Author Archives: Nathanael Schulte

Sticking with the calling

Sticking with your calling

Sticking with your calling

This week’s post is inspired by more Vineyard worship leader conversations.

The following question was posted today:

“Wondering if you all see a trend in “up and coming” worship leaders the notion that they will end up being paid full-time in a worship leader position. I see some cases where younger musicians set this as a goal (and become frustrated when it doesn’t pan out) and wonder if this is a misguided agenda that has been set by YouTube and the culture of big production churches. Any opinions?”

Along with my comments, serious and otherwise, I did want to share a few thoughts about sticking with the calling, even if it doesn’t end up how you thought it would.

Don’t forget why you started

I’ve loved music my whole life, even for the period of time I didn’t play any instruments – I’ve always been a voracious consumer of new music. I’ve also been in love with worship music since age 11, when I first set foot in Vineyard Christian Fellowship St. Louis. This is what got me the road to leading worship years later, and it’s why, even if I never can make a living from it I will continue to do it. It’s in my blood.

Remember there’s more than one way to make a living in your calling

I have to give credit to Dan Miller (affiliate link) for helping me understand this. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to live this out in practice, but to be transparent, this site is part of that effort, and I’m looking for others methods too. Get really really good as a musician or a songwriter or learn how to share your wisdom and experience in a way that helps others.

Be thankful for what you have

This is a reminder for me as much as anyone. I have a church I love that also loves me back. I have the perfect place to test new songs and to learn how to lead others well. I also have a job that pays the bills right now, and if God wants me there for many years, I will still be thankful.

Keep being brave

This has been a pretty big year for me in terms of owning my role on the worship team. It really started with a trip to the Vineyard Worship Leader’s Retreat Northwest this past February. I honestly contemplated quitting the team. I think I had convinced myself that I wasn’t really going to see any of my dreams for better musicianship, songwriting, etc. fulfilled on that team and thought maybe I would be sticking around for the wrong reasons if I did. Then Andy Park, who was part of my small prayer break-out group gave a public word of knowledge about someone who was thinking of quitting  worship leading. I had said something only to my wife that afternoon, so I was floored when I heard it. Even better, he told me he thought maybe the word was for me when he gave it. This past weekend was yet another step in that process, as our church just hosted a conference for worship leaders. We all got to spend some time with Mike O’Brien from the Vineyard in Marietta, Georgia, and I got to feel again where things could go and it’s been helping me dream even more since.  I can only hope and dream for even more.

I’m sure there’s much more to say on the topic, but I suppose that’s a good start. I hope if you’re getting started in your worship leading  journey, or you’re wondering whether to continue, you’ll take some of these words to heart and at least think and pray about them. Also, please feel free to add more that I missed!

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5 Reasons to have a multi-generational worship team

Praying senior in mountains

Please pardon the lateness of this post. I’ve been working on a workshop presentation I’m giving at a worship leader’s conference this coming week (details here), so I’m a little behind.
In the meantime, I was somewhat inspired by a conversation taking place over in the Vineyard Worship Leader’s private Facebook group. Someone started a conversation on the topic of older worship leaders being fired in favor of younger, cooler leaders. This person was pretty upset by this trend, and I tend to agree, so in honor of that conversation, I present 5 reasons to maintain a multi-generational worship team.

1. Life Experience Is Important

Just because a person has played music a long time doesn’t guarantee that they’re a world-class musician, but on worship teams, as I’ve said before musicianship isn’t the primary criteria for selecting team members anyway. See How to recruit good team members: 5 tips. What the right quality of team member should have, though, is some good wisdom, built on a close relationship with Jesus. Being part of the same team with someone can help build trust in ways you may not normally get, so it’s a chance for life experience of all kinds to be passed on.

2. Communicates to the rest of the church that you really value people as people

This should be obvious, but if your church is constantly just putting the young and hip folks up on stage, it sends a subtle message that only the young and hip really matter to your church (and maybe to Jesus). I can’t think of any organization where that’s a good thing, except maybe professional sports (even there, it has its limits).

3. Gifts get better with age

I expect to be far better as a leader and musician at age 60 than I am now and I know the guys on the team I work with are far beyond me in expertise simply because they’ve done it longer.

