the baby and the bathwater


The steady pace of passion
January 18, 2009, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of the things that I value most in the people I work with these days is an ability to walk this road of ministry with a steady pace of passion. There are plenty of people – good people, gifted people – whom I have worked with over the 25 years I have been in worship ministry who have burst forward on a tide of enthusiasm for some project or another, only to give up and fade away very quickly. We love such people, of course, and we value their periodical contributions to church life. But it’s very hard to build anything of significance with them.

It seems to me that it is quite rare to find people who understand that most ministry is built on the ability to walk – day to day, month to month, year to year, with passion in their heart – passion to serve and passion to lead and passion to constantly explore the new things that God is asking us to pursue. Such people are like gold dust in the kingdom of God. We can build church with them. And that, after all, is what we are here on earth to do.

The other week I was in church, clearing up the stage again, struggling to get the correct monitor leads into their correct place, fighting my way through a seemingly incomprehensible web of leads. I remember thinking “After 15 years in this church, which now has a staff of many, including various technical people and other paid worship leaders, I still find myself here early on a Sunday morning dealing with this stuff. Surely by now this should be someone else’s job!!”

It seems that however long I go on in this ministry (it is some 25 years now) and however much our church grows, and however much I find myself leading worship at bigger events, I still end up doing these crappy jobs. I still have to put back together worship folders that the bass players have left in a mess. I still have to stand in for the pa operator who doesn’t realise he is on the rota on a Sunday morning (and Oh how I hate that 8.15am call that lets me know this!). And I still have to deal with those wretched monitor leads that seem to unplug themselves from the correct place and plug themselves back in to some completely random socket all by themselves.

Bad management. Well maybe.
Other people not doing their job properly. Well possibly.

But actually, this is what ministry is really like. I will probably be clearing up files, plugging in leads, and turning up at a silly hour of the morning to cover someone’s pa slot until the day I finally hang up my worship leading boots for the last time.

Charles Wesley is quite rightly a hero of most worship leaders. He was a great hymn writer, and many of those hymns have survived – in one form or another – since they were written nearly 300 years ago. Most of us worship leaders and songwriters would probably love to know that even a small proportion of what we give ourselves to in the year 2009 would still be serving the church in 2309. What an awesome thought.

But what we probably don’t know so much about was the fact that Charles walked his life with a steady pace of passion. He travelled many thousands of miles preaching throughout the country during his 60 years of ministry. He wrote over 5000 hymns (some say far more than this). That means he was probably writing some 100 hymns every year – around 2 every week – consistently for nearly 60 years. As someone who manages to write only around 2 a year, that is incredible. And as we know, some of these survive today in the worship lives of our churches. And apparently, near the end of his life, when he was around 70 years old, he was frustrated by his own increasing desire to stay in bed until 5.30 in the morning.

In 2 Samuel David is bringing back the ark to Jerusalem. It was an event that had a wonderful, carnival atmosphere. Musicians, singers, dancers all accompanied the journey. But every six steps they stopped and made an animal sacrifice. The whole journey must have taken a huge amount of time. But David himself danced his way through it all. He danced his way through a long journey full of stops and starts. He had got it. He understood the need to walk through life with a steady pace of passion.

I don’t know how you are feeling about worship leading ministry at this current time. Maybe you are going though one of those testing times, where everything feels like a bit of a drag. You are tired by the routine of leading worship again, and again, and again. You may look down your song-list as you come to prepare for worship and your heart sinks – all these songs seem so dry and overused. Maybe you are constantly being disappointed by the consistency (or lack of it) in the people around you.  Well maybe this is a help: the true mark of your passion for ministry is not that you fly when things are going really well – but that you keep walking steadily when things are proving to be tough.

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