#mothersday2018

Happy happy Mother’s Day to all the mommas out there! I hope you’ve had an awesome weekend! Being a mother is a source of some of life’s greatest joys & blessings and also at times its greatest trials and sorrows. I can’t imagine trying to do it without Jesus!  Being in ministry also has its share of both mountains and valleys; times of triumph and blessing and times of doubt, frustration and discouragement. I have some thoughts for the women in particular today as this Mother’s Day draws to a close. I hope this speaks to your hearts!

First of all I want to remind us that we are uniquely created in God’s image!  Just because we refer to God as Father and Son, and He and Him…and rightfully so, (it would be wrong to do otherwise), it doesn’t mean that we, as women, are any less His image-bearers.

As a reminder, let’s take a quick look at the familiar creation account in Genesis chapter 1 . It isn’t Adam only who was created in God’s image. It was Adam and Eve. Male and Female. Both of them together.  In His wisdom, the Triune Creator brought forth the man and the woman and in the process infused each with part of His character and likeness. So men and women together are designed to represent the Godhead. Neither can do it ontuscany-grape-field-nature-51947.jpeg their own. We need each other. Both at home and in the church God’s plan is that women and men would be partnering with one another in work and service to each other and to the Lord.

Throughout Scripture we can see aspects to God’s character that are clearly feminine, or motherly. One of them is in the gospels when Jesus states: “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings..”. And there are multiple instances in the Old Testament.  In Deuteronomy 32:11 we read:  “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.”  Then this verse in Hosea 13 paints a picture not just of nurturing but of fearlessness and bravery:  “I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs, and I will tear open their chests; there I will also devour them like a lioness, as a wild beast would tear them.”  There are also several instances in the book of Isaiah of God using the imagery of motherhood to describe Himself.  There are a variety of characteristic traits specific to women that are a reflection of our Creator. We are image-bearers of the King of kings! Amazing! 

I know we know all this already, but if you’re like me then sometimes you just need to be reminded. I want to encourage you as mommas and as ministers to continue to serve the Lord, your families, your ministry teams and your congregations with tender boldness and courage! You’re created in His image. He’s given you a particular set of gifting and skills. And He has a plan and a call specifically for you!

By His grace I pray that we rightly represent Him in all that He’s given us to do.

Happy Mother’s Day!! ~ Michelle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crafting Your Team’s Vision

So what makes a team great? Why do some teams function smoothly and some…well.. not so much?  Truth be told there are a LOT of factors that go into the success or failure of a team, and most of those (possibly all of them?) start at the leadership level. But one in particular stands out that strikes me as essential, and yet so often is missing from ministries, and that is the ability on the part of leadership to both craft and communicate a team vision. I understand as Christians that if we’re to be truly successful at ministry then it has to be something the Holy Spirit is involved in, but all too often I’ve seen that used as an excuse to avoid any kind of planning, preparation or training.  A verse that comes to mind is Psalm 127:1a,  “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it;…..”.  We see both aspects at play here..  our desperate need for the Lord, and also the need for us to plan and work. Anyone who has ever built anything knows it can’t be done well without careful planning and preparation. All throughout Scripture we see examples of the people of God functioning within a framework of the two…prayer and the moving of the Holy Spirit in combination with vision, planning and hard work. Check out the Old Testament book of Nehemiah to see these and many other leadership principles in action!

Ok. So how do we, as creative ministry leaders, go about crafting a vision for our ministries and teams? What does that mean practically?  pexels-photo-296878.jpegHere are three basic elements to consider as you (and possibly a few key leaders from your team) work to create a set of unified goals.

