It’s been almost two years since we joined a church planting team and started a new church. Never in my wildest dreams long ago would I have imagined that people can even do that, start a church. I mean, obviously a church has to start somewhere, but every church we’ve ever been a part of has had its roots laid down very deep, and so we always just joined in with the settled church.
Ah, but planting a church is very different. Our team was the starters, the worker bees, the pray-ers, the doubters, the questioners, the hopers and dreamers. Looking back, I think we all knew it was going to be hard, but good. And that is so true–hard, but good. And there are a million directions I could take this in regards to church planting, most of which need to be saved for another time.
Our ministry for the weekly church gathering has been the music. (Insert comfort zone discussion now, please). Yes, I’m a classically trained pianist, I have a degree in music, and I’m trained and experienced in church music, having been involved in church music since I was 13. But I thrive best in a supportive role–I have always seen my work as being an accompanist. I never wanted to be front and center, I loved hiding behind the piano and the choir or worship team, and playing my heart out. I’ve always just done what I’m told–someone else picks out the music, and I play it (of course with my own spin on it, but still) (sidenote: I feel like this also describes my personality, I like to be in the supportive role, not in the completely in charge role).
But starting a church means there will be lots and lots of empty shoes to fill, including that of worship leader, and since it was obvious to everyone that I’d be the piano player, Luke stepped up and offered to lead the singing, that way we could just practice at home (and also because, umm, no one else was probably going to volunteer for this job…:) There are so many opportunities for service in any church, but start a church with 8 families only? Yeh, the opportunities are endless…
(It’s at this point I feel the need to tell you that Luke and I actually have a history of singing together–we were in the same singing group in high school, oh how sweet, and we have helped out in singing songs and playing for various other church things. My husband is so awesome–he’s never taken a music lesson in his life, but he definitely can sing and he’s not afraid to sing loud, and he sounds good so it works out great).
Okay, so the comfort zone thing will come around soon enough, I promise. Bear with me….
Playing the piano is definitely my thing, I love it. So that’s not a step out of my comfort zone. But it wasn’t just playing the piano that we signed up for, it was the whole shebang- selecting, organizing, planning, everything that I’ve always depended on an actual music director to do had suddenly become our job. This is where the stretching started. It’s a lot of work, and pressure, being the ones to do this–if you’re even the slightest bit of a church goer, it’s kind of a no-brainer that music in church can be a tad tricky, and there can be lots of opinions, not all of which are always the same, right?
And before long, our small church grew enough to where we got to move out of a home and into the top floor of a hotel (which is still where we meet now), meaning that we actually had to invest in a sound system, Luke actually had to use a microphone, and then it was decided that a female voice would actually be helpful too. So like that, I had to start singing into a microphone while playing. So not only are we praying over the selection of music to enhance our worship and correspond with the sermon, we are also leading it, and with microphones, ahh!
So this thing, this wonderful opportunity for us to lead others in worship, is the stretch, because of all it involves. It’s not just the time, although that is definitely a commitment, but it’s the mental energy of working to support the Biblical preaching we have, to lead others to direct their hearts and mind to Heaven and truly worship. It’s the task of not just showing up to a service and participating, but having to be on our game, so to speak, every single week.
This worship leading is a stretch, but what is so amazing about it is how I’ve seen God’s power being made perfect through my weakness. While most of the time I feel the joy and privilege of being able to worship the Lord in this way, as with all ministries, there are times when I feel this job is too much for me. And on the days when I make mistakes and when I’m not on my game, I wonder if anyone is able to worship at all, and my flesh starts speaking words of doubt.
But time and time again, I hear from people who have been encouraged through the music, and it’s almost laughable (in a good way) because I typically hear from people the most when I have felt at my weakest, for whatever reason. Like today, after the service, I told Luke that I just feel so much more comfortable in a supporting role, that when we practice at home it just seems to go so much better than when we are with the congregation, front and center in a leading role. And seriously, just a few moments after I said that, we got a text from a friend who was so encouraged by the music and he had felt the worship so intensely today, which immediately made my eyes and heart turn upward to the Lord because I knew it was His strength made perfect in my weakness, that when I am weak, then He is strong. That through my stretching and doing things that aren’t always the easiest or most natural, that is when He is most honored and glorified, because it can truly be all about Him and not about me.
There are so many people within the church, not just our local church but the universal church in general, doing things for the sake of the Gospel that are huge stretches for them–people serving in areas that are tiring, and they serve repeatedly, day after day, week after week. There are people taking on ministries because they know at the heart of the church we need it and it will honor the Lord greatly, but it is hard for them too!
And while sometimes you just need to take a break and let someone else fill the spot and serve (and who knows, maybe someone will get to fill our shoes in the future), resting in His strength is the best way to deal with the stretches that come with serving the church.