How To Reach Every Goal You Set For This Year (or any year)

Well, here we are gang. Well into another year. Looking ahead with high hopes, optimism, goals defined. Sound familiar? It should, because many of us were in the same spot this time last year, looking at the same goals we find ourselves NOT having attained this year.

If I’m being honest with you, that’s where I found myself more than once. Especially in business. Year after year I have made promises and said to myself “this will be my year”. But not much changed in my business. Things didn’t necessarily get worse, but they didn’t get much better.

I finally had to get really honest with myself and realize that if I wanted to really see this thing be successful I was going to have to start really putting forth an effort to learn what I didn’t know. I had to come to grips with the fact that what I had been doing so far simply wasn’t working. And the fact is, what I was doing was “not much”. More about that in a moment.

But you see I believed, like most Christians, that when God has told you to do something, or promised something for you life, it would all come automatically. Haven’t you heard people say that? “If God told you to do it you’ll know because doors will fling open for you and all the traffic lights will turn green just as you approach them and people will be showing up bringing you everything you need….” You get the idea. People believe that when God has promised you something it will come easy and without much effort on your part. However the Bible doesn’t seem to support that, does it?

The most glaring example of that to me is the children of Israel. God promised them the new land. A land flowing with milk and honey. It was absolutely, positively theirs, guaranteed. And yet even with that assurance, they couldn’t just walk in and set up camp. They had to “possess it”. They had to go and fight powerful enemies and defeat them. Yeah. It was their land, but it was in possession of their enemies. God gave them favor over their enemies, but He didn’t give them the promised land without effort on their part.

So many of us are not reaching our goals because of a sheer lack of real effort on our part. We think because we can sing, all we have to do is sing somewhere and people will flood us with offers to come sing somewhere else. And they’ll tell 2 friends, and so-on, and so-on, and so-on. And even if that does happen (and it does for some people) people who find themselves with a full calendar realize after not much time that they lack the skill, training and wisdom to keep it going.

Most of us don’t know how much we don’t know. We go about our daily lives, blissfully unaware that God has placed in front of us everything we need to attain the promise, and we are simply not “possessing it”. We are waiting for doors to fling open on their own when God has given us everything we need to simply turn the door knob and walk through.

Getting back to my own story, I came to the realization a few months ago that I wasn’t achieving success in my business because I simply wasn’t putting forth the effort to learn how to market it properly. I, like many small business owners, was simply trying stuff. Throwing ideas against the wall. Reading an occasional article. Throwing a little money at this thing or that thing. But I finally had to get real with myself and resolve to do what ever it takes to increase my knowledge. To get the training. Learn the skill-sets I needed. And I still continue to do that.

As I started following business coaches, reading about marketing and growing a business, learning new skills, I came to a stark realization. I’m gonna need to spend some money to go to the next level. I’ve simply learned all I can learn free. So I looked into the costs involved in taking my training to the next level. I know for me, that is hiring a professional business coach. I had to do the same thing to become trained to be a vocal coach, so why wouldn’t I have to do it for my business?

And the thing is, God showed me how my own mental blocks were my hindrance. He showed me that my “reasons” for not moving forward were really nothing more than excuses. One of the business coaches I had been following actually called me one day. We began to talk about the things I desired in my business and my goals for the coming year. And I began to go into my same old song and dance about how I really want to but just don’t have the money. “It’s the ultimate catch-22″, I told her. ” I know I can make more money by working with you, but I need to make more money to work with you.”

What she said to me next confirmed something God had already put inside of me but I wasn’t accepting. She said “I want you to change that mindset. I want you to stop saying “I don’t have the money to do it” or “I can’t afford to do it”. She continued “I want you to instead start thinking more along the lines of ‘ok, this is how much I need to do it’ and then start looking for ways to make it happen.” That was really powerful for me. Because I understood then that when I started putting forth the effort God would begin making ways.

