I participated in a conversation with some of the members on my worship team recently about what’s on our hearts and minds as we’re driving to church to serve in leading worship on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning. Words like anticipation, excitement, and humility came first, followed by deeper explanations of the electricity in the air one vocalist usually feels, followed by the yearning for a profound encounter with Christ for himself and the church from a bass player in only the second year of his journey with Christ. Another member shared, then another. The table was scattered with affirmative grunts and amens, echoing the overly positive sentiments being verbalized.
Then I shared.
I shared about the stress I normally feel on my way to church on a weekend. I shared about how my every thought is consumed with the logistics of “pulling off” the weekend. Trying to remember all the words to the new worship song as well as the incredibly wordy special music tune that’s kicking the entire service off. Hoping and praying against the inevitable phone call from one of the other venues that’s having an issue with the software we use to run our click tracks and sequences. Suddenly remembering the three chord charts I have yet to create for the three new songs we’re doing over the next three weeks, not to mention the sequencing and click tracks for those as well. Expressing my frustration at my guitar tone not being “there” recently in spite of the money I’ve been putting into it. Plus my brakes started acting up again right as I was pulling out of my driveway, and I just spent eight hours in my friend’s driveway replacing the parts myself in order to save a few bucks.
My Sunday morning drive often feels harried and anxious. On occasion, it’s been downright miserable.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some incredible Saturday evening and Sunday morning drives to our venues. I wrote & started production on a new song earlier that week, creative planning projects were completed on time, my wife brought home really good news from grad school, old friends were in town.
But I don’t always feel the joy, joy, joy down in my heart, as the old Sunday School song goes. I find I’m having to catch myself before I say something out of frustration in front of a team of musicians and worshippers that are looking to me for guidance and direction. I forget the words to songs I’ve sung at least a dozen times, and it feels even worse when it’s a song I penned myself. I feel the pressure of a position that puts me squarely in everyone’s sight, and sometimes I just want to shrink into the background until I feel a little bit better about things, about myself, about my relationship with Jesus.
About two weeks after that first round-table discussion, I was in the green room at my church’s main campus with other worship pastors and leaders from the local community at our monthly Worship Cohort meeting. The worship pastor from a local gospel church was sharing about the true heart of the worship leader, about being bold and brave enough to let the Light of Christ reveal the hidden junk in our lives, the sin lurking in our hearts, and how difficult it has been for him to fully let go and let God in these areas of his life. He shared a passage written to the Hebrews of the first century AD:So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it the most. ::Hebrews 4:14-16
Jesus is fully aware of the turmoil in my heart when I’m driving to church. He understands the unworthiness I feel as I gather my things early on Sunday morning. I think He would rather I experience the peace of the fewer cars on the road, the sunrise painting the backdrop of the neighborhoods I drive past on my way in. He would rather I cast those cares on Him instead of shouldering them on my own. I am a sinner saved by grace, and He would much rather I acknowledge that and let Him do what He does best, which is love and care for me in my current condition, not because of anything I’ve done, not because I’ve asked Him to, but because He hasn’t condemned me for my condition (Romans 8:1). I am in Him, and He is in me. I am only able to live and breathe and serve His Church by His indelible grace, and that is why I should worship Him, not just in song in the auditorium on Sunday morning, but in the car as I’m driving to the auditorium.
I am encouraged, because I know there is nothing I nor anyone else can do to be torn away from His grace and mercy. I know that when I finally step onto the stage in front of the community I’ve been tasked with leading, I am justified because He has sanctified me. I can be honest about myself in front of my community because we are all the same:
We are all sinners saved by grace.