Are You Amazed Anymore?

A few nights ago our 15 month old daughter, Megan, started walking on her own. She had taken one or two independent steps before, but finally, one evening after dinner, she decided she was quite comfortable walking around our entire living room.

We were amazed. We applauded her, swooped her up and hugged her, took pictures and video, Skyped with her grandparents in California so they could see it, and delayed her bed time by quite a bit just so we could keep watching her walk.

Several days have passed and she’s still walking – but I’m not amazed anymore.

What would have been unheard of just a week ago – Megan walking around the living room – is now normal to me. I check email and read the news while she toddles around without any applause or swooping or filming or Skyping.

It’s easy for us to lose our amazement, isn’t it?

When I first came to my church 6 1/2 years ago, they were still relatively new to the use of contemporary music in congregational worship. I was young and immature, but eager and excited, and was quickly overwhelmed by how far the congregation had to go (and, whether I realized it or not, how far I had to go too).

Over the course of time, God, by his grace, has moved us ahead. Is there still room for growth? Oh yes. Have we made any progress? You would be amazed.

But I’m not amazed anymore. And I should be.

What would have been unheard of just 6 1/2 years ago is now normal to me. I would have never been able to introduce an upbeat celebratory song. The band couldn’t have played it and the congregation would have been shocked. I certainly wouldn’t have heard any clapping or seen any physical expressiveness. Our repertoire was shallow. Our equipment was terrible. Our rehearsals were ineffective.  These are just a few examples off the top of my head. I could probably think of hundreds more.

God has faithfully helped us grow. He has answered prayer after prayer and allowed us to express our worship to him and encounter him in a level of freedom that we weren’t experiencing just a short time ago. He has done it. And I should be amazed.

The people of God have a long and sad history of forgetting his “wondrous works” (Psalm 105:5) and selfishly demanding more without remembering what he’s already done. We’re all guilty of this. But oh how much more satisfied and joyful we’d be if we opened our eyes to the miracles he’s done right in front of us.

What “wondrous works” has God done in your midst, in your congregation, in your own life and ministry, and in your worship team? More than you remember and probably more than you realize. What “unheard of” things are now normal?

There will always be room to grow. But there will always be a reason to be amazed.

I want to be a father – and a worship leader – who never ceases to be amazed by baby steps. How about you?

The Sister Act Syndrome

In 1992, the movie Sister Act was released and became an instant hit. Whoopi Goldberg plays a lounge singer in Reno, Nevada who one evening witnesses her mobster boyfriend murder a Limo driver. She agrees to testify against him, but is placed in protective custody in a convent with a really lousy choir and attached to a really lousy church.

In a matter of months, but more like two hours for those of us watching the movie, she’s transformed the choir, and leads them in singing to a packed church, including the Pope himself! And he even claps!

We love movies like this. We love stories like this. In real life we know that this scenario is completely ludicrous, but it’s nice to have a two-hour respite from reality.

Even though we might know in our heads that it’s impossible to see this kind and this amount of change happen in such a short period of time – whether we’d admit it or not, we still expect to see it in ministry. If Whoopi could do it, then so can we! Right?

This is what I call the Sister Act Syndrome. You look at your worship team, or your congregation, or your pastor, and you see so much change that needs to take place. And you want it all to happen all at once. And you want to be the person to make it happen. Sure, it’s ludicrous. But that’s in every other church! Not yours… This is what’s happening in our minds as we ignore the reality of life and ministry.

Some churches are like canoes. The good thing about canoes is that you can change their direction pretty quickly. The bad thing about them is that they’re pretty easy to flip over and capsize.

Most churches are like aircraft carriers. The good thing about aircraft carriers is that they’re sturdy, have a good amount of activity and life on them, and won’t flip or capsize easily. The bad thing about them is that it takes a lot of time to change their direction.

I’m convinced that far too many worship leaders suffer from the Sister Act Syndrome. They expect to see a lot of change happen really quickly. Then it doesn’t. Then they go to another church. Repeat process.

Your church – and the Church – needs more worship leaders who are patient. Who learn to love their pastor, their congregation, and their worship team, and instead of expecting to see radical change overnight, understand that it’s going to be more like over a decade.

There are a lot of difficult things about waiting this long to see change happen. But there are many good things. One good thing that comes out of waiting is that you’ll come to see that there’s just as much inside of you that needs to change. It’s easy to come into a church and crack the whip and boss people around and demand that everything goes your way. It’s hard to commit yourself to a community and serve them to see God’s purposes work out in his time.

There are times for quick decision making and vision casting and direction changing. But most of the time, 99% of the time, what’s required of us is to do our job faithfully, in the Spirit’s power, and let him move the aircraft carrier however he wants. If he wants to bring a tremendous wave that will re-point it in a matter of minutes, then he can. Maybe he will. But most often it takes a bit longer. It doesn’t make for good movies, but it does make for healthy churches.