A friend recommended I read a section from the book An Hour On Sunday by Nancy Beach, the former Arts Leader at Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago. It’s a great read for anyone who’s done any kind of arts ministry for a long time and needs some encouragement and guidance on surviving in the church arts world.
I went through Chapter Seven: Well-Ordered Hearts and Lives. Some key thoughts I received right off the bat:
- While the end result of ministry can move people in striking ways, beyond anything we possibly had in mind for it, it all comes at a tremendous cost to us: time, energy, interpersonal relationships, etc.
- My talent isn’t the greatest gift I bring to the church, even as a staff member. The greatest gift I bring is my very life.
- Take the time to minister! Don’t just hand it off to someone else because “they’re better equipped to handle it.”
Proverbs 4:23 – “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” We can’t serve from a heart that’s exhausted, embittered, distracted. We also can’t serve from a heart that only comes to life on weekends. There needs to be an influx of life happening throughout the week! It’s an active and participatory process that requires practice and honing and repetition.
Many of us find it exceedingly difficult to do the work we are called to do and be the kind of people God asks us to be. If we’re not careful, we begin to see ourselves as victims, to make excuses, to look for wiggle room so we can somehow be the exception to rules for godly character. It’s not that we don’t long to be fully devoted to God, but too often we allow deadline pressures, relentless ministry demands, and overwhelming standards to become excuses for slippage.
How true. Excuses, no matter how valid, are still excuses. My wife is going through a very difficult time right now in her job life, and it’s taken a substantial toll on her, and by proxy, me. Right now she needs my strength to lean on, and if I’m not renewing my own strength, I will be utterly useless to her, and by default, I’ll be even more useless to myself and in my own job & causes. I don’t blame her for it; I could never blame her. I chose to partner with her through thick and thin when I asked her to marry me, so I will share the burden. But Jesus never intended the burdens of this world to overtake us, because He said He would take it from us and give us a lighter one (Matthew 11:30). And I can’t let the frustrations she’s experiencing rule the day for either of us.
Some responses to the chapter:
- I need to make sure I am taking care of myself. God knit me together in my mother’s womb, my body is His temple, and I have to keep it properly maintained. I’ve been eating better; I’ve been proactive about getting enough sleep; I’ve been exercising, albeit not as regularly as I want to be. Discipline. Sounds like the operative word for me right now.
- I need to make sure I’m always reconciled to those around me, whether it be my wife, my parents, her parents, my bosses, my coworkers, my cohorts, etc. I don’t think right now I’m in a place where I’m at odds with anyone. If and when I am, I have to make peace so it doesn’t spill over into other areas of my life.
- I have demonstrated a severe lack of discipline in spending quiet time with my King. Severe. Inexcusable, but forgivable. Praise God for that. This is probably the first major step in guiding me out of the desert of passivity I’ve been in. (There’s that operative word again… discipline.)
- How do I feel coming into a weekend? Sometimes I’m feeling good, other times I feel dread. It comes down to preparedness. It stands to reason that emotional & spiritual preparedness are just as important as musical & logistical preparedness, if not far more so! If I’m more prepared emotionally and spiritually, I’m better equipped to deal with the rest.
- I know what it is to minister out of weakness. I have led worship while being far down in the depths of sadness and despair. I vividly remember what that was like. The only way I made it through was by His grace. How much deeper could I go with Him if I sought that grace week in and week out when I’m not in a deep and dark valley?
- I really, really don’t like the unexpected. I’ve tried really hard to handle it well, to be patient, flexible, understanding. Things happen, and there’s no way around them when they do. But I need to demonstrate patience, flexibility, and understanding so my team and collaborators aren’t thrown off or made nervous by any mishandling of the situation. As a leader, I am charged with being an example to my team. If I lead well, they will follow. If I suck at leading, they’ll go elsewhere. I don’t want to risk that with our team, both for their sake as well as my own.
So what are my next steps? Well, the operative word DISCIPLINE comes to mind once again:
- Discipline not only in setting aside the time to spend in reflection and reading scripture and books, but in actually using that time for that purpose and not getting distracted.
- Discipline in finding resources to glean from on my own, not just going on what’s left on my desk by dear friends (although it’s always welcome, I just can’t rely solely on that, they’re walking my walk for me if that’s the case).
- Discipline in not looking at the time, to “clock in and clock out” of my quiet time. I don’t think heaven has a punch-clock.
- Discipline in looking for ways to interact with others outside of the musical sense, reaching out to those in need, being aware of what’s happening underneath it all.
I’m sure there are more, and I’ll most likely be adding to this list in the future.
What’s your list look like?