Worship Pastor or Karaoke Singer?

A post from one of our coaches, Duane Mixon:

Recently, I have been completely absorbed in several documentary series on Netflix. I don’t tend to be one to binge but I find myself watching episode after episode of shows like Chef’s Table and Mind of a Chef. Let it be stated that I am totally aware of how sad it sounds that I’ve spent entire evenings watching documentary after documentary, but I cannot overstate how highly I suggest you check these out. You will be inspired. You will not feel very cool... but you will be very inspired.

Photo by Classe Touriste

Photo by Classe Touriste

That said, several weeks ago, I was in the middle of an episode of Mind of a Chef when Chef Magnus Nilsson said: 

...(In the winter) you can’t keep taking the easy way out—the way you can in summer when everything is almost immediately delicious.

It's easy to cook when the ingredients are beautiful and abundant.

It is difficult to create in the winter. And, it is supremely difficult to create something beautiful and noteworthy in the middle of a Swedish winter during which “there is very little light and nothing grows.” I immediately hit pause and sat stunned at how completely this quote resonated with the season I was in as a worship pastor several years earlier. 

For about 8 years, I was on staff at a church in North Carolina that grew rapidly. The complexity of our Sunday morning programming grew just as fast.

  • We went from loading in and out of a middle school (and movie theater) each week to a state of the art, beautiful building in just a few years.
  • We went from wedge monitors and music stands to stereo in-ear monitoring and 60” flatscreen “confidence” monitors in the auditorium.
  • We went from just a few musicians and one service on Sunday to more musicians than we could schedule and multiple services at multiple campuses.

It was more fun and more inspiring by the week, but eventually what I didn’t realize is the very same upgrades in technology and systems that I had chased after would eventually be what caused me to question whether or not I was of any value to the church any longer. 

Tragedy struck a family in our church and, while visiting their house, I was called upon to lead worship for a room of grieving family members, with no monitors, no lights, no haze, no band, no confidence monitor, and no advance notice.

And in that moment I found myself with nothing to sing and even less to say.

I remember strumming very poorly through part of a hymn, mumbling a prayer, and leaving the house crushed by my inability to pastor these beautiful people during this precious moment in their lives I had been invited into. Of course, they were incredibly gracious, but I knew that I had failed.

I know, I know... God doesn’t need us and all that jazz… but God does call us and gives the great dignity of participating with with Him in ministry, and I had blown it.  I spent the next several weeks and months questioning everything... my calling, my identity, my anointing, etc. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I love all the “stuff.” I really do. There is nothing like leading a great band, with great instruments and a pristine in-ear mix. The “stuff” wasn’t the problem... I was the problem. I had become completely dependent on the peripheral things I’d added to make everything sound more excellent, look more professional, and assist (me and my team) in performing at the highest level of excellence.

And believe me... the “stuff” makes it way, way easier to produce an excellent Sunday morning service. But...

I realized that I had stopped being a worship pastor who lead people and had become a well-rehearsed karaoke singer performing someone else’s songs.

I could no longer “keep taking the easy way out.” 

But God, who is gracious and compassionate, began to call me back to the start. For the first time in years, I found myself worshipping alone in my room. My desperation for God’s Word was reignited. And I began interceding for Sundays far more than I rehearsed for them. And slowly my desire to serve my congregation replaced my need for them to validate how great the band performed. 

So, my prayer for us is simply this: That we would be the kinds of pastors that when called upon to lead people who are in the middle of a winter's-night-of-the-soul we’d be able, at a moment's notice, to set the table with something beautiful that invites them to 'taste and see' that the Lord is always good. 

Interested in applying?