1 Comment » Written on November 15th, 2013     
Filed under: Guest Post, Leadership, Local Church, Stories, Vocation and Call
norm-abrams-publicityby Chris Willard

I’m a fan of the home improvement show This Old House. On this show is a master carpenter and home improvement guru named Norm Abrams. He can do seemingly anything when it comes to building. If you want to build a house you’d probably want someone like Norm Abram as your go-to guy, the kind of person who would not only know what is needed to build your house, but also have the skills to do most everything himself. I bet he could sit down and draw the plans, order the materials, lay the foundation, frame it up, finish it out and even build the furniture. He is the full package when it comes to home building!

In my mind there exists this mythical, idealized worship ministry leader we’ll call “Worship Norm” who has all the answers, does everything well, and, if necessary, can do them by himself, with a singing voice like liquid gold. Have a song that needs transposing on the fly? Norm can do it.  A team member with a marriage falling apart? Norm can fix it using the marriage enrichment curriculum he wrote. Write a song? No problem, you’ll hear it on the radio next week. Need someone to conduct a choir, lead an orchestra, lead a band, play guitar and sing all at the same time? Norm’s your guy. I’m not that guy! Just thinking about Worship Norm makes me feel very small and unqualified to be leading a worship ministry. Surely we should just look harder and maybe we will find our Worship Norm.

We need someone to make sense of this pile of “raw materials” we use to fashion worship services that engage those who walk through our doors and glorify Jesus. We want an expert who easily navigates assembling sermon ideas, songs, people, scripture passages, equipment, etc. into worship services. When I look at the raw materials and resources from which we build a worship service, I’m probably not the first person I would pick to decide which things are needed and how to assemble them. And although it’s clear to me that inviting other people with expertise into the process is a part of the solution, these people also present a whole other pile of things to sort out: emotions, giftings, preferences, biases, and baggage. Aack! I’m an introvert; inviting messy, inter-personal chaos into the situation isn’t the first place I would go to solve this!

So here I sit, a software architect and project manager by training, plucked out of the ranks of our worship volunteer ministry seven years ago and brought on staff to build a Production Department to fully utilize our brand new, state-of-the-art worship space. Then three years ago, after the departure of my boss, the worship pastor, I was asked to bring leadership to the entire worship ministry. Unskilled? Ill-equipped? Unprepared? You betcha. Being the wrong type of person for the challenge at hand is something I’m pretty used to at this point. I am not an expert, I am not Worship Norm.

Happily it’s turned out not to matter that I’m not the Norm Abrams of worship.  I have had to continually set aside my notions about what a worship ministry is “supposed” to look like and face the reality that our ministry looks different.  Having open hands with respect to what “should be” and how it should come about keeps away the frustration of my ideals not resembling reality. God’s plan for doing this worship thing here has turned out to look different from my or anyone else’s plan. An expert hasn’t shown up on our doorstep to be our Norm Abrams, so we have to work hard as a team to get things done wisely and effectively. The beauty of the limitation we have is that God has shown up in amazing ways and raised up everything we need to do what he is calling us to. He puts things together and gives us what we need through gifts he has given his people in a wonderful picture of the Body of Christ. When I rest in the knowledge that God not only calls us but also provides for the things he calls us to, I stop looking for things I don’t have and become open to both God’s timing and unexpected methods of provision. God’s plan is better than a Norm any day.

Chris Willard serves as Worship Director at Crossview Covenant Church of North Mankato MN.

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One Response to “Unqualified”

I completely resonate with this. I spent my first five years as a worship leader waiting for Worship Norm to show up (except I didn’t know his name until now…maybe that would have helped!). Finally admitting that Norm wasn’t coming and truly stepping into my calling was one of the scariest things I’ve done. Actually it still scares me if I think about it too much. But God has indeed be faithful. And I’ve come to see this thing that he’s asked me to do as one of his biggest gifts to me. It reminds me of my need for him every single day.

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