Confessions of a Worship Pastor:
Avoiding The Black Holes
I have a confession to make. Maybe I shouldn’t do it, but I will. I don’t suppose it’s too jaw-dropping. In fact, if you are a worship leader you’ve probably done this same thing. Are you ready?
There have been people, in every congregation I have served in, that I avoid looking at while I’m leading worship.
There…I said it out loud. I’m sure many of you can relate. It’s not that I don’t love them, but they are what I’ve heard called “black holes”; don’t look too long at them for fear of being sucked into their vortex. Their glazed-over look during the most passionate songs that we sing are enough to bring even the best worship leader down. So, in order to serve the whole, I look past them. I choose to look at people who are engaging in worship.
Actually that’s only half the confession…like any good stereotype, this is not always true. Let me tell you a story about Jim. For years Jim was a black hole for me. I would be singing the greatest of all the new songs — the tier one songs — and the best I would see of Jim was a little lip movement, with very little facial expression. And it’s not like he sat in the back row. Nope, Jim sat in the 3rd row aisle seat (worship leaders know where everyone sits).
Week after week, month after month, year after year, Jim sat in the same seat with the same non-expression on his face. He may perk up a little when I would sing a hymn, but then back to his old self.
One day I had a chance to talk with Jim and he mentioned how much he loved me as his worship pastor (insert record scratch here).
Jim and I started slowly building a relationship and would have some nice conversations. In one of the conversations Jim confessed that he was close to legally blind. LIGHT BULB: the reason he wasn’t singing the songs was because he couldn’t read the lyrics.
This is where I take off the “world’s greatest worship pastor” button I was wearing and replace it with a dunce cap.
I’ve lived through my share of “worship wars” as I’m sure many of you have too. They can be very painful and can cause any good worship leader to put up defense mechanisms. However, I now wish I could go back and relive some of those years to correct a mistake or two.
At the top of my list of corrections would be to intentionally spend time with the people who are having a hard time adjusting to my leadership. Go to coffee. Join the men’s Bible study. Lead worship for the senior’s small group. Anything to try to get to know them better and for them to get to know me better.
I’m not naive enough to think this will work for everyone. In fact, I’ve tried it; I know it won’t. Some people will have a hard time with you no matter what — it’s not fair, but it’s true. On the other hand, over the years I’ve found numerous times that a little bit of understanding, love, and compassion can win many people over. It tends to tear down the walls that are separating you from seeing each other’s positions. Or in my case, it helps you get to know the person well enough to know they are almost BLIND.
Don’t let frustration or any broken relationship hold you back from pastoring the community God has given to you. Choose to be bold in your love. Strive for understanding. Be slow to speak and quick to listen. I know God will use you to help His people become more engaged worshipers.
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