If you’ve read more than a few of my articles you may be starting to figure out that a great deal of what I talk about here isn’t really directly related to skill, technique, lessons, practicing or anything related to them.
In fact even in articles where I do talk about those things there’s an underlying theme or message. The message is one of mindset. Attitude. Changing-or “renewing”, as the bible calls it- the way you think about things.
I think challenging, elevating, overcoming-even arresting- our own thoughts is the single most important thing any of us can seek to master.
Let’s face it, music ministries and those who serve in them are one of the devil’s favorite targets. After all, he wages war against us in our minds. Think of how easily we’re distracted or thrown off by negative emotions and feelings, all born from negative thoughts.
On any given Sunday, right up until the moment we’re about to minister in song, there must be a hundred different thoughts running through our minds that easily distract us and hinder our ability to really focus on the message we’re about to deliver.
That’s all the devil has to do and he’s won. So it really doesn’t matter what it is, and it doesn’t have to be that big of a thing.
It could be the fact that you don’t like the song we’re about to sing. Or something someone said in the hallway on your way in. Or that driver that cut you off. Or something that happened days ago at rehearsal.
Anything can cause you to be standing on that podium or sitting at that instrument with a sour disposition. One that changes your entire mood and keeps you from being emotionally or spiritually available to the Holy Spirit.
Last Sunday my fiance and I had an argument right before I went to church. A couple of more exchanges happened via text in the parking lot. So I’m walking into the church, taking my place at the keyboard and beginning to play with all this heaviness on me. And guess what? In another few minutes I’d have to get up in front of God, every member of the choir and the entire congregation at my back and direct this song feeling like I was feeling.
We all go through it, don’t we? Who knows from one Sunday to the next what it is. Sometimes you’re just frustrated with the whole ministry. I get that too, trust me. But I’ve learned over 30+ years of service in music ministry that if you don’t find some kind of way to deal with those thoughts and emotions, and do it quickly, you could find yourself not only contemplating leaving the music ministry, but leaving the church.
Worse than that though- at least in my opinion- is continuing to come week after week, month after month and year after year, simply doing it all on auto-pilot. Never really feeling anything, never really getting much out of the whole experience.
So in the midst of dealing with all these feelings and more myself, I decided a long time ago to do one thing every time I get up to direct. I decided to make a decision. A decision to praise God in my service. I decided that from now on whenever I get up I’m going to deliberately, right at that moment, make a mental declaration that this is no longer about me, my feelings, my emotions or anything else. It’s about God, and about ministry.
So last Sunday, as I do every time I get up, I made a decision. With 30 faces looking at me with blank expressions, the musicians “not really into it”, nobody really showing any enthusiam, people not clapping…I could go on, but you know, don’t you….I decided to be enthusiastic anyway. I decided to Praise God. I decided to be energetic. Not based on what anyone else was doing or not doing. In fact most Sundays it’s in spite of those things. I decided to put self aside and give God real praise.
And it’s a decision I make every time I get up to direct. I keep talking about directing because that moment when you take your place in front of that choir has to be one of the most challenging and important times to really set your own feelings aside. But it’s just as important whether you’re the director or the 3rd alto from the left. Whether you’re the worship leader or just a team member. The organist or the guy playing triangle.
Every time any of us are about to minister we must make a conscious decision to Praise God and give Him our best effort. To really put self aside and arrest every contrary thought that would be a hindrance to us being completely available to be used by God. Because the fact is, whenever we go to the house of the Lord, what we expect to receive is a direct result of what we decide to do. Praise and worship isn’t something that happens to us, it’s something we do. Deliberately, based on what we want.
William Murphy wrote a song that says “Praise is what I do, when I want to be close to You. I lift my hands in praise
We sing an old song that we’ve been singing for many years called My Gratitude, by Walter Hawkins. The song is about being so grateful to God for all He’s done that you want to give Him your best. The vamp really drives it home, repeating the message “My best, nothing less. Want to give You nothing less. You deserve the very best, Lord. Want to give You nothing less”.
We were going over that song at rehearsal one night and I stopped and said “You know I really want to give Him my best. Every time I get up. That’s not just a song, that’s what I really want, and that’s what I try to do.” Now of course everyone is going amen and getting happy and clapping. And every time we sing this song, for over 20 years now, we get happy. But after we’re done and it goes back into rotation there are many, many Sundays we simply fail to give God our best.
So that’s my challenge to you. That’s the one thing you must do right before every song. Make a decision. Every time you’re about to minister in song, make a decision. One that immediately cancels out every negative thought or emotion that would hinder you from Giving God everything He deserves and getting everything you need from that song. Make a decision based on what you want from God, what you want from that song, what you want from service that day.
If you’re thinking to yourself “That’s unrealistic” or “It’s not that easy”, read 2 Corinthians 10:5 for reassurance that this is something you CAN do. Make a decision to Praise. A decision to Worship. A decision to be enthusiastic. It’s one that nobody else can make for you. Nobody can give you a praise. Nobody can make you excited. Nobody can give you passion or enthusiasm. It’s your choice, and you have the power to make it every time you’re about to minister.