  1. What’s our purpose? Or, why do we do what we do? This needs to be specific and goes way beyond simply stating that we lead people in worship. Actually that’s a very brief observation about what we do, or should be doing, but our teams need to understand the why and what it is we’re truly trying to accomplish.  You should prayerfully work this out for your team specifically, but here’s what I came up with by way of example: To magnify and delight the LORD; to serve the LORD and His church with creative excellence; to effectively lead in praise & worship through music and the other creative arts, so that everyone in our congregation who wants to join us can do so; to proclaim the truths of Scripture, and to evangelize the lost. 
  2. What will ‘success’ look like? This paints out some details on what kinds of results we expect to see if we’re accomplishing our stated purpose. So maybe something like this: As a church family we will grow in our understanding of what it means to live a life of worship, and to worship the LORD in spirit and truth; there will be an increase in the freedom of expression as we corporately engage with the LORD through prayer, scripture and song. As a creative ministry team we will create art of our own that ministers to and expresses the heart of our congregation, and will be continually improving in all aspects of our skills. We will see non-believers come to saving faith in Jesus Christ as we sing and speak the Truth, engage with the community and live out the Gospel in every facet of our lives. 
  3. How do we get there? How must we act and what should our priorities be to facilitate success? Defining this is important because it provides a framework for us and for our teams to operate and make decisions from, thereby maintaining progress toward collective goals. For example you might include things like: Everything we say and do, whether from stage or behind the scenes, must line up with the truth of scripture, therefore, frequent and regular times of prayer and Bible study will be a priority for the team as a whole and for each member individually. The congregation’s needs come before our own needs and desires; we will always work to lead in such a way that they are able to follow, and will teach and encourage them to do so. We must be well-prepared and well-practiced, yet able to serve on short notice, therefore we will be committed to putting in the necessary time for practice at home and rehearsal with the band, as well as in general striving toward improvement and the learning of new skills. We will pursue creative endeavors and will encourage one another and cheer one another on wholeheartedly.  We will always leave room to welcome new team members as the Lord sees fit to add to our number. We will work alongside, and as needed, defer to requests and priorities from those in authority over us. 

pexels-photo-296881.jpegOnce your team’s vision has been crafted, the next step is to communicate it to them! Teams that have a shared vision that everyone understands and can get on board with are far more likely to be productive and ‘successful’ than teams that are trying to function without any order or understanding of where it is they’re all trying to go.  The best way is in person, at a team meeting where everyone is in attendance. I would suggest that you print out copies of your vision in order to facilitate the discussion and also so they can take it home with them.  Use inclusive language as you explain it to make it about the team, not about yourself. Each member needs to take ownership of the vision so that it becomes everyone’s goal and purpose, not just yours. Be ready to dialogue and answer any questions they might have…  Have fun with it and try to create some energy and excitement surrounding it! Finally, be prepared to continue to prayerfully encourage and coach your team! Maybe even coming up with creative ways to remind each other of the vision and holding one another accountable to it as you serve alongside one another in pursuit of excellence!

Whether you’ve recently taken on the responsibility of leading a ministry, or you’ve been in leadership for awhile and are ready to take your crew to the next level, I hope this encourages you and sparks some great conversations for you and your team!  No matter how well our teams are currently functioning, there’s always room for improvement ~ Michelle

Psalm 33…Shout for Joy!

I recently revisited the familiar passage of Psalm 33 v1-3.  You probably know it.

1. Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones;
Praise is becoming to the upright.
2. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.
3. Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy.  

                                   Psalm 33:1-3 (NASB)

I’ve read these verses countless times before and I don’t recall what drew me to them on this particular occasion, but I love how there’s always something new to glean from even the most familiar of passages.  These days I primarily read from a Strong’s New American Standard version on my favorite Bible app , and I was struck by the use of the word ‘sing’ in each of these three verses, which I guess I had never really noticed before. Now, other translations don’t necessarily use the word ‘sing’ in time, but the NASB does.  Anyway in our language the definition of this word seems pretty straightforward, but I decided to do a quick word study in the original and I’m so glad I did! The first point of interest to me is that each of the three words translated as ‘sing’ in English are actually three different words in the original Hebrew language, with similar meanings yet each one conveying different implications and nuances. Here’s what I was able to unpack.

