Enthusiasm in ministry; where do you get yours?

Enthusiasm in ministry; where do you get yours?

This may very well be one of the shortest articles you’ve seen from me. And I’m going to end it with a very powerful question. But first, let me ask you something. Who or what gets you excited when you’re singing in the choir or on the praise team? Maybe you’re just a member of the congregation who finds that it’s hard for you to really get going spiritually without that extra push from (insert your favorite motivator/worship leader/singer(s) here).

I’ve worn about every hat in my church’s music ministry over the last 30 years of serving. I’ve been a tenor in the tenor section, the drummer for a short time, the choir director. Now I’m on keyboards. Through all of those years though, I’ve almost always held the position of voice instructor. As such I’ve conducted hundreds of rehearsals and taught hundreds of songs. For many years I taught them then directed them.

Music ministry has always been my passion. My calling. My ministry and my offering to the God I serve. As such, I have a tendency to approach everything I do in music ministry with a great deal of energy, enthusiasm and excitement. I’m “animated”, lol. I often joke with the other band members that if you were to watch me play keyboards with no sound you’d think I was waaay better than I actually am, the way I bounce around over there. I approach directing the same way, whether I actually want to direct or not- and I usually don’t (there’s another message for another blog right there). Naturally when I’m in front of people they respond favorably to that. When someone is excited about what they do, it kinda makes you excited too.

Some people though, have trouble getting excited any other way other than “catching it” from someone else. Over the years as I participated in various conversations about one person’s style or ministry or level of enthusiasm vs. another.  Something I hear people say quite often is some variation of the following:

It’s hard for me to get excited or motivated unless the _______ is excited. When they’re on fire that pulls it out of me. That’s why I love it when Bro. Joe_____________ (insert your favorite thing you love to see Bro. Joe do; whether it’s directing, playing an instrument, singing).  Bro. Joe is always so energetic, and he really makes me want to give more”.

Ever heard that one or something like it? Ever said it? Sure, most of us have. This is a very common thing heard among choirs in reference to the choir director. But it could be any group or activity that has a leader of some sort who just always seems to bring it out of you and take you to that next level spiritually.

So here’s the question I’d like you to think about today as you contemplate your own music ministry, your own walk, your own level of excitement about what you do. If  it’s true that you get your motivation, your desire, your excitement and your enthusiasm from Bro. Joe, and you find it hard to get excited about what you’re doing if he’s not approaching his own ministry with enthusiasm and energy, then…….

Where does Bro. Joe get his from?  In other words, what or who is is motivating, boosting and exciting the person that you’re getting yours from?

When you can honestly answer that you will never have to depend on Bro. Joe or anyone else for yours again.

Ephesians 6: 7-8

How to put the “ministry” back in your music ministry

How to put the “ministry” back in your music ministry

A few hours ago as I started preparing myself to write today’s blog article, I started by doing what I always do. Thinking about the various facets of music ministry and wondering which one I’d focus on as my topic. But for some reason this time I found myself starting to think  about the word “ministry” itself. The word “ministry” is used so often in the church that I wonder sometimes if we really think about it’s real meaning any more.

Ministry, for many of us, has simply become that word we attach to the end of the title of any group doing anything in an organized way in a church. It’s music. We’re doing it in church. So that makes it “The Music Ministry”. We all refer to that large musical group we participate in at church as “the music ministry”. But I wonder if we really understand what that implies.

So I thought today it would be interesting to actually look at the word ministry separately and just get a good solid definition. In an article on the subject I found on GotQuestions.org the author wrote:

“Ministry” is from the Greek word diakoneo, meaning “to serve” or douleuo, meaning “to serve as a slave.” In the New Testament, ministry is seen as service to God and to other people in His name. Jesus provided the pattern for Christian ministry—He came, not to receive service, but to give it (see Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 13:1-17).

In another article I found on Kruse Kronicle the author defined it very simply this way:

ANYTHING done in service to God is ministry…….Ministry is ANY work done in response to God’s call

Taking the essence of what the word Ministry means then, and applying it to music ministry, we start to get a better understanding of the gravity of what we’re called to do. I spoke at a choir annual one year and I talked about the fact that even though only one person wears the official title of “Minister Of Music” in most music departments, every person that is a part of the music ministry is in fact a “minister of music”.

Think about that for a minute. Think about yourself as a “music minister”. Not in the sense that you’re in charge of anything, or that you play an instrument, teach, or direct. Only that you serve God and others in His name, through music. Yours is an individual ministry that is part of a larger ministry (the choir, praise team, band), who is part of an even bigger ministry (the church you attend).

That means everything you do, say and think in relationship to your service to the music department encompasses what you now think of as “your ministry”. It changes your thinking in some pretty profound ways, doesn’t it?

And yet the truth is, if we really honestly consider the real meaning of the word Ministry, we understand that as believers we are all called to be ministers. That’s true in every facet of our lives, in everything we involve ourselves in; inside the walls of the church or outside. My very life is my ministry. My service to God and to other people in His name.

It’s a pretty powerful way to think of yourself. Maybe even a stretch in some cases. But I can tell you from experience that every time you think of anything you’re doing that way, it automatically causes you to adjust your thoughts. To set your own bar higher. To strive for a higher level of excellence. Suddenly it’s very difficult to think about just you anymore.

Serving with gladness; finding contentment without the spotlight

Spotlight BeamI’ve served in the music ministry for most of my life. God has blessed me with with many gifts, several of which naturally cause me to gravitate to the front. But believe it or not I find my greatest fulfillment serving behind the scenes. Honestly though, that’s not the case for many people in music ministry. Quite often a member of the choir, praise team or other group develops a very strong desire to be out front in some capacity. Sadly though, that opportunity is not always afforded to everyone that wants it.

