Confessions of a Worship Pastor: Not Feeling It
Over the years I’ve encountered many situations that forced me to deal with conflict. Naturally, I’m a non-confrontational leader. I’d prefer to have peace. However, what these situations have taught me are a valuable part of what God is creating me to be — not just as a “leader” but as a worshiper and follower of Jesus.
A few years back I was the worship pastor at a church where the worship team and the lead pastor had a love-hate relationship. I was new to the job and didn’t understand all the history, which I won’t get into, but suffice it to say there were more feelings at play than what was on the surface. One Sunday morning I was practicing with the band and choir before our services. It was a normal Sunday. Normal songs. Normal volume. This particular Sunday the lead pastor came out from his office with his mind made up. He listened to the band for a few moments, then waved his hands in the air telling us to stop. The problem, for him, was that the band volume was too loud and competing with the choir.
I know volume in church is a touchy subject and I could get into the intricacies of the style of our music, which required a certain volume (and that music style was chosen by the lead pastor). I could get into the way we were spoken to. I could get into the timing of the whole ordeal, but all of those things are secondary to the main lesson God showed me that day — and what would become one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over my lifetime.
After we left the sound check we had a Christian Education hour before our service began and the lead pastor decided he wanted to meet with the worship team during that time. What followed was something ugly. The lead pastor continued to confront the worship team and the worship team members responded by telling the lead pastor exactly what they thought of him. I’ve never seen an exchange like this before, especially considering the timing. Eventually, the lead pastor said, “Kevin you’ve been quiet. What do you think about this?” I was thinking a lot of things, but like I said I’m naturally non-confrontational and the lessons of how to confront properly and finding my voice in situations like this would come later. At this early point in my ministry all I could think of was the timing of this confrontation so I said, “I can’t believe we are having this meeting 20 minutes before I have to lead worship.”
I can’t remember the way the meeting ended, but just the feelings I had as I went to lead our congregation in worship. Angst. Frustration. Bewilderment. A bit of anger.
Normally, I lead my teams in prayer for the start of each service. We talk about allowing God to use us. We talk about surrender. We pray for the Holy Spirit to be able to push through all that distracts us and allow God to bring transformation to our hearts. That is not the way we began this particular service.
I dare to tell this story not to paint anyone in a bad light – either the worship team, my lead pastor or myself. This story led to an essential lesson for me both as a worshiper and worship leader: we worship regardless of our feelings.
On life’s journey we will find ourselves on mountain tops, valleys and everywhere in between. God has not promised us that life will go well or be easy. In fact, His Word often paints a picture of us suffering for His sake. Life can be brutal and if our worship of God depends on us feeling good at the time, then our worship of God will fluctuate with our feelings.
We can choose to worship or we can choose not to worship — but it’s our choice. Many times we mistake worship as an emotion that drives us to sing. Worship can definitely involve emotions, but emotions are not necessary. In fact, they may actually hinder us from worshiping God. I believe some of the worship that pleases God most is when we can find our song in the middle of the storm.
Remember Acts 16. Paul and Silas are in a dark, damp, smelly jail in Philippi. The Bible says they were praying and singing songs. Right there. In jail. With everyone watching and listening. I know we look up to Paul as the ultimate Christian, but I’m pretty sure, given the choice, he would have chosen to not be in jail chained to a wall. Things were not going his way. And yet…he sings.
And then there is David. Innocent, he finds himself hiding for his life in the wilderness for 13 years. He felt betrayed and perhaps even wondered why he was even in the wilderness when he had already been anointed king. It was in that season that he wrote some amazing Psalms (such as Psalm 63).
How many times have we been in a worship service and said, “I’m just not feeling it today?” How many times have we ended our prayer time early because we just don’t feel like it?
Instead of letting our feelings and emotions dictate when we press into God, let’s press in first and let our emotions catch up to us. After all, the Gospels instruct us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will worship Him with all four equally, all the time. There will be times when your mind is worshiping Him and your heart, soul, and strength will need to catch up. Likewise, there will be times when your heart is leading the charge.
So, to finish the story…the meeting ends and despite the feelings of angst in my heart I pushed through to lead the congregation in worship. I’d love to say that the heavens opened and tongues of fire came down. They didn’t. But I do know God was pleased, however “good” or “bad” I led, because despite the circumstances, I gave Him everything I had. Even though at times I may stumble in applying this lesson, this experience taught me to live a life of worship in all seasons — even when I don’t feel like it — and I pray it will help you along your life’s journey as well!
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