This past week was one of the wildest worship leading weeks of my life. And through it all, I was reminded of how Jesus-centered worship leading can work in a variety of settings, and for a variety of groups.
In addition to our normal Sunday morning services (both of which are communion services, with band, choir, organ, singers, and 12-14 songs per service on average), and family-style Sunday school in between those services (where we gather our families together for worship/teaching/fun/snacks, and I lead about 10 minutes worth of family-friendly worship), and our Sunday evening service (shorter, more informal, a small/acoustic worship team leading 5-6 songs), there were several extra opportunities last week that stretched me in new ways, and simultaneously wore me out and charged me up.
On Wednesday I led the music for the largest funeral I’ve ever been a part of. A young dad, only 39 years old, succumbed to a three-year battle with cancer, and our church hosted the service for him, since he and his wife had been married here about 15 years earlier. I would estimate between 900-1,000 people crammed into our sanctuary, which is only supposed to seat about 830. The singing was loud, the pain was real, the grief overwhelming, but the gospel was preached and proclaimed. From the pulpit, from the family (including the widow who spoke), from the liturgy, and from the music, Jesus was exalted. Jesus was lifted up as the way to eternal life.
On Thursday morning I was invited to lead worship and speak for a large media company whose offices are just a few blocks from the White House. A gentlemen has been leading a bible study there for 20 years, and invited me to come to the last one he’d be organizing before he moves on. In the room was a mixture of Christians, atheists, secular Jews, and people who just wanted to hear some carols. I brought my church’s drummer with me, and we played through a mixture of Christmas carols, interspersed with some readings from Scripture, and then I shared for about 4-5 minutes about the good news of Jesus that we celebrate this time of year. There was an incredible sense of receptivity and openness in the room. We sang and lifted up Jesus as the Good News, in the middle of a conference room in the nation’s capital.
And then last night my church hosted its third-annual “Carols by Glowstick”. This is one of our big “front porch” (i.e. outreach) events where we invite friends and neighbors to pack the sanctuary (with its windows blacked-out and lights turned down), wave a couple thousand glow sticks around, sing carols, hear a brief gospel message, and then celebrate afterwards with cookies, cider, hot chocolate, fire pits, and more cookies. The place was packed. We had fun: singing fun/silly songs, having a visit from Santa and his dancing reindeer, and being led in Christmas calisthenics by two elves wrapped in Christmas lights. And we heard the best news of all: hearing the Christmas story from Scripture, and also through the classic Christmas carols that proclaim that story so well. We laughed, shouted, waved glow sticks, and celebrated Jesus as the Light of the World.
In just one week, I had the privilege of helping point people to Jesus across a wide spectrum of occasions: from the usual Sunday services, to our Tuesday staff meeting, to an incredibly difficult funeral, to a seeker-filled “bible study” in D.C., to our Friday night Alpha course with many non-Christians present, to “Carols by Glowstick” where we progressed from “Jingle Bells” to “Joy to the World” in less than an hour. Whiplash is one way to put it. Gratefulness is another.
I’m grateful to have a front-row seat to witness the power of the gospel, and the power of gospel-centered music, to bring real joy, real hope, and real cause for singing in a variety of settings, and for a variety of groups. From little kids to older grandparents, from happy newlyweds to grieving widows, from lifelong Christians to hostile atheists: Jesus is the best thing, and the only lasting thing, I can offer them as a worship leader.
There’s still a lot to do between now and the end of December. A lot of services, rehearsals, arranging, planning, sound-checking, and music-making. It’s indeed a wild month. But, praise God, my main job through it all is to say the same thing: “O come, let us adore Him: Christ the Lord”.