4. Age brings natural authority

This assumes that the team members in question also know how to respect authority as well. This helps when you need people on your side within the team, but it can also help when you need an advocate with the pastor or church board. I can also attest that encouragement from someone far older than myself means a lot more than from someone my age or younger.

5. Your worship team can serve as a model for the rest of the church

I guess this is kind of the same as #2, but I think it bears repeating from another angle. The worship, at least in the churches I’m familiar with, is one of the most public ministries there is. If you do it right, you may end up seeing what you do modeled with other ministries, and you may actually be proud of it.

So, please take time today to thank the older members of your worship team and help them feel loved.


5 Disciplines of a Good Worship Leader

Discipline

Discipline

First, a word of apology for getting this post out late. I spent most of yesterday prepping for and playing as part of a worship night, featuring original songs. Feel free to take a listen. Lyrics and chord charts are available if you hear anything you like.

I’m realizing the older I get that discipline is something that’s easier to start when you’re young (hence the picture). This is true as a worship leader as well. However, I think the most important disciplines are the ones that happen while you’re off stage, and apply whether or not you lead a worship team, though it’s better to have things formed as habits before you have to lead others. I don’t believe you have to be perfect to lead others, but I do believe Jesus was very serious when he said we need to be more righteous than the Pharisees. I believe that starts with simply being honest about our own spiritual poverty, so please know that these disciplines are not things I think I’m very good at. So without further delay:

1. Learn how to handle money in a mature way

This may seem like a strange one to start with, but I’ve been a musician long enough and have been around enough of them to know that the stereotype of the musician who’s bad with money isn’t entirely unfair. I think part of being a good musician is having great sensitivity. I find this usually means I’m good at feeling things and I value my ability to experience pleasure and pain in intense ways very highly. Often this means that I give those feelings so much space in my life that satisfying my emotional needs becomes all important, kind of like an idol. I believe it’s important to worship with your money, and learning to give, save and spend your money in a way that Jesus would want you to is how this is lived out. About five years ago, I ran across Dave Ramsey, and life hasn’t been the same since. At that time, we were pretty deeply in debt (about $68,000, not including mortgage) and were constantly overspending, and not giving regularly at all. If you’re in a  similar spot, his book, The Total Money Makeover (affiliate link) is a great place to start, or for a more thorough treatment, and a built-in support group, find a Financial Peace University class. For the record, we still have about $17,000 left in debt. I would’ve hoped to be done by now, especially since we paid off the first $50,000 or so in the first 2 years, but we’ve had other circumstances to deal with and haven’t gotten the rest done yet. On the other hand, we do give regularly, and we’re doing a better job setting our financial priorities in order.

2. Learn to love other people

This is something I’m still not very good at, but I do aspire to be better. I’ve always known deep down that people are way more important than almost anything else in life. In fact, Jesus did say they’re #2 on the list of important commandments. This means people are more important than me sounding good on Sunday. This means I need to go out of my way to encourage band members and sound men. This does not mean that I’m patronizing or dishonest with them. Love includes confrontation, especially when you’re a leader, but it always means that you come from a place of valuing their needs first. As I heard John Maxwell put it, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

3. Learn to love yourself

This is, in fact, a precursor to #2, otherwise, Jesus couldn’t command us to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Same rules apply. Be lovingly honest with yourself and go out of your way to make sure you’re addressing what you really need. When in doubt, ask Jesus and ask others who you know love you. In fact, it’s good to ask yourself regularly what you think Jesus really thinks of you. If you don’t think it resembles the father in the story of the prodigal son, and if it doesn’t involve a certain level of passionate expression on Jesus’ part, than it’s inaccurate. Again, this is an area that’s pretty new to me. I tend to confuse conviction with shame, so I hide my faults from myself and others (as if that ever really worked). As a subcategory, I would list regular confession time with someone you trust as extremely important. It will help keep you from indulging in guilt and shame and self-hatred.

