As a worship leader for over 20 years, I know that a rut is an easy thing to get into, and a terribly hard thing to break. We especially get that way with music on our Sunday mornings. However, some things can happen to shake us up a little and we all benefit, especially if our heart is tender and teachable. I share this story with you to give you a sense of understanding about how a negative can be a real positive in worship.
As you may know, I was a bi-vocational worship leader for nearly 13 years. I spent a good deal of that time in a country church, ten miles from a university town in Central Kentucky. It was a thriving community church steeped in a lot of healthy traditions. Our accompanist was, and still is, a lady named Vonda. Librarian by day, Vonda was a faithful believer and tremendous pianist. However, as any dedicated and talented person is in the local church, Vonda was in great demand.
One day she approached me and said, “Brother John, I am playing for Sunday morning service, afternoon youth choir, evening children’s choir and the evening service. I think I need a break from playing for the evening service.”
There was no denying the credibility of this comment which reminds me to share with you, we are, first and foremost, ministers. Rather than trying to manipulate the conversation to my advantage and plead for a change of heart, I truly had to agree and honor the request. So I asked, “Could you give me two more weeks?” Vonda was glad to oblige.
That same week Mike, a fabulous tenor in my choir, said, “John, I really feel the need to sing with my [extended] family [bluegrass group]. So I may need to quit choir.” This was a double-whammy!
It took me two weeks to get it, but I was glad I did. I said to Mike, “Mike would you, and your family, consider leading us in worship on Sunday night?” This was, as you remember, the service that Vonda couldn’t play in. I stated to Mike, “Not a concert, but worship leading,” to which he heartily agreed.
That Sunday morning I announced to the congregation, “I wanted to tell you that Mike and his family group will be leading us in worship tonight.” I didn’t have a clue what would happen next …
That night, at ten minutes before service, ushers had to bring in metal chairs to accommodate a typical Sunday night evening service, as the crowd was so large. Now I must tell you that this particular service, though somewhat healthy, had been in decline for years. This was amazing. Now, I will confess that about that time Satan kicked me and said, “Boy they never come on Sunday nights like this when you lead worship.” However, just then the Holy Spirit elbowed me and said, “Good delegation, ol’ boy.”
That night was incredible. Young and old were singing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I Saw the Light” with more passion than they had for the longest time. This was a truly sweet and beautiful time of worship.
Mike and his family continued to lead Sunday evening worship services for a long time. The metal chairs were never as prolific as that first night. But, it still was a continually sweet offering of worship that pleased the Lord and strengthened His people.
I share this story to share these points for consideration in your worship:
Located around every closed door is an open door. Look for it.
There are more than just pianos and organs (or guitars and keyboards) available for worship.
No matter what you typically do, sometimes a change of music can be refreshing in worship.
Worship is never a spectator sport, involve as many as you can in leading and participating.
When you become less, and He becomes more for Kingdom work, God always wins!
I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs, Ps. 69:30-31.
JOHN FRANCIS / MBC Worship Specialist