Passion Wins You Favor With God, And With People: A Case Study

So I have this friend. We grew up together attending the same church. We both sang in the choir practically all our lives. For most of those years I directed and taught.

She sat under my teaching for all those years. She’s an amazing singer who is passionate about music ministry. So when I would teach concepts and new things she would always be the first to embrace them. She loved God, loved singing for Him and loved anything that had to do with learning more about how to serve Him better.

Fast-forward 30 years. We’re both adults now, still working together in the choir. I’m still teaching, she’s still in the soprano section, killin’ it. Practically knowing her part before I teach it now because she has soaked up everything I taught for so many years.

Then suddenly we hear that her husband has been re-located to another state and she’d be leaving us. We were devastated of course. She was a tremendous asset.

Shortly after she got established there they found a new church. Of course she went straight to the music department. To make a long story short, she passed every evaluation and audition task they asked of her with flying colors. They were amazed by how much she already knew.

2 or 3 years later her husband’s assignment ended and it was time to move back to Texas. As they began looking for a new church home in Texas people she worked under in her old church began to send out word about her to people they knew in Texas.

One of those churches was looking for someone to head up their music department. My friend had never done anything like this before. Had no experience running a music ministry.

But guess what she did have? She had favor. Her passion, dedication, enthusiasm for learning and serving God in excellence went ahead of her and opened a door for her to step into something she never dreamed she would be doing.

My friend is now running the music department at a church here in Dallas. Now, here’s where the story comes full circle. My friend knew a lot about harmony, how to hear it and how to put it together, but she wasn’t yet where she wanted to be. She had also taken on many more duties at her church and basically didn’t have as much time to devote to it any more.

So she went to the board and ask them if she could hire someone to come in and teach songs on rehearsal nights. And whom do you suppose she recommended first? I’m going there tonight to conduct a rehearsal; with a strong possibility that I could land the job permanently. See how that works?

You don’t have to seek the spotlight. God will shine it on you. You don’t have to kick down doors. God will open them for you. You don’t have to complain about being denied opportunities. God will give you favor over people you KNOW are more qualified. All you have to do is serve God in this ministry with all your heart and give Him your best. Do it because you love it, and because you love HIM. There is a saying that goes “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Here’s a really good full-circle example of how that can work.

Be encouraged.
Ron

Be Careful What You Preach, Minister Of Music (You’ll Eventually Have To Practice It)!

I got some news just the other day that, in one fell swoop would force me to actually use every piece of advice I had given in any blog about music ministry attitude, mindset and service, dedication, passion….you name it.

It was un-expected. It blindsided me. Overwhelmed my thoughts. And yes, angered me.
At the moment I got the news my mind instantly flashed back to that one I wrote about The 5 second rule of music ministry. Trust me, I needed it right then. I was able to quickly get my emotions and feelings under control so I could discuss the matter calmly with my dear friend and co-laborer in the music ministry for over 30 years now.

As I continued to think about the situation-one that would dramatically change and add to my list of responsibilities in my music department- I started to think about other blogs I’d written about things like serving with gladness, and not allowing your passion for music ministry to wither until you’re serving on auto-pilot.

In short, I just wasn’t feeling this change. But then I realized I’d written a blog about what to do when you’re not feeling it too. Yes, it seemed that for every negative thought I had, God reminded me of a blog where I had already addressed it. And here I was thinking I was writing all this stuff to bless and encourage YOU.

But I’m already doing so much, I thought. We have 4 choirs in rotation, I complained to my friend and minister of music. I have to teach all the songs for all of those groups. Plus my duties as a musician. And now this added to all that. It’s just a lot. “I understand”, she said calmly, as if she hasn’t been dealing with this very thing all her life there as the go-to person for pretty-much everything.

That’s ok though, I told her. We’ll do what we have to do. We’ll make it work. Sunday I woke up and I just felt heavy. Not in the right frame of mind for music ministry. So I stayed home and spent a few extra hours with my boys. I took the time to really think and re-adjust my thinking and attitude (oh yeah, I wrote about that too).

And before thoughts of burn-out and discouragement could creep in, God brought that blog back to me as well. Soon I found myself moving from feelings of frustration and overwhelm to almost excitement.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not happy about this change, how it will affect me or even how it came about. But I’m absolutely pumped and ready to challenge it head on. And do so with all of the enthusiasm I encourage of others.

Yup, in life it’s a good idea to be careful what you “preach”. Because you will certainly get your opportunity to practice it all, soon enough.  :O)

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.