Category Archives: Leadership
Today I’m feeling flat!
No, I’m not depressed. Depression is a serious mental illness and requires medical care and supportive sensitivity. My emotional and mental state today, and indeed the past few days, is simply one of feeling unenthused and unmotivated.
When you survey my last few months you could be excused for telling me to ‘build a bridge and get over it!’ Business wise I’ve had a great year thus far. I’ve implemented a strategic plan for my small business (Singing Teaching) that is reaping tremendous dividends. Praise God! I’m surrounded by people who love me and I have wonderful things to look forward to; both short-term and long. But even still…I have these short periods of time occasionally that leave me feeling despondent and nonchalant about all that needs doing in the immediate. Unlike clinical depression which encases the suffer in a deep impenetrable fog, the passing mist of my temporary pessimism will reveal a clear excitement for tomorrow.
My current sense of dejection did have me wondering (as you do) about the role of the worship leader and how we don’t always ‘feel’ like leading people in worship. Without entering the debate that discusses our contemporary worship orientation, which constantly seeks to be peppy and up-beat (even at funerals!), I thought I’d table a few thoughts about what it is like to shoulder the responsibility of leading worship when you simply don’t feel like doing so.
I’ve been leading Christian worship services for over 20 years. During this time I have had many occasions when I would rather have been somewhere else doing something entirely different. Please don’t misread my admission here. The vast majority of the time I love leading God’s people in worship. Watching the adulation on people’s faces as they lift their hearts and voices in praise to our God, and knowing that I am a part of facilitating such a practice, is both personally rewarding and satisfying; but that doesn’t mean that I’m always thrilled to be ‘rostered on’ to do it! For example, fortunately for me, I am not on the worship team roster to lead this Sunday at my church (St Marks Uniting, Mt Gravatt). If I were, accounting for my current emotional state, I would not have a sense of anticipation for what God might do among His people. I will readily admit that my mental tone might resemble something like, “Argh! If it be your will Lord, then take this cup from me!” My reference to Christ’s turmoil in the garden of Gethsemane is a little over the top (OK, way over the top) but you get the idea…I simply wouldn’t be looking forward to the privilege of leading worship.
Even as I typed that word, ‘privilege’ in the previous sentence my mind tries to rouse me to some higher motivation for doing what we do as worship leaders. But alas, my downcast state will win the battle today…not tomorrow…but certainly today. So let’s hypothesise that I was ‘rostered on’ to lead worship this Sunday. How should I approach such a service? Should I, as I just suggested, ‘rouse’ my emotions and challenge myself to sing God’s praises regardless. Most certainly! God is worthy of my praise, regardless of my situation, circumstance or even emotional state. I want to again highlight here that I am not talking about mental illness such as depression; which requires care and attention before the sufferer can see clearly enough to simply get out of bed little own express a positive and worshipful heart. Back to the question…But can I worship God, moreover can I, and should I lead worship even when I’m not feeling emotionally buoyant? Well I guess the answer to that query is found in the underlying ethos upon which my worship orientation is founded. For example, as Mark Pierson (2010) writes in The Art of Curating Worship, “If excellence is a primary goal, then the weak, the timid, the depressed, the disabled, the unskilled, the sick, the introverted, the overweight, the less attractive, the poor, and the untalented aren’t going to get a look in” (p. 65). I’m adding to Mark’s list…the temporarily despondent.
Allow me to offer the thought: perhaps my worship (and my leading thereof) in this moment of temporary despondency is worship experienced differently. Sure, on the outside it might not present with the level of excellence I have in the past but I am choosing to worship regardless of my feelings; offering myself as a living sacrifice – imperfectly despondent. Could this actually be a wonderful opportunity, disguised though it may be (even to myself), where my offering of worship is simply in the doing? Sometimes our worship becomes very ‘results’ orientated. The task list might include tangible awareness of God’s presence or heightened acknowledgement of God’s transcendent awesomeness. But maybe this occasion calls me to simply do and be with no expectation of result or outcome. How wonderfully un-gratifying! Now, in my current state of glumness, it’s not about me…it has to be all about Him. In the midst of the moment it may well be that God touches me in a refreshing way and I come through the experience changed and uplifted. Equally, it might not happen like that. But that should not be my reasoning anyway. I don’t worship simply for ‘what’s in it for me’. At least I shouldn’t…and this circumstance (my feeling flat) has actually gifted me with the opportunity to make sure that the worship service can’t be about me – but about the one to whom we offer our praise!
Of course this is all hypothetical…or is it! As sure as the sun rises in the east I will encounter another Sunday when a general sense of despondency coincides with my scheduled responsibilities for leading worship. Perhaps when that day happens I should remember to re-read this post and give myself a good reason to be and do. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Please share this post with a worship leader who you think might need some encouragement in a time of general despondency. And feel free to leave your comments below about your experience and thoughts regarding leading worship when you have ‘felt flat’.
