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When you’re involved in leading the way in a church’s worship ministries, YOU — have responsibility!  (How’s that for an understatement?!)

You’re responsible to see that things are done decently and in order.  You’re responsible to plan ahead far enough that everybody involved can be adequately prepared but not so far in advance that you forget the Holy Spirit can be spontaneous.  You’re responsible for…  oh lots of things.   Worship Ministries is demanding and rewarding in the same breath, one of the reasons I’ve given my life to it.

I’ve found that two questions, like left and right, help keep things simple when budgets AND schedules AND productions AND holidays AND personnel concerns, AND opinions AND outside influences tend to complicate things.

The two questions are these:

  • Who is God?
  • Who are these people?

It is the responsibility of the worship leader or worship pastor to consistently bring the two together week after week.   But since God doesn’t move and doesn’t change, it’s more leading God’s people toward Him than getting God to come look (if I can say that respectfully).  

If you’re on a pastoral staff it’s likely you were brought in from the outside to help with the needs in this church’s music and worship venue.  As they screened the thousands of candidates for the position that is now yours, the church was concerned that you know God and are “on good terms with Him”  🙂  so the search team asked lots of questions to get to know you as they interviewed you.  Now that you’re here, it’s your turn to come to know these people so you can lead them well.

Volumes have been written about the first question so I’d like to spend a few paragraphs on the second.  Four, actually,  one per word.

Who are these people? 

Think historically.   How did this local church begin?  How long ago?  What drove it at its beginning?  What storms have these people weathered through the years?  Where has God shown Himself faithful?  What stands out in their heritage? Is their founding cause the same today or has it shifted (maybe drifted)?  Take a few moments to compare 1 Peter 5.1-4 with the first half of John 10.  It’s important you know these people.  Who are they historically? What are their roots?  To grow into the future respecting their past is one of the wisest things you can do as a leader.  If they  brought you to town to help affect a change, knowing these things will help you be gracious through the transitions ahead.

Who are these people?

Think current events.  Here and now.  Who are these people today? What things in this part of the world make it difficult to walk close with God?  What obstacles and on-going battles do these people face? How is God working through them?  Where is the church excelling?  What spiritual energy is just waiting to be tapped?  Who’s coming onto the scene?  You may have Jr-Hi or High-schoolers in the wings who could step in to fill the place of someone God moves to another state or provide much-needed leadership on a college campus after graduation.  Who are these people now?  If you know and understand them you’ll be well-suited to lead them to live lives characterized by worshipful obedience.   If you don’t know and understand these folks, you’ll likely opt for a personal agenda, which may land cross-wise with something already in place – and we all know how much fun THAT is.)

Who are these people?

Think demographics.  Those studies are available for the town, city or county you serve, but an informal demographic study of this one congregation will bring you true insight and understanding!  Look at age-groups.  National heritage. Language. Previous church affiliation.  Radio preferences.  Computer and TV likes and dislikes.  Pockets of outdoorsmen, scrap-bookers, weekend athletes, aspects of your local work-force.  World-view.   Like multi-colored panes of glass, your understanding of the variety in this one congregation can help you craft something beautiful as you open the way for them to bring their skills & abilities,  time & money,  heart & soul,  mind & strength to God in full-color worship.

Who are these people ? (arrrgh!)

Don’t think you won’t.   Periodically you’ll hustle back to your office trying hard not to slam the door, glare up at the ceiling and ask God (not-so politely either) “who are these PEOPLE!!?”   He’ll smile His knowing smile and gently say “ahhh-yes, the black-faced sheep”.  I cared for four-hundred of those critters for a while, sheep I mean, on a ranch north of Cheyenne, Wyoming. There was just something about the black-faced ones.  They were more energetic than the others, but more obstinate too.  They could be affectionate one day and ornery the next.  Some would rather charge you than “enter into meaningful conversation”.   They had no trouble finding their way out through a flaw in the fence (making sure they took everybody with ’em!)  but once out they were clueless as to how to get back in.  We either had to cut the fence or lead them allll the way around to the gate.  Selfish, always had their heads in the feed-trough first. Noisy. Obnoxious.   Maybe that’s why Isaiah said ‘All we like sheep…”   When we who lead in worship come to know and understand even these in our congregations (sometimes the ones who remind us the most of US) we’re better suited to lead them – shepherd them – which is what the Chief Shepherd asked us to do.

It’s a question worth asking:  Who are these people?

I find I’m most effective when I ask both questions

  • Who is God? (and how am I doing with Him?)
  • Who are these people?

sincerely, objectively, continually.   The sense of satisfaction that comes from skillfully, humbly bringing God’s people and the searching to Him in a way that’s truly meaningful is one of the most-fulfilling things I know.

—Selah

—PLR—

One more thing—  There will be times when you don’t know, and it doesn’t look like you’ll ever know the answer to “Who are these people?”.  Life & ministry will seem like one big mid-term exam and you studied the wrong chapter.  When that happens  go over their heads, straight to God Himself.  He’s the audience Sunday morning, remember.   James 1:2-8  proves its worth in those times, and it pivots on verse five.

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