4. Be biblically literate

This is one I think my parents really helped with. The Christmas right before my 12th birthday my parents bought me a one year bible and expected me to read it, which I did. They also did a good job of drawing me into the process, not force feeding the Bible to me, so I learned to love it very early on. I have to admit that my adult life has not been as characterized by as regular a reading of the Bible as when I was younger, but I still do retain most of what I read in my youth. As a subcategory, I think it also helps to learn to be a thorough reader. By that I do not mean to dissect and over-analyze everything you read, to the point that you miss what’s actually being said, but pay attention to what you’re reading and learn to listen. I think I would put that ahead of learning Greek or Hebrew, though I think that’s a good idea too (full disclosure: I do not have any direct knowledge of Greek or Hebrew). Even there, though, don’t get so wrapped up in each individual word that you miss the message as a whole. If you find you have trouble doing this well, I highly recommend the Tolkien Professor podcast, particularly his first episode: How to Read Tolkien and Why.

5. Make regular time to be quiet with Jesus.

I think this is probably the most important one on the list, and the one I do the worst at, and feel the most deeply. I’ve read Dallas Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines several times, and greatly value what he has to say about the discipline of solitude. I have had times in my life where I’ve done much worse at this though. In fact, I remember taking a vacation in 2005 with my wife. We went to Edisto Island, South Carolina, and within a day of arriving on that quiet piece of ground, I was in tears. I didn’t know what to do with myself without constant media stimulation or pressure from my job. I would break down in tears and panic because of the flood of every issue I’d been avoiding coming at me all at once. At least now I know when I really need some peace and quiet and know that I absolutely need to sit down and just be with my Abba. There’s nothing like it.

I know this isn’t an exhaustive list and I know these may not all be the best, but I hope they help.

What do you think? What else should be on this list?


How to recruit good team members: 5 tips

Finding good team members

How to find good people to add to your worship team

If you’ve spent any time leading worship in a church, paid or otherwise, you’ve probably spent some time thinking about how to add musicians to your team. Maybe you’ve even thought about how to recruit other worship leaders to help ease the load and grow the team with. In that light, I thought I would offer a 5 tips based on my experience.
Although this is not my exclusive source of information, this mostly mirrors the guidelines we’ve come to use at Vineyard Community Church. I can’t take much credit for putting these in place, but I’ve had the opportunity to see them work in action and I fully stand behind them.

1. Value Character over Gifting

I first heard this from my pastor, David Stark. He’s a fan of acronyms, so I’ve heard COG over the years. This comes first. I don’t think it’s any secret that fame can bring the worst out of people, no matter how pitiful the level of fame involved. Sometimes just giving someone the opportunity to play an instrument or sing publicly can bring out the worst in them. It’s not that I don’t have grace or understand the insecurities unique to musicians – I’ve lived out most of them, probably – but sometimes, the stage can cause someone’s good heart to be obscured by their own need for recognition. In other words, I don’t care how good a musician someone is, or even if they can lead a great time of worship week in and week out. If they’re mainly out for their own glory, or in general, have an ego that can’t be reined in, they probably don’t belong on your worship team. I will take someone with very undeveloped talent, but a truly humble and teachable attitude any day. In fact, that’s the type of person who really is a good candidate for leading a worship team someday.

 

2. Look for people who are plugged in to your church – i.e., are they known by you?

I think there are exceptions  to this rule sometimes, and it may be much more difficult if you’re dealing with a very small church or a new church plant, but in general, I think it’s safest to find musicians among the people already connected to and committed to your church body. This will help you achieve the goal under heading #1, because it’s much harder to hide your issues when you’re well known by people in your church. The way we do this in our church as of now is by requiring that anyone interested in being part of our worship team has to have been a part of our body for at least 6 months, and they either have to be an active part of a small group or otherwise personally known by someone in leadership. Of course, this assumes your church cultivates a culture of honesty and openness. If it doesn’t, you have bigger problems and may want to pray about moving on. If you’re so small as a body that you can’t grow the team at all without bringing in new folks, I would be praying a lot for Jesus to send you the right people. Don’t get desperate and put someone brand new to the church on the team unless you really think God told you too. As the saying goes, it’s easier to lay hands on someone than to lay them off. Or something like that 🙂

 

3. Look for people who buy into your vision as a worship leader

It helps at this point to have actually spent some time considering what’s really important to you when you lead worship. For instance, I believe very deeply in the value of creating space for intimacy and I believe without a doubt that the Holy Spirit is actually interested in meeting with the church. In light of that, I tend to lean toward songs with a personal tone – songs that could double as a prayer, and probably tend to be quieter over all, rather than being upbeat and celebrative. This is not to exclude people with a different point of view – I also believe we need to cultivate different perspectives and make room for stylistic differences within a team, but the core vision should be common to the team.

