The Ministry of Preparation
Preparation. Every job requires it. Every boss expects it. Most everything in life depends upon it in order for things to run smoothly and properly. How much more should preparation be a part of the regular diet of followers of Christ, especially in terms of our service to a local church? I mean, we’re a part of something with eternal consequences. You wouldn’t show up for a lunch meeting with an important CEO unprepared. Nor should we show up to serve at our local church unprepared. Every weekend we’re waging war with a very real enemy for the souls of men and women who are hanging in the balance—men and women who have come to our church very possibly for the first time, expecting, hoping, longing to experience something genuine, real, authentic, and life-changing. No, perhaps they wouldn’t communicate their need that way (or maybe they would), but that’s really what their soul craves for.
It’s for this very reason that my brother Smooth, often reiterates to his team of volunteers that our goal is to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Because let’s face it: You may only get one shot with someone. Prime example: This Sunday is Easter. For many of those who will step foot in our church buildings, this will be the only time for the rest of the year that they come to church. So, we’ve got one shot. Not to impress. Not to put on a great show. But one shot to help eliminate as many distractions as possible to help point them to a relationship with their Creator God, Jesus Christ.
So, let me make my plea as a worship leader. Dudes and dudets in the praise band, when the weekend rolls around, you need to come as prepared as you possibly can—like you’re about to play for Simon Cowell. Only … you’re playing for Jesus Christ, so maybe even more prepared, eh? Memorize your music. Get it into your soul, so that when you’re on stage, you can let loose and not be bound to a sheet of paper. And let me tell you, as a worship leader, there’s no greater feeling of freedom to be able to lead your people, than when the band behind you is playing their supporting roll in the best possible way they can. The worship leader is then completely freed up to be able to focus on what the Holy Spirit is doing in the hearts of the congregation. On the other hand, when the band comes unprepared, the amount of energy it takes for the worship leader to try to correct mistakes and salvage the pieces is incredibly draining—to the point that the worship leading suffers. And again, we’re trying to eliminate as many distractions as possible for the sake of reaching lost men and women with the Gospel. So, please, don’t bring unnecessary stress on your worship leader by coming unprepared.
Tech crew, know what your cues are. Know when the lights need to dim. Know when the sound is too loud, or too soft, or when a guitar is too shrill. Know when a vocalist needs less cutting through the mix. Know when the camera needs to pan. Know when the stage needs to be well-lit, or less lit, etc. Take some initiative to prepare yourself. Most of the time, it’s the atmosphere itself that can be the defining factor in whether a person returns the next week to hear more of the life-changing Gospel message. Again, it’s not about perfection for the sake of it, it’s about eliminating as many distractions as possible, and creating an environment where the Holy Spirit is welcome and where people can connect with the Living God.
Now, I want to be fair here, but I don’t want to undermine everything I just said. There is a very real temptation to rely so heavily on our human devices, resources, cleverness, and efforts of persuasion that we completely stifle the work of the Holy Spirit among us. That is a fact. We can be so clever with our techniques, that we squash the working of the Holy Spirit. And that is a very real danger. However, there is a danger on both sides. We can also be so “Spirit-led” that we show up not knowing what songs we’re singing or what sermon we’re preaching because “we’re going to let the Spirit lead as He may.” No. That’s just plain laziness and stupidity. In fact, I had a seminary professor (one who was very in touch with the Spirit I might add) who posed a question in class one day. “Can’t the Holy Spirit guide you in your preparation just as much as He can in the moment?” he rhetorically asked. His point was well-received. Preparation is a ministry. Preparation involves hearing from the Spirit throughout the week—for the process of series-planning—for the planning of the worship—for the small group curriculum—for the children’s ministry lessons—etc. … you get the point.
Bottom line? Be in tune with the Spirit in your preparation. And you’ll be surprised at just how freeing it is, and how the distractions that were once present and stifling will begin to be eliminated as we work together as His body.