The Fine Line Between Faithful and Fraudulent

4 comments Written on October 19th, 2013     
Filed under: Leadership, Vocation and Call
Today’s post is written by Matt Nightingale, Pastor of Worship at Redwood Covenant Church in Santa Rosa, CA.

worshipSeveral weeks ago, I was leading worship at RCC. I was playing piano with the band and singing a duet with a woman from my worship team. The song is intense… It’s called “Wake Up,” by All Sons and Daughters, and it builds from nearly a whisper to a huge chorus… “Wake up, wake up, wake up, all you sleepers… Stand up, oh stand up, stand up, all you dreamers… Hands up, hands up, oh hands up, all believers…”

I was concentrating on the piano part and singing well. I love the song, and I wanted to do it justice. I wanted it to sound awesome. But if I’m honest, I wasn’t really worshipping God. Not consciously, at least. Sure, I was worshipping with my life… doing my job… leading the people God has called me to lead… But I wasn’t even really conscious of God’s presence with me and my connection to Him.

Until someone stood up. Up till that moment, everyone had been sitting down in the dark while we sang to them. But then, on the bridge (“Here we stand, our hearts are Yours. Not our will, but Yours be done.”), someone stood up. And then another. And then another. And then everyone was on their feet, and hands and voices were raised, and it was a beautiful moment. And I realized in that moment that I had been going through the motions. That I was doing my job, sure, but not consciously connecting with the God who called me to this job. And I was grateful, again, that “the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going” (John 3:8). The Spirit will move, with or without my help. I was humbled and I was moved. And I felt God’s presence. And it was good.

But looking back on that moment, I wonder if I was doing anything wrong. Sometimes I think the line between faithfulness (doing my job, leading the congregation, playing and singing well – even when I don’t “feel it”) and fraudulent (relying on my talents and experience rather than the Holy Spirit’s present guidance and power) is awfully fine. When have I crossed that line? There are days when I don’t feel what I hope the people of RCC are feeling, but I still show up and lead, hopefully well. Am I simply being faithful despite my feelings or am I being fraudulent?

I know you’ve experienced these feelings too, worship leaders. What are your thoughts? How do you guard against fraudulence? How do you remain faithful when you don’t “feel it”?

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4 comments “The Fine Line Between Faithful and Fraudulent”

Matt, thank you! You’ve hit upon something in a way I have -very- rarely heard anyone discuss re. worship in the context of worship leading. Here is my nickel on it: pentecostals and charismatics along with others in the larger church often focus on what is often called “manifest presence”, that sense of endorphins/God the Holy Spirit moving within/among/upon them as individuals and as a gathered people. Same goes for worship leaders and team-members. While I cannot recall contextual comment on the norm of such in the Bible as one leads or is otherwise worshiping I happen to experience such transcendence often. Frankly, it may be we can fall into worshiping that experience/feeling and not God Himself… and that’s a deeper well. But when I don’t sense His presence, I’m still worshiping in terms of focus. My deep love for my wife happens as I take out our garbage, not only when I feel that rush of romance and intense connectivity with her. “Presence” -is-. “I AM”, and “I am with you ALWAYS” and “Where shall I flee from Your presence??” and “Immanuel”… God WITH us -all come to mind. I think the core issue you’re getting at is focus -thoughts and intent of the heart. Now, part of this is rather practical and technical (one must consider if we are in tune, the tempo, am I hearing a short in the cable, are we phrasing these lyrics together or?) and there is no sin in this for some 7 times the term “excellent” and like-words is used in the Old Testament regarding music and musical offerings. I think it’s another one of those “both/and” things. And sometimes it’s about rehearsing enough one doesn’t have to think so much as do. Lastly it’s likely about the ability to multi-process or not 🙂 Doing anything “by rote” is of course, a heart matter we must take care to consider. That you took personal inventory in the moment reveals a heart after God in itself. Thanks my bro.! -Glenn

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Well, but I also think we have to remember we’re still one of the company of worshippers, and we help each other, which means often we need others to help us.Maybe we even need them more, because we’re so distracted by what were doing. I think it’s just fine if the heartfelt worship of others jolts us into a wider view of what we’re doing, just as what we do helps others to turn from whatever is distracting them toward God.

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Part of the issue is the difficulty we have as artists, in removing the artist / leader / evaluator cap, and putting on the worshiper cap. And this can be an issue even if someone else is on the platform this week and I am in the congregation.

Part of the issue is the matter of obedience and service – doing what I was called here to do.

And part of the issue is questioning whether feeling/emotion or thought/planning is in the driver’s seat. Don’t let it be lost on you that Jeremiah, in Lamentations 3, is in the world of feelings – and where has it led him? to despair and hopelessness – until he gets to verse 21: “Yet this I call to *mind* and therefore I have hope…” How we are *feeling* as we participate in worship (as leader or congregant) is far less important than what we are *calling to our minds* – the foundational truths and even more, the foundational *person* in whom we place our trust. Sincere service to Him is never wasted, whether accompanied by “holy feelings” or not.

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you know, i really respect matt for even the awareness of this battle. but–as a lover of and supporter (ok, maybe “cheerleader” is a better term!) of worship leaders, i often think the expectation of worship leaders to be “in worship” while they lead is not necessarily appropriate. most worship leaders work hard to hear the Spirit’s leading as they prepare and practice and collaborate with other leaders in prepping the service. Most of the ones I know pray over their choices, their practice, both personal and communal, and their planning. paying attention to your work, doing the best you can in the moment to be faithful to that preparation seems to me a great way–an honorable way–of serving God. why do we expect and sometimes require that worship leaders are also deeply worshipping while they’re trying to do all the rest required of them in the moment? i don’t think it’s always possible. i think the moments such as the one that Matt wrote about are gifts from God, and to be treasured as such. but i don’t believe that the times of just “doing the work” is fraudulent. sometimes it’s all we’ve got, and to keep going is the act of faith that God honors and inhabits.

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