I believe that we as worship leaders, want to move our people forward. Leadership by definition requires that we lead. If we are not moving people, we are not leading. However, I feel that most leaders have a vision of where to go but often times fail to realize where the people they lead are right now. It is my contention that in order to lead people we must not only know where we are going, but where they are starting. In order to do this we have to meet them where they are.
What does this require? It requires spending time with people and learning some history of the church. This takes time. As leaders, we tend to be impatient in this area. When we have a God given vision of where the church should be our leadership gift takes over and we run toward that end. Many times we do this at the detriment of our people. How many times have we heard “that new pastor came in and changed everything overnight” or “that worship guy has no clue what we are about, he just wants to change things”? Perhaps there are strange traditions that need to be removed. But, would we be better served to analyze and find out the history behind these traditions before removing them? Granted, some traditions have no biblical or historical root. However, some have deeply rooted biblical and/or historical roots with our people.
One example of an irrelevant tradition is the young housewife who cut the end off of the ham before cooking. Her husband asked her why she did this and she replied, “I don’t know, my mother always did it.” Not being one to let things rest, the young husband asked his mother-in-law why she cut the end off the ham prior to cooking. Her reply was, “I don’t know, that’s just what my mother did.” Finally, the husband asked his new wife’s grandmother the same question. Her reply? “When we were first married the only pan I had was a hand-me-down. This pan was not nearly large enough to cook a whole ham, so in order to cook the ham I had to cut off the end.” This is a great example of traditions that take hold and continue through generations. While this tradition was no longer relevant, the young husband took time to find out the reasoning behind it and was able to add logic to a long held custom.
Meeting people where they are is very important. When our church was on a mission trip to Brazil, we were dispersing from a church dedication when one of the Brazilian ladies stopped me. Through an interpreter, she thanked me and our American worship team for learning the worship songs in Portuguese. She along with others was truly humbled that we would care enough about them to learn songs in their language. Simply by learning a few songs in Portuguese, we were able to meet these people where they were and then share the Gospel with them.
What are some ways we can lead forward by going back? Here are a few suggestions:
- Remember the patience Christ has shown you. 1 Timothy 1:16 reads, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” What an incredible reminder of Christ’s work in us!
- Find out where your people are and have been. As stated previously in this post, it’s difficult to lead when there is no concept of the present or the past.
- Transition slowly. Once the research is completed, don’t rush ahead to change everything tomorrow. Those of us who are in leadership roles want to run forward and complete everything NOW! I must remind myself that good leadership takes time and patience (something I lack).
- Keep familiar elements. While transitioning, keep some familiar elements that people recognize. There is comfort in familiarity and a few elements retained will give your leadership much more credibility when other things begin to change.
- Rejoice in “wins.” Be sure to celebrate those things that are new and are producing fruit. People need “wins” and celebrating together will also give credibility to the changes that were made.
Ronnie Reid has been leading corporate worship for over 20 years and has a passion for assisting churches to transition into an intergenerational worship style. He holds a bachelors degree in music, a M.Div. with an emphasis on worship and a Doctor of Ministry in Worship Studies. A certified Mac nerd, Ronnie lives with his wife and two children in an Atlanta suburb where he serves as the Worship Pastor at Fayetteville First Baptist and blogs at www.ConvergingWorship.org.