I felt a familiar stiffness in my face while I led worship. My facial muscles ached from trying to keep joy on my face with knots in my stomach. A number of folks showed their ongoing displeasure with new worship songs by folding their arms, shaking their heads and glaring at the worship team. Sometimes they’d even sit down, read a bulletin or ignore us altogether. Sometimes very unhappy people verbally assaulted us after the service, in loud volume.
On the platform, we musicians worked to return smiles and joy for frowns and glares. We selected music prayerfully, thoughtfully. Nevertheless, some members refused to sing anything written after 1950. I continued to cast vision and pour out encouragement to our creative arts department. Sometimes, though, depending on how many conflicts crossed my path earlier that week, I felt terribly disheartened worship services also.
In my conversations with dozens of music ministers or creative arts pastors, I’ve learned that the scenes like the one above continue to happen weekly in churches across our nation. Maybe in your church it’s a rejection of music written after the 1990’s or a displeasure with the types of instruments your using. Perhaps they don’t like the choir numbers you’re selecting or the fact that you don’t use a choir anymore. Music and emotion are so intertwined it’s not surprising that passions can run high when people feel like you’re messin’ with their tunes.
Conflict and criticism can create black nights of the soul where you question your calling and gifts. Look up! Like the stars in the heavens, God’s mercies can be seen best in darkness.
For a long time, my worship team endured worship services more than enjoyed them. I believe God allowed us to remain in the fire for awhile so He could accomplish His purposes in us. Here’s some things we learned during our time on that particular battlefield which can apply to ANY ministry.
Flesh fails. Only God’s strength kept smiles on our faces, songs on our lips and ongoing forgiveness in our hearts.
Conflict reveals motives. We were forced to shed insecurities that desired EVERYONE’S approval. We hunkered down under the armor of our senior pastor and board’s approval of our musical choices and then learned to sing for an audience of One.
Battlefields create bonds. We formed deep, agape friendships, binding one another’s wounds and covering each other’s backs.
Iron is forged in heat. We learned to remain steady and calm returning gentle words for hot, angry ones.
We love the starry nights of the physical world. Beauty splashed across the deep blue heavens inspires songs, poetry and paintings. As believers we need to be just as moved by the brightness of God’s character and activity during our spiritual midnights.
Throughout His word, glowing stars of comfort, hope and promise are everywhere to be found. How would we ever understand the profound beauty of passages like Psalm 23 if we never walk through the shadows of sorrow? Can we truly appreciate God’s assurance we will not drown in Isaiah 43:2 if we’ve never floundered in a sea of trouble? Let me close with some of my favorite Scripture “stars,” to encourage you.
Psalm 139:12 “Even the darkness will not be dark to you, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.