There could be any number of reasons someone who wants to come to the front may not be allowed to. It could be that the position or task is just not the best fit for the person for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s just a personnel issue. But the enemy seldom allows us to see things as they really are. Especially in music ministry, where the gathering of so many different personality types, egos and agendas make it an easy target.

Sadly, even in the most innocent of circumstances the devil can make a person believe there is all kinds of hatred and favoritism at work that is keeping you from being allowed to lead a song, or direct, or serve in whatever leadership capacity you’re seeking. We could go back and forth at length about the particulars, and I could give a list of all the possible reasons you’re not being given the opportunity you believe you deserve. I understand that it’s frustrating. It’s hard to have the desire to serve on a higher level and feel like you’re being held back. But honestly, it is seldom as it seems, my friend. The devil knows that music is one of the most powerful and effective tools God has given us for the building and edification of His kingdom. So he is always seeking ways to sow discord and division by playing against our own vanities.

The truth is, you will always be an easy target for his tricks and manipulative ways until you find a place of contentment in your service. To thwart the efforts of the enemy you must get to a place where you are completely happy and satisfied just serving in the music ministry. That’s easier said than done, I know. Because it takes some serious renewing of your mind. One thing I’m always teaching on some level or another, no matter what aspect of music ministry I’m talking about, is understanding the bigger picture. How your efforts contribute to the success or failure of the ministry, and how the ministry as a whole affects so many other things and touches so many people.

It’s learning to look beyond your own limited field of vision. This is the secret of those who are always content no matter what they’re doing in the music department. I know people who can sing until the hairs on your neck stand up. They are accomplished leaders and soloists. Their names around our church are synonymous with really good singing. And yet if we go for months without ever calling them down front to lead, you’ll see them smiling and singing and praising God right there in their section.

You can only reach that level of pure contentment in service when you really understand how important every single person is to a music ministry. You see my friends I just mentioned know that even when they’re just singing in their section they’re making a very important contribution to our ability to serve effectively as a unit. But being happy in the background goes even deeper than that.

The bible tells us in scripture after scripture to avoid doing things to be seen of men. Or to be praised or glorified of ourselves. Look at this example:

Collosians 3-23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving

This is just one example of a theme we see recurring throughout the bible. A message of being content in your service and not seeking to be seen or praised by men. To reach that place of contentment in music ministry you have to see the importance of what you do as an individual to the success or failure of the music ministry. I spoke at a choir annual one year and I referred to this concept as “The Ministry Of Me”. I told the choir that year that even though only one person wears the official title of “Minister Of Music”, every single person that is involved in a music ministry is indeed a minister of music. It’s a very sobering and powerful thing to think of yourself that way. Not just as a “member” but a minister of music. What you do is not “just” singing or just playing. It’s ministry. It’s YOUR ministry, and your calling right where you are.

Just like the ministers who sit on the pulpit but never bring the message, every person in the music department plays a critical supporting role in it’s success. If for some reason I became unable to play keyboard tomorrow I’d sure miss it. But the very next Sunday I’d be up there in the Tenor section rocking it out and singing to the glory and honor of God. I’m a leader too, but I go for months- sometimes years- without leading a song. And I’m completely happy and totally content with that. Because you see, when you have a deep, unwavering passion for music ministry, you just want to be a part of it. If your reason for being there is genuine that’s enough to make you happy. I encourage you to seek that place of contentment.

By the way, I know another young lady who, for many many years, has sang alto for our choir. She has never wanted to lead a song. We’ve asked her many times over the years. But she was much more content just singing alto. Only she doesn’t “just” sing alto. She’s one of the strongest, most consistent, most reliable, most depended on altos up there. And every Sunday you can find her singing right there in the alto section, her hands going up, tears flowing, completely and utterly happy without the glare of the spotlight. And it is because of her years of happily serving God, never seeking leadership or accolades, that God favored her and elevated her to the position of choir president.

She runs the whole choir but you’d never be able to pick her out if you didn’t know her. Because every Sunday she’s standing right there where she’s always stood. In the choir stand, singing alto, hands going up, tears flowing, completely and utterly happy…without the glare of the spotlight.

 

Grateful

universal thank you noteToday I’ll be spending time with relatives to celebrate Thanksgiving. Aunts, uncles, cousins and offsprings will all come together to break bread, laugh and enjoy each other. It’s such a beautiful thing and I really look forward to it.

The night before though, I sat in my couch in my apartment writing this blog on my cell phone, alone. You see just 3 years ago I finalized the divorce papers and dissolved a 16 year marriage. I walked away from everything I had spent most of my life building and working and fighting for-my home-so that my ex-wife and kids wouldn’t have to be uprooted from the only home they had ever known.

Sounds like a sad story,I know. And yet I write you with a heart full of gratitude. Because through it all God has been faithful and given me favor. God has blessed my ex-wife and I to have a healthy, respectful and friendly relationship with each other.

I have unrestricted access to my boys and spend every other weekend with them. They are healthy and well adjusted young men who love us both equally and are proud of their parents for how we handled everything.

This year God placed my business on a new path that is in line with the calling He gave me. Since taking the old company website down, changing the company name and completely changing its direction and focus, I am now more fulfilled in my work than I’ve ever been.

Not only am I doing the work I believe God created me to do, but it’s touching people on a much bigger scale than I ever dreamed. I’m thankful that I get to meet, interact with and serve people like you and help you take your your ministry to the next level as I continue to seek to go higher myself.

And so even though I’m alone now after 16 years of living with a family around all the time, I feel like I’ve gained an even bigger family. And that family continues to grow.
And so as my family member I’d like to wish you a special happy Thanksgiving. May God bless you and yours richly today and in the coming year.