Monday, January 19, 2015

Worship & the Intentional Ham

"He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk."

This old proverb has been quoted many times, in many places. It's a great one because it makes a very profound point, and does so in a wryly humorous way.

But when it comes to worship leading, and especially pastoring worship leaders and musicians, that wise saying could be mis-interpreted and mis-applied at times (even unintentionally).

I have written earlier about the primary necessity of having a sense of expectation in our worship gatherings, which also helps to safeguard against the zombie-apocalypse dynamics of worship that merely goes through the motions (even high energy, exciting motions).

But let's take another look at the worship leaders, particularly those in a position to influence others.

If it's true that, "He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk", then how might that be mis-applied to worship leaders?

  1. If you have followers, that doesn't necessary mean that the direction you're leading them in, is automatically a good one. (for an extra-extreme over-the-top example, consider Jim Jones & the Peoples' Temple)
  2. If you have followers, do they understand the why behind what you do, or do you just assume that they do?

I want to take a closer look at the second item, because it speaks to intentionality in discipleship. Specifically, communicating The Why.

There exists an old tale about a cook preparing the Christmas ham for the family dinner. She faithfully prepared it, as she always did, slicing off one end before putting the ham into the oven.

"Why do you always cut that piece off?" queried her husband (as the story goes).

"Because that's how my mother always did it," was the slightly indignant response. "That's how we've always done it." But she became intrigued, and phoned her mother to find out why it was so important to slice off the end of the ham before cooking it.
Turns out, her mother only sliced off the end of the ham because her oven was really small, and a full ham just didn't fit.
For worship leaders who are influencers of others, there is a lesson here: don't assume that people know The Why behind what you do or how you lead. Tell them (the best education involves repetition anyway).

For example, I know some worship leaders who are trying to avoid the mentality that says: "unless we get our worship just right, the Holy Spirit won't bless it". I share their concerns. To that end, they don't make a big deal of pre-service prayer times. (And let's face it, in some circles, pre-service prayer sometimes looks a wee bit like the prophets of Baal doing their thing -- as if God won't "show up" unless we prove our frenzied sincerity.)

So, on one hand, they were modelling a good thing: God responds to His people out of His grace and compassion, not contingent on any spiritual gymnastics that the pre-service prayer generated.

But on the other hand, what was (unintentionally) passed on to the younger worship musicians was that prayer didn't matter, period. They came to view any form of prayer before worship as "religiosity" or "Christian superstition". Truth be told: they became quite religious about not praying before worship.*

They had been discipled by the example, but had no understanding of The Why. Just like the cook who kept cutting off the end of the ham.

To be intentional in discipleship, including among worship teams, those with influence need to be aware that passing on The Why is equally important to living as an example.

*For the record: Never stop praying.

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