Both for me and for you, reaching our goals this year boils down to adopting one word as our motivator. The word is “INVEST”. This, for me, is not just a business. It’s also a ministry. God showed me that in order to really be successful I have to be able to reach many, many more people. Doing so will allow me to be a blessing on a much larger scale. To do that I need to INVEST. I need to invest my time, my talent, my emotions, my heart and yes, my MONEY.

I can’t just show up here and write a blog twice a week and expect people to come, guys. That’s good, but it simply isn’t enough. Even for the blog to be successful I have to market it. If I don’t then nobody sees it, including people God has chosen to be blessed by it. So one of my top priorities last year were to find ways to earn that extra money I need to invest in my business/ministry. I’ve identified what that is, and now it’s time to make it happen. I’ve already planned to work more overtime. I’ve moved into a smaller place. I go out less.

I’ve decided, in other words, to invest in my ministry and my business. If you hope to reach any of your goals this year, you will have to come to the same realization. Even if your ministry is just a ministry and not a business at all, you must invest in that ministry. You must invest in yourself, your skills, your training. You must invest your time. You must, because if you don’t, the ministry cannot survive. Anything that doesn’t grow in some way eventually starts to wither and die.

So I challenge you, as my business coach challenged me, to stop making excuses and start making plans. Stop saying “I don’t have it” and start saying “how can I get it”. Change your mindset and you’ll change your results this year. That business coach told me to decided on a date I wanted to get started with her and make it my business to do everything in my power to find a way to earn the extra money I needed to start on that date.

I’m issuing you the same challenge. Don’t make the mistake of thinking because God gave you a gift, a ministry, a purpose, that there is nothing else for you to do but show up every Sunday. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your having found me out of millions of sites across the world-wide-web is just coincidence. I know for a fact it isn’t, because I fought tooth and nail against focusing my business specifically on on helping music ministries. Traditionally anything Christ-centered or Gospel-focused has a much harder time of succeeding in business, and I was well aware of it.

But God wouldn’t let me put this aside. He dropped in my spirit one day simply this: “I didn’t give you over 30 years of experience in music ministry for you to share your knowledge with just this one church and a few other people right around town.” He told me it was time to share it with a much bigger audience. And, like we always do, I went looking for proof that the audience was actually out there. I didn’t find any. I looked on Google and used their search tools to find out how many people are actually searching for stuff like this. I didn’t find many.

Yet He told me to do it. He told me you were out there, looking. But even though He told me to do this- even though I have His promise that there will be people out there looking for the training services and products He’ll bless me to provide- He helped me to understand that I’d still need to work hard, learn new things, create new skills, and spend money on this business/ministry in order to reach them.

If I don’t I never attain what God promised me. Doesn’t mean I did what He said and it didn’t work. Doesn’t mean I “thought” He said it and He really didn’t. It means He set it before me and I simply didn’t possess it. If I do my part He will do His.

So my battle cry this year- my one word motivator that will keep me on track- is the word INVEST. If I invest in myself, my ministry and my business- both my time and my money- I know that I can’t help but be successful. I’m challenging you to join me and adopt this new mindset for this year and every year. No more “I don’t have”. From here on, it’s “how can I get”. No more waiting for things to come to us. No more standing in front of doors and simply refusing to turn the door-knob. This year let’s “MAKE” it happen. This year let’s POSSESS what God has already promised us.

 

 

Paul’s Message Message Of Encourage To Single Believers

 

It is a FACT that not everyone likes Valentine’s Day. That’s probably because not everyone is “boo’d up”, so the day feels kind of cruel and dismissive to people who aren’t in a relationship of some kind. I was one of those people when I wrote this. Then I remembered that Paul actually talked about the subject of being single.

So I thought about taking Paul’s message, breaking it down and giving commentary on it, talking about what it means, etc. But then I thought, nah. Paul was doing a pretty good job of that on his own. So I’m just going to post the passage and let you read it in his own words. My hope is that if you do find yourself single today that you’ll be encouraged also. Take note of what Paul is saying here about the advantages of being single for someone who is in ministry. Happy Valentine’s Day!