 

4. Look at your current musical needs

In other words, don’t load up on guitar players if you’ve already got more than enough. I would, however, be actively asking interested parties if they’re willing to fill others spots, at least for a while. We did this recently with one of our bass players. He had been on the team for about a year or so, but we ended up losing two drummers. He was willing to give drumming a try, and even though it’s a stretch for him, he’s been able to fill a very important role for us. This also helps increase my confidence that he’s on the team for the right reasons. If there’s a person of character and gifting you would like on your team, but you just don’t have a place for now, see if you can find another place for them. Our church has small groups that meet during the week – many of which like to include a couple of worship songs as part of the time. See #2 above. I wouldn’t ask a team member to continue on an instrument they have no interest in, however – at  least not for very long. That will only end up frustrating everyone.

 

5. Look for people who can grow as musicians (at least to a certain point)

This is a tricky one, and all depends on the type of team you’re going for and the many variables involved in leading a volunteer team. The fact is, most people will end up simply not having the time to grow beyond a certain level of mastery. I would include myself in this category. The fact is, I have more responsibilities and demands on my time than I have time or energy to become the musician I think I could be. This is a conscious choice for now. I don’t expect it to always be the case, but I think this has actually helped adjust my attitude with other team members and has helped me have grace and value them much more than I would if I was simply looking to play with the best musicians around. On the other hand, it’s also a fact that sometimes, some team members may not actually be capable of growth beyond a certain point because, as bad as they may want it, the talent just doesn’t seem to be there. In reality, at a certain point, you will probably end up raising the minimum skill requirements as you grow as a team, so it helps to have musicians who can grow with you.

I hope you’ve found these helpful, but I’d love to hear how you do it too. What have you found it helpful to look for when building your own team? Anything I missed?


Books for every worship leader: Walking on Water

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, by Madeleine L'Engle

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, by Madeleine L’Engle

January of 2011, I was in Seattle, Washington for my youngest sister’s wedding. At the time I was in career transition and having just read a couple of books by Dan Allendar, I decided to visit Mars Hill Graduate School and sit in on a class to see if I might have an interest in becoming a professional counselor. The professor was covering “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art” by Madeleine L’Engle (affiliate link). My interest in pursuing study at Mars Hill faded, but the book has remained a source of inspiration for me, to the point that I would recommend it to anyone, but especially to other worship leaders.

I consider it the best, most clearly written work on being a Christian Artist – not to be confused with the watered-down bastardisations that get called “christian art”, “christian literature”, or worst of all “contemporary christian music”. To paraphrase my favorite quote from the book, bad art equals bad theology.

To give fair warning, this book is not written in a very orderly way. “Clearly written” does not mean I walked away knowing they 7 steps to becoming a true Christian Artist. Topics bleed into each other all over the place and sometimes you feel like you’re just having a long conversation. Then again, this is exactly what I love about the book. I’m free to take useful thoughts and apply them at will. I also have to admit, I’m not necessarily a very systematic thinker either. This book is full of inspiration and jumping-off points. I have come back to this book several times since I first read it, and I expect to keep doings so.

This book has helped me start to see a higher vision in leading worship, beyond just leading the Church’s version of a Sunday morning cover band. This book has helped push me and my wife to dream about how we could more effectively lead together, how we could create true works of art in our worship music and worship leading times. I have a clearer vision of myself as a sub-creator – one who creates because I am made in the image of my Creator.

To quote the back cover of the paperback edition:

… as I listen to the silence, I learn that my feelings about art and my feelings about the Creator of the Universe are inseparable. To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one and the same thing, and it means attempting to share the meaning of my life, what gives it, for me, its tragedy and its glory. It is what makes me respond to the death of an apple tree, the birth of a puppy, northern lights shaking the sky, by writing stories.

And so I’m excited to know your thoughts too. If you’ve read it, do you agree? Are there other books you would recommend on the topic?

I’m looking forward to the conversation.


