Some listeners may remember that I’ve mentioned a running joke in my house about “epiphanies.” According to my wife, I have roughly 3–5 epiphanies a week and they are almost always neither astounding or insightful. I’m just a guy who likes having epiphanies, I guess.
And of course, I’m bringing it up now because I just had another one.
It originally happened when I was thinking about songwriting but ended up being as a pretty good lesson learned about worship leading in general. Sadly, it’s a lesson I have to be reminded of often, but God is good to remind me when I forget this stuff.
So, let me start by telling you this thing about myself. If you’re a songwriter, you may have experienced this:
My writing has been horrible his year. I’ve been in an awful rut. Everything I’ve been writing is awful. When I have actually pressed through and finished songs, I’ve been seriously disgusted with them when I’m done.
Now, before you jump online to send me a message about how beautiful and loved I am, let me explain what one of these “bad seasons” means…what a bad songwriting phase can do:
You see, when your writing isn’t going very well, you start going into each new idea thinking, “Okay. This is it. The last song wasn’t great but I’ve got a new idea and this is the one where I’m gonna’ get it together and write something good.” But if you don’t nail it — if you don’t somehow find your missing talent, you end up even more discouraged.
Believe me, four or five bad songs can mess up your year.
I say all of that to give you some context for where my mind was on a Friday night a few weeks ago.
We had this big weekend at the church — lots of stuff going on, multiple readings for Sunday service, a new staff interview plus a baptism Sunday afternoon — just one of those busy weekends for a church.
So I’m up there, late on Friday night getting everything ready. I had already been up there a long time and finally got to the baptism setup. I grabbed a big shotgun mic to test. It took me forever to find the audio channel and make sure it was routed to the live stream, but finally I got it to work.
I was standing there rolling the mic cable when those thoughts started running through my head again (it’s been so long since I’ve written a good song, I haven’t lead one of my own songs in forever, the last time I tried a new song it went horrible) all those same negative, pessimistic, fatalistic ideas about my value as a songwriter and a worship leader.
For those of you who lead worship and write music for your church, you know this is often true — we tend to put A LOT of importance on our value as a songwriter, as if that’s the reason why the church hired us to begin with. It’s not, but we think it is.
And as I’m rolling cable, I suddenly realize that this stuff — all the stuff I’d been doing for the last three hours — printing charts and putting scriptures into projection and running cables and trying mics — all of that stuff was going to make a huge impact on Sunday.
I’m standing in this sanctuary, feeling worthless when I could literally look around and see 10 different things I had just setup, created or located that were going to bring quality and focus to our corporate worship.
It was a moment of clarity — and epiphany, I call it when my wife isn’t listening — THIS IS THE STUFF THAT MATTERS. These invisible, thankless tasks are so often the exact thing that ends up blessing the people we’re called to serve.
It’s the background stuff, the grunt work. It’s the little hours we put in when no one’s is watching that shape what happens when we gather together as God’s people.
You may not be a songwriter, but as a worship leader, I’m sure you’ve had moments where you felt value-less — times when you had no big gestures or noticeable success to inspire your congregation.
Well, I’m here to tell you the hard truth. Those big moments and grand artistic expressions are always going to be in short supply. More often than not, your job is going to be one of small tasks, hard jobs and little hours that no one even notices.
And yet, they matter. We know that they do.
We know — both from God’s Word and from experience — that faithfully serving our people in practical ways will consistently bless and encourage.
I’ve said it before, most of us have been asked to work harder and more creatively this year than ever before. It’s very possible that many of us will end this year feeling run down, uninspired and of no value.
I wish I could say that you’ll get a standing ovation or a pay raise at the end of December, but you probably won’t. The sacrifice of your time and energy and brain power will most definitely go unnoticed and un appreciated by your congregation.
But the Father knows.
He’s the One who’s put you where you are.
He’s the One who’s gifted you and called you and has been with you through this long, hard, weird year.
I’ll leave you with a verse that I grow to learn and appreciate more each year. 1 Peter 4:10–11 says As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
*You can hear more worship thoughts on my podcast…Average Everyday Worship Leader.