1 Cor. 7:25-40

25 Now concerning the virgins (the marriageable [a]maidens) I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion and advice as one who by the Lord’s mercy is rendered trustworthy and faithful.

26 I think then, because of the impending distress [that is even now setting in], it is well (expedient, profitable, and wholesome) for a person to remain as he or she is.

27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.

28 But if you do marry, you do not sin [in doing so], and if a virgin marries, she does not sin [in doing so]. Yet those who marry will have physical and earthly troubles, and I would like to spare you that.

29 I mean, brethren, the appointed time has been [b]winding down and it has grown very short. From now on, let even those who have wives be as if they had none,

30 And those who weep and mourn as though they were not weeping and mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they did not possess anything,

31 And those who deal with this world [[c]overusing the enjoyments of this life] as though they were not absorbed by itand as if they had no dealings with it. For the outward form of this world (the present world order) is passing away.

32 My desire is to have you free from all anxiety and distressing care. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord;

33 But the married man is anxious about worldly matters—how he may please his wife—

34 And he is drawn in diverging directions [his interests are divided and he is distracted from his devotion to God]. And the unmarried woman or girl is concerned and anxious about the matters of the Lord, how to be wholly separated andset apart in body and spirit; but the married woman has her cares [centered] in earthly affairs—how she may please her husband.

35 Now I say this for your own welfare and profit, not to put [a halter of] restraint upon you, but to promote what is seemly and in good order and to secure your undistracted and undivided devotion to the Lord.

36 But if any man thinks that he is not acting properly toward and in regard to his virgin [that he is preparing disgrace for her or incurring reproach], in case she is passing the bloom of her youth and if there is need for it, let him do what to him seems right; he does not sin; let them marry.

37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart [strong in mind and purpose], not being forced by necessity but having control over his own will and desire, and has resolved this in his heart to keep his own virginity, he is doing well.

38 So also then, he [the father] who gives his virgin (his daughter) in marriage does well, and he [the father] who does not give [her] in marriage does better.

39 A wife is bound to her husband by law as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she will, only [provided that he too is] in the Lord.

40 But in my opinion [a widow] is happier (more blessed and [d]to be envied) if she does not remarry. And also I think I have the Spirit of God.

Using Your Music Ministry To Heal The Congregation

I often talk on my Fan Page as well as here on the blog about how we should endeavor to see our service in music ministry as so much bigger than ourselves. At no other time is that more evident than at times of emotional strife.

As I write this the many African-Americans have very heavy hearts of the recent not guilty verdict handed down to George Zimmerman in the killing of Trevon Martin. Most of the world learned the news of this verdict over the weekend and were still struggling with feelings of anger, sadness and betrayal as we made our way to our churches for morning worship.

It is at times like these that I am most acutely aware of the incredible responsibility we have as ministers of music. One definition of the word “Balm”, is “a soothing, healing or comforting quality”. In times of remorse, discouragement and sadness God can use the power of music to uplift and make glad the hearts of His people.

I often feel an obligation at times like these-events that affect us all so profoundly-to do everything I can to insure that the music we provide acts as a balm to heal the hearts of people who are struggling to cope.

In times like these we can easily make the wrong choice and end up presenting something that would only make the situation worse and more painful. Like the really sad song chosen for a funeral, for example.

At times like these the best thing we can do is be aware of current events that might adversely affect the moods of the congregation and try to offer music that will uplift, encourage and heal. I for one went to church this morning, the day after the not guilty verdict was handed down, saddened, frustrated and wondering why God, why always us?

I was almost at the point of tears as I drove to church. But an up-beat, hand-clapping, foot-stomping rendition of I Shall Not Be Moved by the Male Chorus this morning not only lifted my spirits but the overall mood of the congregation. That’s the power of music ministry, and that’s the awesome responsibility that we all have as ministers of music. And that’s why I am always humbled to have been chosen to play some part in administering the soothing, healing, comforting power of music ministry at times when God’s children need it most.

