Super Lucky, or Spirit Led?
I'm about to share a secret with you.
A secret about us Worship Leaders that, once shared, might ban me from the ICOPWLWAS*
But here it goes: sometimes, when I plan worship, I have zero idea what the preacher will be talking about.
(cue the *glass shattering sound effect* as people's conceptions about the Worship Leader are broken)
Yes, I know. It's shocking. Most of you probably assume that us Worship Leaders spend hours together in collaboration with the preacher to flesh out the intricacies of the sermon and decide how best to build a flow of music/scripture/prayer that builds on, or complements, or sets up, or contributes in some way to the message of the sermon.
And this collaboration session, of course, comes only after hours spent in prayer and fasting (by the worship leader) as he/she seeks direction for the upcoming worship set. Then, when the teaching pastor and the worship leader come together with their ideas for the weekend, it's just a spiritual explosion of blossoming brilliance that pushes back against the powers of darkness and emerges victorious with a light-bending, soul-lifting, mind-blowing plan for a worship service guaranteed to convert the great Deceiver himself!
More or less, that's generally how it goes.
However, getting back to the secret I let you in on, sometimes this collaborative waterfall of wonderment does not occur.
In fact, sometimes there isn't even so much as a trickle flowing from the river of collaboration.
Sometimes, I have zero idea what the preacher will be talking about. But I have to plan a worship set nonetheless.
This could be because I'm a guest worship leader somewhere, and the scheduled speaker and I have never met, let alone had time to engage in a euphoric collision of heart, mind and creativity.
Other times it's a result of busyness and chaos. As much as we might value the collaborative effort between teaching team and worship team, it isn't always practical or realistic.
And still other times, it's just plain laziness on my part. (cue the *glass shattering sound effect* again, for the likely four of you who thought there's no way I could ever be lazy!!)
In Spite of All That
Other than a bit of confession (which, phew, does feel good by the way!), and a slice of insight in to my life (and other Worship Leaders, I promise), there's a reason I want to share this with you.
I have noticed something in my 14 years of leading worship. Something that occurs in those worship sets where I haven't conspired with the speaker. Something that has happened more times that I can count. Something that, each time it transpires, I am reminded of the guiding hand of the Maker.
It doesn't happen every time, of course. For if THAT were the case, then why bother with things like planning, preparation, and collaboration? No, no... generally speaking, not planning or preparing results in a final product that, though it might still have elements of awesomeness in it, will usually betray a certain disconnect between the worship leader and the preacher (for those paying attention, anyways).
But sometimes what happens is simply beyond explanation. And it makes my spirit smile. every. single. time.
Sometimes, when I've had ZERO communication with the scheduled preacher, and have been forced to (or CHOSE to) create a worship set independently, what ends up happening, when it all comes together, is a surprising (and shockingly beautiful) convergence of the worship set (songs, prayers, scriptures, etc) with the theme/focus/point of the message. And they fit together so perfectly, they feed each other so smoothly, they interact with one another so specifically, that it screams INTENTIONALITY, COLLABORATION, and unparalleled PREPARATION!
Yet the people involved all know that none of these things actually occurred.
And I, and the preacher, come off looking like all-star clergy.
"That whole service just flowed so well!" "I loved how we sang about _________, and then Pastor talked about _________. It just helped it all connect!" "What a great service. It was obvious you guys really planned that one out!"
Sometimes, yes. And sometimes, no. Sometimes everything just falls in to place beautifully, and I have no idea how it happened.
Super Lucky or Spirit Led?
This phenomenon has come to pass often enough over the years to make me question my luck.
I know that some of my friends who know both me and my younger brother (who is also a Worship Pastor) often remark about how "lucky" we are. And it's true. Life often times seems to fall our way in some pretty spectacular fashions.
But this is not that.
Perhaps if it's happened two or three times in 14 years I could chalk it up to luck. And I'd end up saying that more often than not, when there is not preparation, communication, and/or collaboration, then the two entities generally don't connect up that well.
But this is not that.
It happens too often, and it's too incredible when it does, for me to chalk it up to luck.
No, I've become convinced that the moving, working, always-present, always-partnering Spirit of God is mysteriously involved in things like planning worship.
And though I may think to myself, "I have no idea what so-and-so is saying, guess I'll just have to pick out some songs and hope for the best," in those moments I am not alone. In those moments I believe there is some type of inspiration, some guiding presence, that gets me excited about this song or that song, this scripture or that idea for a prayer.
I never feel it, of course. I don't find myself thinking, "oooh, this is it! This is God's Spirit moving me to pick THIS song! Wowzers!" (and yes, I often say "wowzers" to myself while working).
But I know it when it happens. And it happened this past Sunday.
We had staff retreat last week, so my time to plan worship was greatly diminished . As a result, I had to hastily pick some music that the band knew well, and hope that they'd work out well enough come Sunday.
For example, we sang "Come Ye Sinners." With such lines as:
come ye' sinners, poor and wretched / weak and wounded, sick and sore / jesus ready stands to save you / full of pity, joined with power
come ye weary, heavy laden / bruised and broken by the fall / if you tarry till you're better / you will never come at all
At the end of the song I felt led to give a moment of silence and reflection. I didn't plan for it, but I invited people to take a moment of confession. To look back on the week and consider what they might offer up to God in repentance.
Then we sang, "Lord I Need You," with such lines as:
Lord, I come, I confess / bowing here, I find my rest
Where sin runs deep, your grace is more / where grace is found is where you are And where you are, Lord I am free / holiness is Christ in me
Again, I noticed this theme of confession and repentance. Of acknowledging our sin, and basking in the grace of God. (earlier songs pointed to this as well... "accidentally")
Then I sat there and listened to the preacher. He continued our series on Jonah, and he spent a great deal of time talking about, you guessed it, confession.
Being honest with ourselves, and with God, and with other people. Owning up to the junk in our lives, and the storms that we bring on our selves.
And I was just amazed at how, once again, the worship set and the message just fused together like bread and butter, hand and glove, rum and coke.
No, this is not luck. This is evidence of a Spirit interested in things like worship gatherings at Missiongathering Christian Church. This is evidence of how God cares about things like the worship leader and preacher being on the same page, even when they didn't plan on it.
And I guess, on second thought, when I consider how often I get to witness these moments happen, I'm pretty lucky after all.
Are you a worship leader? Have you ever experienced what I'm talking about?
Or have you ever sat through a church service and noticed how beautifully the pieces all fit together, and now you're thinking to yourself, "so wait, did they ACTUALLY plan it like that?"
... ... ...
*International Council of People Who Lead Worship... and Stuff. What? It's real.