In Verse 1, “sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright.” ,  the original word is rânan, which means: to creak (or emit a stridulous sound), i.e. to shout — aloud for joy, cry out, be joyful (greatly, make to) rejoice, (cause to) shout (for joy), (cause to) sing (aloud, for joy,), triumph.  For starters, this verse is an exhortation to the entire body of Christ. All of the Church. His bride. His sons and daughters. All of us. Not just the worship leader or the worship team. The first part of the definition interests me. “to creak or emit a stridulous sound“.  I don’t know how many times over the years I’ve had someone approach me and say that they love corporate praise & worship but they themselves can’t carry a tune (they say) so they just listen. I think they’ve meant it in the context of a compliment generally, but it’s so unfortunate that they have felt the need to sing silently instead of, as this verse says, “aloud” and “cry(ing) out”.  I’ve tried to encourage them to sing anyway! To remind them that the Lord is looking at our hearts and our intent, and He doesn’t care about how beautiful our voices may or may not be. We’re all to sing, and shout! And to do so with great joy and triumph!  Also it says right there in the verse that “praise is becoming to the upright”!  So God finds it lovely and beautiful when all of His people praise Him!

For verse 2, “sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings”, the meaning is more or less what you might think taken in the context of the English phrasing. The original word here is zâmar; and means: “to touch the strings or parts of a musical instrument, i.e. play upon it; to make music, accompanied by the voice; hence to celebrate in song and music: — give praise, sing forth praises, psalms”.   So…  making music accompanied by vocals… and to celebrate in song!  This verse paints the picture that along with the myriad of joyous voices are the musicians playing their instruments. The last phrase in verse 3 reiterates this idea of certain people “play(ing) skillfully” and “with a shout of joy.”

The Hebrew word for ‘sing’ in the first half of verse 3, sing to Him a new song”,  is šiyr; which implies the idea of “strolling minstrelsy”.  That was unexpected! We don’t use the English word minstrel very much these days so I Googled it for a bit more insight and found that it dates back to medieval times and is a reference to a “singer or musician, especially one who sang or recited lyric or heroic poetry to a musical accompaniment for the nobility”.   I also discovered that this same Hebrew word is found in 1 Samuel 18v6, and paints for us a picture of the meaning of the word:..”When David returned from killing the Philistine (Goliath), that the women came out …., singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments.”  I love that! The imagery and realization that we are to collectively sing and play music to exalt and delight our King Jesus! That we are coming out to meet Him, as it were, and shower Him with the praise and adoration He deserves.

Two other things about verse 3 to point out are that we’re to create new songs, and we’re to play skillfully. I’ve heard it said over the years, and have in the past said myself, that we’re not to be performing when we lead worship. But I’m not sure that’s entirely correct. We absolutely need to be continuously monitoring our motivations, and should not be trying to promote or bring glory to ourselves, so in that sense then yes we shouldn’t be ‘performing’.  But these verses seem pretty clear that we should desire and strive to play with as much skill as we can. That we are not only leading the congregation in praise and worship to the Lord but we are also presenting to Him the songs that we’ve prepared and we need to give it everything we have. Jesus is our noble King and He deserves our praise and adoration and that we would play and lead with as much skill as possible. And we’re to write new songs and poems and create beautiful visual arts as well. I think that as believers, the creative process is also a form of the praise and worship that we offer to Jesus.

One last thought is for those of us who lead worship to evaluate our leadership of the people God has asked us to serve. Do I lovingly lead in such a way that they are free to be expressive and joyful in the ways these few verses describe? Am I setting that example? Actually not just me but the entire team? Is everyone on stage singing and leading with instruments doing so with joyous faces and with heartfelt singing? Or.. not? And if not then how can we address it and make improvements? How can we encourage and/or what do we need to teach? I think for the most part our congregations won’t be more expressive in worship than we are. So asking ourselves these types of questions and dialoguing with our teams on a regular basis is vital.

Blessings to you as you continue to purse excellence in the art of worship leading!  ~ Michelle

 

Photo from Pexels.

