Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg
I can't remember if I've ever shared this before on Xpiritmental, so I'd better start today's post by explaining that I'm one of five band leaders involved in leading worship at my church. As a result, it falls to me to spend time picking sets of music that will set up the sermon and allow the congregation to respond to it through music.
I had the opportunity to lead this past weekend in church and had a really cool experience that I'd like to share with you all that really applies to what we so often talk about on this blog. To give it some context though, I'll have to let you in on some of the details of the process I take in leading worship.
The process starts about three weeks out from the actual Sunday I'm leading. The very first step is to find out who is speaking, what the topic is and get the sermon notes into my hands to help with song selection. Most often, detailed sermon notes aren't floating around for a sermon that's three weeks out, but highlight notes of the main points, Scripture references and takeaways often are. This past time though, no such notes existed and so I had a chat with our pastor and got a great idea for the direction of the set from him.
So off to work I went. Between picking a list of songs that could work for that Sunday, narrowing them down into a set that had a specific musical and lyrical flow, meeting with a friend to work out keys and maps, providing the team with the maps, charts and inspiration and then rehearsal the night before, I had easily invested 20 hours of prep before even showing up at the church for 6:30 AM last Sunday morning for rehearsal and service run-through.
That's a lot of work and planning to go into a 75-minute experience of corporate worship for a given member of our congregation...and no doubt, there's some of you asking the question: “is it necessary?”.
My simple answer to that would be: yep...and here's why: preparation leads to excellence and I believe that we are called to do all that we do to the best of our ability, for God's glory. The really cool thing though, is that time-after-time, despite all of the preparation put forward by myself and all the members of the band for a given weekend, there always seems to be a gap or two that I tend to find out after the fact that God has plans to fill.
Kinda like this:
This past weekend, as I sat in the first of two services we have in our church, and listened to our pastor preach, he ended up reading a verse that was the direct inspiration for one of the songs that we had just finished singing. Bear in mind, as I outlined above, when I selected the set and narrowed it down from about 35 potentials to the 6 songs we sang, I did not have any of the supporting Scriptures that my pastor was going to use. I was so struck at that moment with how God had directed the set selection that I turned to my friend who was in the band and said: “Can you believe that? Of all the songs I could have picked and of all the verses that our pastor could have referenced, we landed on the exact same thing.” But it's clear to me, that it wasn't “us landing on it” at all...
And then, after the service, I was speaking with our pastor and he expressed how a quote that I had read to set up the final two songs before the sermon was one that he had considered adding into his sermon but had cut for the sake of time. The really cool part of that being, that I went home after rehearsal on Saturday night, still not knowing how I would set those two songs up. I even got to the point of getting into bed thinking I'd have to think something up in the morning. But before I shut off the light, I opened a book I'd been reading off-and-on for a while but hadn't touched for 3 weeks: and as I turned the first page, that quote was right there and as soon as I read it, I knew that it was the perfect set up for the songs before the sermon. I had no idea my pastor even knew of that quote, let alone had considered using it in his sermon.
And I believe that these kinds of things are the ways in which God honors our preparation. But it's a two-fold blessing. It's not just a matter of: “if I do the work, God will do His thing” (as if it's dependant on me and my work). Nope.
Rather, while I do believe that God honors our hard work and effort to give Him our best, the biggest blessing is the comfort that His blessing brings. Because, no matter how hard I work and how many hours I put into a worship set, I know that He is going to see His name glorified and will accomplish His purposes in the experience.
And I see that same principal applying in the work that you all do. As you work to fulfill the calling that God has given you, you are called to do so to the best of your ability, not accepting mediocrity because our God deserves our very best. But at the same time, be comforted in the knowledge that because of, and even at times in spite of all your hard work, God will see His plans come to fruition.
That's not an excuse not to try, but as a fallible human trying to lead and serve others, it's sure a comforting truth.