Tensions in Leadership: Passion and Commitment

Last year, our church expanded our meeting room by eliminating our office space. The expansion meant that the whole room was now off center, so everything had to be moved and/or expanded. Mains, subs, sound booth, stage, backdrops, lights, you name it. Our amp closet was demolished in the expansion, and everything had to be rewired. At first, all this new growth was very exciting and adrenaline was enough. But I was about to hit a solid month of work on evenings and weekends, in addition to my day job and leading worship. We are not a big church, but I did have a very dedicated team to help me with this work. Still, it was unmistakably exhausting. Time on the scissor lift, pulling cables, building new stage sections, hanging lights and screens, etc, takes its toll (have you ever hung an 80” LED TV from a roof truss?). I reached a point where I had no desire to be there at all, but I knew that we were in deep, and needed to finish. I had to push through and give myself permission to take it easy for a while afterward.

One of the tensions that we as ministry leaders must learn to manage is between passion and commitment. One of those is emotional, the other is rational, and we will all naturally lean toward one or the other. But it’s very important to balance your motivations around both of these ideas, because there are times that one will fail you and you’ll need the other to endure a season of ministry.

Passion for Leading Worship

I feel safe saying that most of us are leading worship out of some sense of passion, either for music or for ministry or both. But if passion is all that animates you, then you are leaving yourself open to any number of things out of your control. A fight with my wife (which totally never happens), a church member leaving under bad circumstances, a rough patch at my day job, or just plain fatigue can sap my passion for ministry. So what do I do on Sunday? If leading worship is only an expression of my passion, then on those days it will be an expression of my dismay, and that is simply not how grown-ups do it. On a Sunday that I just don’t feel it, I put on my big-boy pants, remind myself that I have made a commitment to my local church community to take responsibility for its worship culture. I ask my fellow leaders to pray for my heart and my energy level, I listen to the word of God read and preached, and then I respond in worship. Then I go home and take a nap. I used to see such a day as a sign of failure, but now I see it as the commitment doing its job. After all, if every day was rainbows and unicorns, would a formal commitment even be necessary?

Commitment to a Community

Lest I come off like a robot, let me venture to the other side of the spectrum. Leading worship has also been one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. Nobody, least of all we in the bi-vocational world, take up this mantle without being truly sold out to the big idea, the all encompassing vision of an unknowable God making Himself known to us and then reconciling our sin through His own sacrifice. That’s something to sing about. To lead worship without passion as a rule is one of the most tragically joyless things I can think of. In the times that I realize that I am doing my job out of rote or out of pure skill, I must go back to the word and study the God whom I worship. Only then can I truly give God glory in front of my congregation and give them a path to do the same.

Balancing Passion and Commitment

In order to stay balanced between these, I try to let the tension pull me back to the middle, but this requires some time and self-awareness. When the passion is flowing and worship comes easily, I build up my intellectual understanding of what that feels like. When I’m having a hard time getting started, I recall the passion that has been and that will be again. I remind myself that this is a season, and that I have a responsibility to not let my ministry to others rise and fall on fleeting, selfish passions.

Let’s all get past the trap that keeps us looking for the ministry role that never feels like work. It doesn’t exist and the idea is reducing our effectiveness right where we are. Make a firm commitment to a ministry about which you are passionate about, and let those two things take turns helping you along. And take a nap.

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