Sorrow

Sorrow for all Seasons

Sorrow for all Seasons (Some rights reserved by fallingwater123)

“How blessed are those who mourn, because it is they who will be comforted! (Matthew 5:4, ISV)

 

“For having sorrow in a godly way results in repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets. But the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10, ISV)

Last week I got a lesson from my 5-year-old son Levi on what it means to “have sorrow in a godly way”. My wife was out of town for a day, so he and I went to see a movie together. I think we were both tired from a long week. After the movie was over, we stopped at a grocery store, and Levi started acting up – grabbing things on shelves, running down aisles, generally acting crazy.
I have to admit I was completely annoyed and for the sake of getting him out of the store quickly without further disruption, I grabbed his hand and wouldn’t let go. He got very angry, lost his temper, and by the time we got to the car he had thrown a loud fit, and said some very hurtful things. This is where his gift for articulation can get him into trouble sometimes.

By that point, I was in control of myself enough that I didn’t yell back at him and once he got in the car, I told him that I loved him and that the words he used and things he said to me were very hurtful.

What followed might be the best, most thorough, full-bodied weeping I think I’ve ever heard, along with a full apology, at least as articulate as the previous insults.

It helped me remember what true sorrow and repentance looks like. Levi’s little heart was broken over how he had acted and what he had said.

That same week, my wife and I had a hard discussion about some things that I had done that were really hurtful to her – things I hadn’t been honest with her about and that I’m ashamed to admit brought out the cowardly part of me. As sorry as I was, I still wish I could have been as free as Levi in my demonstration of sorrow. And this is where I realize how much of a gift it is to be truly sorry, and how childlike you have to be.

This has caused me to reflect further on what it truly means to be “Abba’s Child” – to be loved exactly as I am, especially with all my shortcomings.

I realize in writing this post that I run the risk of embarrassing Levi as he gets older and reads what I’ve written here. I hope he knows, though, that I write not out of shame for how he acted, but out of pride for the love and softness I see in his heart. It’s the part of him I hope he always retains and always comes back to over the years, when he finds himself doing far worse things and not sure how his Daddy feels about him (both myself and God).

I’m also really feeling now how much God really does love me. I have to keep coming back to this because it’s a battle against both the old part of me and the enemy. But I feel like somewhere recently I crossed a line, and I’m realizing in a deeper way how much I’m really loved.

So, here’s to more sorrow and true repentance. We could all use it.


How my Dad got me started as a worshiper

Father& Son Hands by Gig Harbor Photography

Creative Commons, Some rights reserved by Gig Harbor Photography

I’m not sure he realizes it, but my Dad is the one that got me started as a worshiper, which is what led to me becoming a worship leader eventually.

When we first moved to St. Louis, we started attending a church I didn’t like very much. I was 8 years old, and bored by the worship time at that church, so I would normally draw on the bulletin with a pen. I remember at some point my Mom & Dad telling me that worship was important. I could draw during the sermon, but had to participate in the worship time. This church wasn’t exactly good at engaging people in worship, in my opinion. It was very polished, with a full orchestra and singers – kind of like a Branson stage show. Not very personal. Nonetheless, worship was important.

Eventually we left that church and went to our first Vineyard church. Then I got a taste of what worship could be – personal, engaging, approachable, and welcoming. I think that may have been one of the first churches my Dad really loved too – at least since I knew him. I know being at the right church made it easier for me to engage, but it was still my Dad’s example that helped the message sink in. Worship is important. Relationship with Jesus is really at the core and foundation, and singing songs that reflect that relationship helps.

Later on, that church got off track, to the point that having the Holy Spirit show up in a powerful way was all that mattered, to the detriment of relationship, between people & Jesus, and between people and each other. If you’re familiar with the “Toronto Blessing” or the “Renewal”, that is where things eventually went wrong. I plan on writing more in depth on that someday, but for now, it’s important to note that my Dad was very good at helping me and my brother and sisters keep a good perspective throughout that whole time. Even when he was very uncomfortable with how things were going, he always encouraged us to experience the Holy Spirit, even if it was very strange at times, and participated himself. He never allowed us to lose perspective though, that the most important thing was loving Jesus, even when the exciting things passed. I think his influence by itself probably saved me from a lot of the heartache and feeling of disappointment and abandonment in that church that many of my friends experienced.