Pierson, M. (2010). The art of curating worship: Reshaping the role of worship leader. Minneapolis, MN: Sparkhouse Press.
This morning I started my day by reading through my Facebook wall and I stumbled across another ‘open letter’ to Guy Sebastian (http://bit.ly/WtO0Xd). This letter is the second of its kind that I have read in the past week; letters that have openly ‘called Guy to account’ for a recent interview (http://bit.ly/Th2LMv) where he described his current faith position. Before continuing I would like to openly state that I do not personally know Guy, nor am I a fan of Guy Sebastian’s artistry (though I have often stated I believe he is a very talented dude); and I have frequently spoken in opposition to the music industry’s infatuation with TV singing talent quests (e.g. http://bit.ly/VaVLfC). But this issue goes beyond Guy’s vocal talent or musical skill – this issue speaks to the topic of spiritual formation and our need to commentate on how another person runs the race of faith.
Specifically, Guy’s musical ability has hardly rated a mention in the social media back ‘n forth of the past few days. It is this very point that is of interest to me…Guy Sebastian is a vocal artist (regardless of his journey’s genesis); he is not a Christian leader, pastor or theologian! I can already hear you correcting me. But Daniel, Guy is a role model to thousands of young people. Yes, he is…and by current secular (and Christian) standards a rather good one. But Daniel, Guy has made categorical statements in the past advocating for the Christian faith. Yes, he has…statements I believe were made with a sincerity of heart and intention when he first made them. But Daniel, Guy should be held accountable for his current faith statements because they do not line up with orthodox/classic Christian views. Should he? I might be able to agree with you (emphasis on ‘might’) if Guy were a Christian leader, pastor or theologian; but he isn’t. He’s a muso; a successful, famous, talented MUSO! Does this excuse Guy from the responsibilities of a life lived publically? No, but it does call into question our expectation around how Guy should or should not articulate his faith journey…his own personal spiritual formation.
I would like to call us, the Christian community, to account. I am keen to do this with as much humility as my imperfect humanness can muster. I would like to suggest that it is us who is in the wrong; and not Guy. Our error is found in our quick judgement and our arrogant responses; responses that (if we are completely honest with ourselves) are driven by a need for power and ‘one-upmanship’. I am the first to admit that when I first read the interview where Guy stated his current faith position I uttered my opinion: “no surprise there…he was always going to let us down!” But there’s the rub. Guy didn’t let us down. It was our own idolatry that lifted Guy to a position of unrealistic and ungodly expectation. We expected Guy to be ‘super human’ and champion the Christian cause. We had literally made Guy an ‘Australian IDOL’. I guess the argument could be mounted that Guy never refused our support. But let me ask us the question, “Would we have refused the same support under the same circumstances?” I’m not bold enough to suggest I would have refused it.
This whole saga reminds me of Jesus bending down to write in the sand. I must admit, despite the bible not telling us what he scratched out in the dirt, if I had stood in the circle with stone in hand (and to my shame I have gathered for a good metaphorical stoning far too often), that my name would’ve been top of Jesus’ doodle list. You are right to think to yourself, “Daniel, your mention of this biblical story is taken out of context. The lady who was about to be stoned was caught in adultery.” That’s right – a moral crime for her day; a crime, according to Jewish law, that required death by stoning. My question to us as a Christian community is, what moral wrong has Guy committed, and why are we all standing around with rocks in our hands? Guy, like me, and like each of us, is on a spiritual journey. Currently, as it would appear, Guy does not view the world according to orthodox Christian views. It seems to me that Guy is questioning the faith construct that he was handed by virtue of his upbringing. How can this be viewed as anything other than maturity? If only more Christians actively reflected on their beliefs and questioned their worldview we might find that much of what we hold dear is not necessarily scriptural but actually cultural.
Now before you turn your attention on me and start casting those rocks my way, allow me to state that I am neither a Pluralist nor a Universalist; an accusation that I believe has been wrongly (and poorly) levelled at Guy. I personally hold that ‘Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life’. But my belief should not be used as a weapon of mass social media destruction in order to make me feel better about my own personal views. Faith is called faith; Faith is not called fact. It does not take faith to believe in gravity…as Fearless Felix Baumgartner recently reminded us (http://wapo.st/Vb8Eqb); but it does take faith to work through the unknowable…those things that cannot be categorised as ‘fact’. This is what, in my view, Guy is doing. Guy is contemplating the unknowable. Guy is exercising faith. How God responds to this, is up to God! One thing I’m most certain of is that God will respond to Guy’s questions with more grace than we have. Why? Because God answers questions. God answers faith…and, thankfully, he even responds to doubt.
In closing my ‘open letter’ I eagerly invite your comments and views. This being said, I ask you to write your responses (even those that agree with my post) with a sense of civility; ‘owning and grounding’ your comments with grace and humility. If you don’t feel you can respond with maturity then I humbly request that you abstain from contributing your thoughts.