Last week, I had my first university classes in 14 years. I was nervous but excited about the challenges ahead. (I know there will be challenges. For sure.) I also know–within the depths of my soul–that I am doing the right thing. I know this because even when I was unsure of what was to come, I had an irrational sense of peace.
One of my first assignments was to write a 750 word essay about the call and the character of preachers and worship leaders. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that me writing 750 words is not difficult. (Limiting my writing to 750 words is an issue, however.) I knew that this essay is just one of many, but in the past four days it has felt like the most important essay in the history of the world.
My latent perfectionist tendencies came back, and I went through 2 rough copies and 3 good copies before I decided it was good enough. True to form, it still wasn’t good enough for me, but it is done, and that’s the important thing. Writing the essay got me to thinking about why I, a) Decided to go back to college, and b) Decided to go to a seminary college from which I would become an ordained minister upon graduation.
I figured out quickly that I did not do it because the prominence and high profile of a worship leader attracts me. I did not as my mother puts it, “Sign up for a holler and a collar.” I do not have any agenda aside from encouraging people who feel insecure and alone, and explaining God and the bible in a way that a child will understand. (Also, telling people that God is not some scary dude with a beard that does not want people to have any fun.)
For me, the calling of a preacher is something that I ran away from for 7 years. I did not want to do it. I did not think that I would be able to do the role of a pastor or the word of God any justice. In one of my textbooks (The Witness of Preaching by Thomas G. Long), the author wrote that some preachers take to the pulpit eagerly, and others take to it reluctantly. I would not say that I am reluctant; I am cautious, but not reluctant. I’m cautious in a way that a truck driver is when he is driving up a steep icy hill. One false move has the potential to be deadly. I feel the weight of that responsibility whenever I have to speak/write/read God’s word.
As a member of the congregation, I like to hear the word of God preached in a way that is inclusive, accessible, and most importantly, true to the text. Some of the most powerful sermons I’ve heard incorporate biblical verses in ways that I can apply to my life. They also give me a glimpse of the preacher’s identity, whether through personal stories, testimonies about how they overcame struggles, and rhetorical questions that force me to think of the scripture in a new way. (I also like what my dad refers to as, “Hard words”. Sermons that offer messages of hope and redemption as well as warnings for people to set higher standards.)
At this early stage, I do not know what area of ministry God plans for me, but I know it will either be immediately apparent at my first ministry opportunity, or the result of 3 more years of blood, sweat, and tears. Either way, I am here for it. I believe that life experience has enabled us to relate to people in a unique way. The past season of my life was about toughening me up so I’d be able to fulfill my assignment without caring what others think. This season will be about refining my edges, so they aren’t as uncultivated.
So what do I think about the character and call of a worship leader/preacher?
1.There’s more work involved than anyone can imagine. (My parents are worship leaders. It is not easy.)
2. it is all about God.
3. No one can “make” God do anything, through worship or otherwise.
4. A person’s value has to come from the fact that God loves him or her.
5. Worship must be accessible, but not compromised.
6. It is not entertainment.
7. Humility, grace, love, truth, and having the ability to serve others (with gladness!) are key leadership qualities.
8. If church leadership is a true calling it will cost something. (You name it–friends, a job, family members…and the list goes on)
9. The people are not there to hear from me.
10. Ministry is more effective if you know and genuinely care about the people to whom you are in service. (Make no mistake, if you are a leader, you are in service!)
I knew there was a call on my life when I started slipping bible verses (well, the ones I remember anyway) into daily conversation. When I overheard a careless remark made by a former coworker against another, I gave them a 5 minute lecture about the fact that the same measure she used to judge others would be used against her. I knew I was called to minister when I woke up at 4 in the morning, praying for a relative that I don’t speak to much, only to find out that someone attempted to kill them at the exact moment I was praying. (They’re fine, thank God.) I knew I was called after 4 people confirmed my call, in either direct or indirect ways.
If I had chosen this, it would not have taken me 7 years to do it. The fact that God chose me was amusing. I can communicate well in writing, but I am always too short or too long-winded when I speak. I don’t like crowds. Public speaking gives me anxiety, and I am not good at remembering which bible verse is in what book. I don’t like to be the center of attention, and don’t think I’m outgoing enough.
In an interesting twist, my lack of outward qualifications is what qualifies me.
I can’t help but be thankful for that.