying to himself, “Thisis the tree I’ll climb to see Jesus. He has to come through this road!”
The truth is, it wasn’t Zacchaeus who knew where Jesus would walk; it was Jesus who knew where Zacchaeus would be.
Today, God knows every single struggle and joy you go through as a worship leader. He knows the number of hours you put into arranging a song, learning the chords and figuring out different ways to play it so it will sound fresh and new. He knows when the arrangements you work so hard on at rehearsal come out exactly as planned—as well as when they flop! (And we all have some flops once in a while.)
He knows the happiness you feel when everything goes well on Sunday and the disillusionment you experience when it doesn’t. He even knows when you struggle to reveal to others those inner feelings, for fear they’ll either think you’re self-consumed or that your sole concern is how the music sounded rather than what God did in the service or whether He was truly worshipped.
God knew where Zacchaeus was. He knew his status in society, his fears, his problems, even his thieving. He knew the emotion Zacchaeus would experience when Jesus called out his name in front of so many people, most of whom he knew despised him.
Let me remind you today that just as Jesus knew about Zacchaeus, He knows and cares about your emotions, triumphs and failures. You’re not just "Worship Leader No. 1087"!
Jesus also knows your name, and in the same way He called Zacchaeus by name down from that tree, He calls your name today. He knows what tree you’ve climbed into, and He wants to hear all about what’s going on with you. He cares for you!
Your tree may be the ministry or church that you’re helping to lead. It may even be the team you’re on. God knows why you’re on that tree and not on another, and He knew this is where He was going to find you and change your life.
I encourage you, as the Word says in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (NASB). Have a heart open to what God wants to teach you while you’re on this tree. Often He’ll even show you why you’re there and give you a deeper purpose.
Worship leader, you are not alone. Jesus knows what tree you’re on!
Denis Campos serves as the director of Christ for the Nations’ Advanced School of Worship and Technical Arts.
I could write a book. But I won’t. If you’ve been in children's ministry for any amount of time, you’ve visited this topic.
What level of commitment do we ask from our children's ministry volunteers? How much is too much? Is a weekly commitment too much to ask?
In kids' ministry, I’ve swung to each of these trains of thought over the years:
As youth pastors, we don’t like to talk about numbers. If we do, it’s with wailing and gnashing of teeth, as we imagine the elders shaking their heads in frustration at the job we’re doing to reach the students in the community.
Or we laugh at the image of the same elders shaking their heads with concern because the numbers are up but the students you’re reaching are causing problems—serious problems—like an occasional swear word and wearing earbuds on church property.
Here’s the truth: Numbers matter.
Try as we might to help leadership see the student ministry discipleship process as more than a head count, it remains one of the universally accepted currencies of “health” in youth ministry. Here are a few numbers to keep an eye on:
Pastor, you set the tone and atmosphere in your congregation. If you want to know the warmth of your church, put the thermometer in your own mouth.
I’ve visited some churches where the pastor’s lack of love is the main reason the church isn’t growing. Some pastors, by their cold demeanor and lack of personal warmth, virtually guarantee that visitors won’t come back. And in some larger churches, I’ve gotten the impression that the pastor loves an audience but doesn’t like people.
Great preaching without love is just noise in God’s view. Every time I speak to at Saddleback, I repeat a simple reminder to myself. I never preach or teach without thinking this:
I had a chance to get away with some of our youth ministry leadership team recently to process some of the common pitfalls that youth pastors face as they navigate ministry. My mind has hovered around three particular ones that I’ve personally witnessed in my recent experience in youth ministry:
1. Overspending or misuse of church funds
2. Inappropriate relationships
3. Compromising staff/church policies