My Dad would tell you that he is not musical and he probably isn’t in the same way or degree that I am, but that didn’t stop him from encouraging me when I wanted to pursue music more deeply. He didn’t do it perfectly, and there are times that he’s been skeptical about my resolve and persistence, but in the end, he’s always been my biggest fan when it’s come to me leading worship, and that’s the kind of thing a son really needs from his Dad.

So, today, to my Dad, Mark Schulte I want to say Happy Father’s Day. I love you Dad.


Food and Fasting

I Love Food

Pardon me again for taking so long between posts. Every so often, life get busy and I get behind and need to catch up.
Today’s post is kind of a stream of consciousness based on where I think God’s been speaking to me.

I think Jesus has really been speaking to me about things that need to change in my life – places that need a touch of holiness, if you will. The one that’s been a surprise to me lately is my attitude toward food.

I’ve struggled with my weight most of my life, and the struggle has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. This is probably a big “duh” to anyone knows me, but I love food too much. Although my body shows clear evidence the other way, I’ve tended to convince myself that I’m not really eating that much and that even if I am overeating a bit, it’s not that big a deal.

Here’s where it comes back to worship for me. I’ve read and heard plenty on the topic of fasting from a spiritual discipline perspective and I have yet to hear anyone talk about how fasting should affect your eating habits. Richard Foster comes the closest in “Celebration of Discipline”. I’ve heard many suggestions that the point is for you to pray instead of eating. I think this kind of misses the point, and this is a case where I think maybe some people I’ve read in the health & exercise genre have it a little more right. I’ve read a few books that speak of the physical benefits of fasting on a regular basis. I read practically none that made a clear, intertwined link between the two until I ran across “The No Breakfast Plan and the Fasting-Cure“, written in 1900 by Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey.
I think this is just a reflection of how tightly linked Christianity was with American culture, but Dr. Dewey seemed to take seriously the link gluttony and American eating habits and the usefulness of fasting in breaking that addiction. He also happened to think fasting would effectively cure alcoholism. I suppose it’s possible he was just plain wrong on both counts, but the anecdotes of patients seem to bear witness to his ideas. I feel like this shouldn’t be strange given the way Paul would talk about his body in the Bible. He wrote about treating his body roughly to be made worthy. Sometimes I wonder what thing Paul would focus on if he wrote an Epistle to The Americans. I don’t think he could help saying something about our tendency to overfeed.

Back on topic though, I’m really seeing a link now between my overeating and other ways I actively avoid being alone with God. I’ve fasted before for about a day at a time, but this past week, after finishing Dr. Dewey’s book and taking sometime to really reflect on it with Jesus, I decided I may give a more extended fast a try. In the meantime though, I’ve cut way back on my eating, per his recommendation and have not been eating til around dinnertime. I’ve been surprised how much different life looks – how much new beauty I’ve noticed when my stomach isn’t constantly digesting something. It hasn’t all been easy or euphoric, though honestly it’s been really good at times. There are times I just feel kind of strange, but at the same time, I’ve felt more at ease too – less like a slave, I suppose; more content.

I guess I’m rambling now, but I think the point is, worship is a way of life and it should affect your whole life. I think this is one area Jesus is pressing into to heal and make me more like him so I can live his life through mine.

Feedback is welcome. If you think I’m off my rocker, you’re free to say so. What about you? Is there something you think Jesus my be pressing into with you that you might not consider overtly “sin?”


Worshiping as Abba’s Child

Abba's Child by Brennan Manning (affiliate link)

Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning (affiliate link)

I’ve discovered over the years that my wife is full of good information, but I don’t often listen quickly enough.
I recently started listening to the audio version of Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning (affiliate link), which is one she read in high school.

I’ve been through it twice in the last week now, and I’m sure it’s one I will be going through many times, because I realize that the book speaks to something I clearly don’t live out of easily: my identity as Abba’s child – Daddy’s boy, if you will.

No matter how much I think I’ve taken in the message, I find a hesitancy inside me. The issue, as weird as it sounds in the context of worship, is that I actually don’t love myself very well. I think the idea that finally made it sink in deeper this past week was this: when Jesus tells you to love “the least of these” – i.e., the poor, the unlovable, the broken, etc. – oftentimes the VERY least of these people, and the hardest to really love, is yourself.