If you’re going to stay, be dedicated

“If you’re going to stay, be dedicated”. No, that’s not what I’m telling you. It’s what God told me Sunday evening, driving home from an engagement with the choir. He didn’t say it in those words exactly. Sometimes He doesn’t have to say anything at all, you know what I mean? It’s just that heavy feeling of conviction that you get sometimes. Suddenly things become clear and you get an epiphany without anyone saying anything at all.

Such was the case Sunday evening driving home from a musical where our choir was scheduled to sing.  People were missing. Important people. Musicians. Our director. Tenors. But I was there and Monica, my dear friend and minister of music was there. So I could stand in as director and other musicians there could help her out with the song. And we had a choir.

We  were first on the program. We go up, I stand in as director, Monica plays for us with help from other musicians that were there, and everything goes fine. You must be thinking at this point “sounds like everything worked out, what’s the problem?” You’re right, everything did.

But in the hallway after we exited the choir stand Monica came up to me and said “I was so scared, Ron. I thought I was going to have to try to direct and play in front of all these people. I didn’t see you back there.”

Again, I was there to direct, we had all the choir members we needed and everything worked out. But I couldn’t feel good about it because as soon as Monica came up to me and expressed how upset she was before she found out I was there, it’s like God slammed into my head every instance I had put her in that position before by not being there myself like others weren’t there that time. Even if everyone else was.

You kinda have to be familiar with the traditions and practices of Pentecostal/Church Of God In Christ denomination to really understand how often this situation occurs. In the COGIC denomination it’s very common for these “evening services” to occur several times a month, either at your own church or at someone else’s.  You go to your regular Sunday morning service and serve, get out for an hour or two and then you’re back for a second service, usually dismissing around 7.

So music departments are constantly on the go and constantly going to second services. They make for some very long days. Over the years I’d become jaded with the whole thing to the point I was starting to wonder if it was time to switch denominations. But I didn’t feel like I was hearing that from God. I felt like it was my own frustrations with denominational traditions and whatever else I decided to have a problem with.

So rather than leave over it I decided I would simply find my own balance. I’d go to these extra things when I felt like it, as long as I took care of home events. Over time I became known for NOT going to engagements away from the church and was simply not expected to be there.

I hope you’re getting a better picture of what’s going on here and why this particular Sunday ended up being a defining moment for me as far as my ministry is concerned. You see, today I had made up my mind I was going; first because it was a special request of our pastor that we all be there. Secondly I’d really been trying to make an effort to simply be more faithful about going to outside engagements.

So I was there, and thank God I was. But God wasn’t about to allow me to feel like I had come in and “saved the day” or something, no. When my friend of over 30 years walked up to me in that hallway, looked into my eyes and told me how panicked she was in the seconds leading up to  mounting the choir stand…knowing she didn’t have her band there to help her and thinking she didn’t have a director either…I thought of all the other times she must have been the only musician. Even worse though, I thought “what if I hadn’t came today?”

Our drummer and bass player were arriving as we were leaving the parking lot, over an hour late to the engagement. I was angry. But really all it did was heap more coals onto my own head.
I felt so much personal conviction in that car driving down the highway. I didn’t hear any voices, guys. I didn’t think the words. I didn’t hear a small still voice in my head. I didn’t hear my conscious talking to me.

I just knew everything at once. I knew that whatever issues I was having with COGIC and the way they do things, as long as I was going to stay I was simply going to have to be more dedicated. It’s funny because we had a meeting at work one day about a bunch of changes and all the challenges they were causing us.

The regional manager put it this way. “I understand that things are tough. I’m dealing with a lot of stuff I don’t like and I’m not happy with. But at the end of the day if I don’t like it I can walk. I can vote with my feet,” he said. “But as long as I decide to stay I understand that I OWN it.”.