 

Servant (Worship) Leadership

What does servant worship leadership look like? I’ve been pondering that a lot this week. Actually I’ve long been interested in the conversation about what genuine leadership is and how to do it well, and I’m blessed to be part of a ministry team that values intentional learning and growth in this area. But this week for some reason my mind keeps going back to this question specifically.  What does servant worship leadership look like? In what ways can I, as a worship leader, serve my teams and my congregation as I lead them? I think in particular from stage? On the surface that doesn’t seem like a lowly servant role, and yet I believe that serving others is precisely what Jesus has called us to do.

Jesus taught the phenomenal paradox of servant leadership throughout His ministry, both in word and in deed.  Multiple times He told His disciples (and us), that if you want to be great you have to be the least. And if you want to be first, you have to be last. He demonstrated that true leadership encompasses  service to others and did so in striking ways, one of the more notable being when He removed his cloak, wrapped Himself in a towel and began to wash the disciples’ feet. They were stunned. They were uncomfortable. Peter was offended.  As I re-read the account in chapter 13 of John’s gospel, I am struck by a few observations that I think have application to us as worship leaders.

  1. Be willing to take on menial tasks……  It takes both humility and strength of character to willingly take on a thankless and lowly task like that of washing the disciples’ feet. They didn’t even appreciate it!  At least not initially.  But it needed to be done. And Jesus was willing to do it for them. Are we as worship leaders willing to do the same? Are we willing to take on the mundane, thankless, yet necessary tasks? Or do we consider ourselves above that? Are we serving tirelessly in the background, when we’re not on stage, to bless and serve those whom God has place on our teams with us?
  2. Be willing to let someone else serve you…. It also takes humility and strength of character to allow someone else do the serving. I’ve realized of late that this is an area in which I struggle. But in v14 Jesus says to the group that they “also ought to wash one another’s feet”. So the example wasn’t for one person only or for the worship leader or worship pastor only, it was for the entire team. If you’re the one in charge of your ministry team then you can and should set the example, and then also allow others to do the same for each other and for you.
  3. Look for teachable moments….. Jesus certainly could have called for a slave to wash their feet and no one would have thought anything of it, and it wouldn’t have been wrong for Him to do that. But as their leader He saw an opportunity to teach and lead by example and He loved them enough to do it. Think for a moment the completely different impact it would have been if, while a slave was washing their feet, Jesus merely told them what He wanted them to know.  They would have been much more comfortable with that… but Jesus was more concerned with their growth than with their comfort.
  4. Wash them with the water of the word….  The typically impetuous Peter swings from “no way!” to… “not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” (v8-9) in about 3 seconds flat. Can anybody besides me relate to Peter? Jesus goes on to correct him though and explains in v10 that he doesn’t need his entire body washed. He’s already clean (born again).  But he does need his feet washed. As believers we don’t read the Bible to get saved again each day, we read it (among other things) for fresh cleansing and renewal before we head back out into the world. This brought to mind for me the passage in Ephesians 5 where it speaks of ‘washing with the water of the word’. Same idea. There are so many different applications for us as worship leaders. Not only the ways in which we can pour into our teams behind the scenes, but also the awesome responsibility we have of stepping on a stage and leading and serving the people God has placed in front of us.  So in light of Jesus’ example and comments in this passage, I think one of the most important ways we can serve our congregations is by being intentional in that what we say from stage, and the lyrics of the songs we choose, are Scripture infused.  I’ve long asked myself each time I prepare to lead others in worship,  that if for some reason someone hears the worship portion of the service but doesn’t hear the teaching that day, have I by my song selection and by the words I’ve spoken given them the gospel message, and washed them with the Word? When we do that, then I think that we are following Jesus’ example.

Well I’m sure my observations on this barely scratch the surface! If you have any additional thoughts or comments please let me know! May we as worship leaders continue to grow in our skills and in our ability to effectively lead and minister to others. ~ Michelle