We all live somewhere in the middle, somewhere between who we once were and who we want to become. As soon as we get close to becoming who we want to be, we start to dream, realizing we still have a long way to go.
So in this lifelong process of developing, how do we as worship leaders reject becoming discouraged or settling for less than God's best? Here are three ways we can build ourselves up right where we are and make ourselves even more fit to lead:
1. Travel to hard places. Recently I traveled to Iraq to document the years-long refugee crisis there. The people welcomed our team into their tents, broke bread with us and shared stories of their journey to move away from destruction zones into refugee camps. Despite the harsh conditions, they were full of joy. Despite the horrors they'd witnessed, they had hope. In the midst of sorrow, they carried love.
This experience allowed me to shift perspective in my own life. I saw how far along I was in my own becoming, simply because of the life into which I was privileged to be born. I have running water and air conditioning and a consistent job with access to delicious food. Suddenly my failure to meet certain goals and societal expectations didn't seem nearly as discouraging. I realized I'm doing pretty well on my journey toward the life I want to lead.
Now, I'm not encouraging nihilism. Just because other people groups have more challenging lives doesn't mean we should eliminate our goals in some sort of sacrificial act of solidarity. But when we realize how good our lives really are, we experience greater peace. We slow down and are not as anxious about who we haven't become yet.
Even if we can't travel to a Third-World country, we can volunteer at a local rescue mission or food bank. The goal is to gain perspective on the reality of life for many people.
2. Ask for accountability. When I was 17, I asked my youth pastor if he would be my accountability buddy. I was looking for someone with whom I could share my dirty laundry, to get some sort of motivation out of shame to improve my morality. But I remember him saying to me, "If I'm going to be your accountability partner, I'm not just going to talk to you about the things you need to fix." I was a little confused. He continued, "I want to hold you accountable to the greatness inside of you." Our relationship flourished as he spent months calling out the man he saw in me.
It's so easy for us to be our own worst critics. We either self-deprecate to the point where we don't feel we've made any progress at all or we slip into self-congratulatory hubris and think we've made it. We all need people in our lives who have nothing to gain or lose from our success to speak honestly about where we are on our life journey.
As iron sharpens iron, accountability helps us move past our childish ways and step into maturity. Moreover, we will see the greatness we carry begin to manifest in our lives. We are all royal sons and daughters of the King of kings, and we need someone who calls out the king inside.
3. Celebrate others' breakthroughs. We've all had that super-annoying moment. A friend tells how he received the very breakthrough we'd been contending for. Maybe he was able to break an addiction or was restored to his spouse or kids. Perhaps he landed his dream job and finally feels the validation he'd wanted for years. Whatever it is, it's hard to truly celebrate when this happens.
Sure, it's easy to say "congratulations," but to have a heart posture of genuine gratitude for a friend's breakthrough rather than envy or bitterness is tough. But remember, testimony has the power to unlock doors in the lives of the people who receive it, just as envy and strife have the power to slowly poison our souls. We must receive our friends' good news as a testament of what God can and will do in our lives too. It may not look the same, but God has us, and He won't let us go.
We can't allow ourselves to get stuck in the process of becoming. Instead, we must be filled with gratitude and hope as we grow into wiser, more mature people, ready to worship and lead others closer to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Joshua Mohline is director of WorshipU (worshipu.com), the online school of worship from Bethel Music. With a background as a worship leader in settings from small to large, he has been a part of the Bethel Church worship teams since 2012. He facilitates the worship school as it equips and empowers thousands of worship leaders and teams worldwide.
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