That’s what I felt like God was telling me in that car, without saying anything to me at all. If I feel like it’s time for me to go then I need to pray about it, get confirmation and start looking for a new church home. But for as long as I feel like I’m supposed to be where I am, I need to be dedicated. I need to own my position and all the responsibilities that come with it. Regardless of how I feel about anything outside of that music ministry, that’s my job for as long as I “own it”.

About halfway home I sent my friend a text message that read:  “I’ll be there from now on, Monica”.

Feeling unappreciated or taken for granted in your music ministry? Read this.

If you’ve served in a music ministry (or any other church ministry for that matter) for any length of time- particularly in supportive or administrative capacity like choir director, musician, or other such positions, you have probably felt unappreciated or taken for granted more often than you can count. You may even be dealing with those feelings right now.

I struggled with this for a long time. I felt very much taken for granted and unappreciated. Even thought about moving my membership a few times. “I’ll go some place where I’ll be appreciated”, I thought. But there was one problem with that whole line of thought, the whole attitude I had about it and pretty-much every emotion I had any time I thought about it. And I can sum it up for you in one scripture: Col 3:23-24 .

To be honest I didn’t even remember the scripture or where it was located. But every time I found myself pouting or feeling some kind of way, there in the back of my mind would be something saying “isn’t there something in the bible about seeking the praises of men and not being concerned with it or something like that?”

Yeah, there is. A LOT. The scripture above is just one of them. Soooo, now I have to deal with the reality that no matter how justified I thought I was in feeling  all this “I’m not appreciated” stuff, the bible seemed to be making it very clear to me that feeling those things meant my focus was on the praises of man and not Him.

So I started praying to God about it. I acknowledged to Him that I didn’t know how to get rid of these feelings and that I knew I shouldn’t feel that way. I told Him I was going to need His help with this one.

It didn’t happen right away, but over time God helped me start to see things differently. Eventually, I started to see the whole thing in a completely different way. It took something my pastor said to me once for me to really understand.

He was talking to me once about how certain people are so dependable, so reliable and so on-point that you just don’t worry about them. You don’t feel the need to cod and encourage and constantly mention them to keep them motivated or encouraged because you just know they’re going to be there doing it.

I didn’t get it at first. Back then I thought it was just a really nice way of justifying the fact that he never mentioned my name. As time went on though, and I began to mature in my ministry, I started to really understand.

Think about that whole term, “take for granted”, for example. You’ll get several different definitions when you look it up. But the one that stuck with me is the one that speaks to what you do when you just expect someone or something to be there, doing their job. Because it’s their job. We all must have at least 10 people or things we “take for granted” in that way.

You may never go out of your way to give kudos or thanks to them. But there is an unspoken feeling of gratitude and appreciation there just the same. The fact that you never have to worry about the person being there is a comforting thing that you rely on. That, almost certainly, is how the people at your church feel about you.

It may sound like a bit of a stretch to you at first, but for me, that revelation combined with the cutting truth of God’s word in Col 3:23 was everything I needed to really change my whole attitude about feeling unappreciated or taken for granted.

Deep emotional feelings like these are hard to let go of I know. But if you allow yourself to really process this- both the scripture and what I’ve shared with you here about changing the way you see the very meaning of the words- you’ll find yourself moving into a different level of service in your ministry.

I’m at a place now where, even at my busiest I’m content in knowing that my contribution to my ministry is needed and appreciated. I’ve still never been set aside and given a big special program or anything…an “appreciation service” we call it in the Black church. And it really used to bother me. But God has answered my prayer and helped me see things differently.

Now I’m completely content serving my music department in whatever way I can, whether or not I ever receive any praises from men or not. Because I know that my reward is in Him. And that’s what God wanted from us in the first place.

If you’re dealing with these feelings you might also enjoy reading Serving With Gladness; Finding contentment without the spotlight

 

 

 

Maximizing Defining moments in your ministry

ID-10094994If you’ve been serving in music ministry any length of time- especially in a leadership or “simi-leadership” role, chances are you’ve had something happen that changed your view of where you are. Something that made you say “wow, I wasn’t ready.” Or “Oh wow, if I had known how to do this or that, we would have been able to do this or that”.

