Saturday, June 1, 2013

Thoughts on Leading

I think I have made it no secret the love and affection I have for my tribe at the Tuscaloosa Vineyard. These people are quality. In the little less than a year I have journeyed alongside them it has been a place of healing, growth and challenge. One of those challenges has been stepping back into leadership.

From a worship night at my house. I love my tribe!
Even reading that statement is kind of odd. Since I have been in Alabama I have (unfortunately) landed in three churches before Vineyard. (I say unfortunately, because I like stability. I don't like being a hopper or a shopper. For the most part, those three congregations were filled with great people...especially my friends out in Buhl! I just had trouble finding my place.) And in those churches I have led youth, worship and small groups. So, it wasn't like I have been "out of the saddle" necessarily; it's just things feel different at The V. I think it seems more akin to what I feel my calling looks like.

So, this week was exciting because my buddy Tim asked me to lead worship. He is the worship pastor at the church and it was fun to see this type of initiation work itself out naturally, you know, from within, instead of bringing someone from the outside. Also, leading worship is something I tend to feel comfortable with since I have been doing that for over a decade now.

I probably wore this expression Thursday night.
But Thursday night, at practice for Sunday service something happened, that, to be honest, happens to leaders of all shapes and sizes, that I didn't expect. As I got in the saddle I just didn't feel comfortable. I couldn't find the right balance. I was just looking around wondering, "Does anyone else feel this shaky? Is this just me?" It was difficult to find myself lacking confidence in something that has always brought me great joy.

So I talked with a few people in the band/ leadership about it and as I drove off said a little prayer.

And here is where we get into a phrase that I often say, and when I look at friends faces I often wonder what they think when they hear it: God spoke to me. The idea of hearing the voice of God extra-biblically is something I think I will take on at another time. (BTW, quick definition of extra-biblical: outside of the Bible.) But for now, it was interesting to hear what the Lord was saying to me.

I will preface that message with this. I have been reading a lot lately. Henri Nouwen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eugene Peterson, Tyler Watson have been some of the more consistent reads. And I think their collective words helped me shape the message God was preparing to speak to me.

The simple version was this: when leading worship, your insecurity does not determine your offering. Do what you are supposed to do, and that is worship. Peterson has this great passage in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction where he writes about lifting your hands. Lifting up your hands is based on motor memory and not on some emotive response. Most people can lift their hands. When Scripture commends us to lift our hands it doesn't require working ourselves up to an emotional place where we can lift our hands. We simply send some neurons through the old neural freeway to our arms and say, "Wave around in the air like you just don't care."

When in doubt I read Merton.
So, when leading worship, of course, there will be in security. Just as there will be confidence, joy, sadness, weariness. We don't work ourselves up to worship. We worship. It reminds me of one of my favorite Merton passages:

What I wear is pants. What I do is live. How I pray is breathe.

 So, I just try to remind myself that worship is not dictated by emotive response in a given moment, that worship is beyond, yet includes my emotions. They are part and parcel with the whole living faith thing. 

I do however think there are certain differences in the corporate setting. We can't just be these crazed, responsive people, sliming others with our insecurities. We need to avoid being compulsive, but we can be honest. We can stop and say, "I am feeling insecure," to those close to us, without shouting to the congregation, "I'm out of control, I don't know what I'm doing up here!" There is an appropriate place for it. Just like there is a place to say, "I am probably a bit of a prideful git today." But neither determines our engagement with worship, because simply, worship isn't about us. It's part of something greater.

I think back to undergrad. There was a certain part of me that understood this, and a certain part that strove to be "authentic" saying things like, "I won't affront (because I used big words a lot in undergrad!) God. I'm not going to fake I'm just going to sit here." It was a heart that said worship was about me. It made me the center of the worship act, not God. And it was something that I just had to overcome.

So, tomorrow, I get to lead worship at Vineyard. I get to be a part of this external act of worship where the men, women, boys and girls of our congregation are going to be feeling happy, sad, anxious, prideful and insecure. And together, we get to enter this place where we say, "Even with that...I will worship." And that is what God wanted to remind me of as I am growing back into leadership this week. I'm sure next week there will be newer lessons, and then again the next week. In our living faith we just continue to evolve and that is a pretty cool thing.

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