I know many people are bound to question the value of self-esteem, which Manning places high value on. Believe me, the negative reviews on Amazon were completely predictable. They denounce it as heresy, humanistic, “New Age”, dangerous, etc. What continues to boggle my mind is how people can be so disconnected from anything that makes them human. These same people consistently tell us to beware of our emotions, as if God screwed up in giving them to us. I see these same types of reviews showing up around any book I’ve found helpful toward bringing emotional healing.

Done ranting for now. Back to the topic…

I’ve noticed something important about self-esteem though. As my wife can attest, I am a very harsh and critical person at times. It may not be obvious on the surface, but I’m actually extremely hard on and critical of myself. I went through counseling and EMDR therapy in the past year and we actually spent a fair amount of time addressing this very issue and I’ve noticed as sharp increase in my ability to be nice to other people and truly love them and accept them right where they are as I’ve been able to love myself and raise my own self-esteem. This shouldn’t be that hard to deal with. After all, part two of what Jesus called the sum of all the law and prophets was to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I’ve been struck by how inescapable that law is. I don’t know for sure that loving yourself well automatically means you will love others well, but I can say for a fact now that you will never love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself first.

I supposed that’s where I tie this back to leading worship. I haven’t led worship since going through this book yet, but I can feel a difference in my approach to Jesus already. There’s less hesitancy, and more willingness to be really honest with him and with myself. I’m sure there’s more healing to come.

The other part of the book that has struck me is Manning’s focus on the importance of being alone with myself as a regular practice. The truth is, I have to admit, in a very raw place in me, I have to fight a deep, guttural terror when it comes to being truly alone, because that sinful, empty part of myself is pretty sure there’s going to be nothing there. I think Manning called it a form of practical agnosticism. I guess I must not be alone in this terror because most of the negative reviewers also had plenty to say about how worthless meditation and solitude and quiet contemplation are. Anyway, it’s still something for me keep pressing into and working on.

I’ve said all I have to say for now. What about you? Do you think you really love yourself well? Do you really think God loves you like a Daddy loves his child? Really? How would it affect your worship if you did?


Discouragement

Bad Day by Ashlyn Henry, Creative Commons License

Bad Day by Ashlyn Henry, Creative Commons License

First, I want to give a quick apology for the lateness of this post. I was out of town for a wedding over the Memorial Day weekend, and I’ve been catching up.

Second, I would like to introduce you to a friend a fellow worship leader, Nathan Perkins. Nathan is the head worship leader at Hope Vineyard Church in St. Louis, which happens to be the church I spent my formative years in. He also happens to have grown up there.

So without further ado….

In 1981, the duo of Simon and Garfunkel returned to play a concert in Central Park. The purpose of this concert was to raise money as a benefit to rehabilitate Central Park; the 70’s and 80’s were a very violent and tumultuous period for New York City and the famous park had fallen into a state of extreme disrepair and was often a venue for drug deals and other criminal activity to take place. New York City wanted its park back.

Their collaboration and weeks of strenuous work efforts produced this concert:

At the time, the concert only raised about $51,000 for Central Park (Hundreds of thousands was the goal) and both Simon and Garfunkel felt that the concert was generally a musical failure despite their best intentions.

Do you ever feel like this after a worship set? I know that I do. Often, following a time of worship, I am usually my own worst enemy and critique every chord or note that I have played. In my most frustrating times as a Worship Leader, I’ve shed a few tears or thrown an item or two across the room.

Going back to Simon and Garfunkel… It turns out that their concert that they immediately deemed a failure ended up becoming one of the works that they are most famous for. It topped charts in multiple countries and Rolling Stone called it the best performance that year for any artist.

That’s what I take away from this life lesson. As musicians, we often deem our works and creations an immediate failure, but that’s not how the Kingdom of God works. In God’s Kingdom, nothing is an immediate failure. I can think of many times off-hand that I have played what felt like the worst set ever, turn around, a hear multiple compliments from congregation members. The trick? Don’t be so quick to judge your works and feel discouraged: see what the Holy Spirit does…. sometimes just being available is all that is necessary.