I may not quite be making sense here just yet so let me give you a couple of examples. I often talk about my dear friend Monica, the minister of music at my church, and the lifetime of friendship and service we’ve shared working side by side in the music ministry there.

One year on the first rehearsal of our huge annual Family And Friends rehearsal with a house full of participating visitors, I walked up to the front of the room to begin  teaching my first song. I was waiting for my band to begin playing like they always do, but they were struggling with the music.

After several uncomfortable minutes of that I suggested we go to another song. It was pretty-much the same thing there too. I was NOT happy, and I shared that very candidly with the guys later. I can’t believe, I told them, you guys had me out there like that in front of all those guests. Monica has shared with me many times since that incident that she vowed from that moment on to never ever be caught not ready for another rehearsal. And she hasn’t.

I recently shared with my followers on the fan page a story about how, after years of saying I can’t play and sing at the same time, a situation that the devil was using to try to undermine the ministry of the praise team forced me to have a similar epiphany. There I was, sitting there with the talent and ability to fix this issue simply by DECIDING- because it’s always our choice whether or not to do what it takes to go to the next level in our ministry- to start putting forth the effort to start singing and playing. It was a defining moment that caused me to make changes that have helped the praise team thrive and become more and more powerful each Sunday, it seems.

Recently our choir director accepted his call to the ministry. Shortly after, and without any notice at all, he decided to step down, leaving us scrambling for solutions. Well everyone knows I direct, but everyone also knows that I teach 4 groups, play for everybody along with the band and everything that comes along with preparing for all that.

I was frustrated, to say the least. But even when Monica told me the news I decided (after I exercised my 5 second rule of music ministry, lol) to just be positive about it. But I’m human, and I was feeling frustrated and a little overwhelmed even. So much so that I actually sat out one Sunday to get my spirit right ( let’s just say sometimes it takes more than 5 seconds).

While I was out though, God began to show me things. You see Monica’s daughter Tiffany was in the choir for years and had left. She recently came back, joined the choir and the praise team and has been an important and productive member since then.

And it just so happens that Tiffany is an awesome, anointed, energetic director. So I’m thinking about all this and as I’m doing so God is showing me that He was in the plan from the beginning. That He was going to use the two of us working together to reignite a fire and enthusiasm in the choir that had been missing for a while.

These are just a couple of examples but I could go on and on. Because defining moments are always happening. In music ministry and in life, God always presents us with opportunities that show us very honestly where we are. Then He just kinda waits and watches to see what we’ll do.

It is at those moments that we can choose to be victims, blame others, make excuses, be negative. Even when we’re absolutely justified in our feelings,  there is usually a path God wants us to take that would put us on a direct course to a higher level of service and excellence in music ministry.

It is never without sacrifice. More time. More learning. More stretching. Being pushed out of comfortable places. But when we allow God to show us ourselves in these defining moments and then take steps to maximize them, God takes us higher. A year ago you couldn’t have told me I’d have my own dedicated microphone in front of the keyboard and I’d be singing and playing through much of the service. Or that I’d actually be excited about directing again in ADDITION to everything else I already do. But it’s not me I’m excited about. It’s what taking these steps will mean for my personal ministry and how positively they will impact the ministry I serve in.

Well, Tiffany stepped right in with only days notice and has been doing an amazing job as director. This past Sunday though, was the first Sunday that we both directed. It was one of those things I think everyone felt but nobody had verbalized yet. The paring of these two was going to be a good thing for the choir and God was in the plan.

After church we looked at each other and gave each other a high five. “I think we make a good team”, she told me. I smiled and said “This is the new era, T. We got next.” “We got this”, she said smiling back at me.

Have you had a defining moment in your own ministry? How did it change you? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your story.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net