Leading From Joy

Every person, in any job, no matter what it is, at some point will hit that wall. It’s the wall of routine. You may have started out doing what you do because you LOVE what you do, but somewhere down the road things just began to get stagnant. Whether you’re delivering pizzas or leading worship (yes, I’ve done both), it’s a real thing, and you have to take yourself back to the joy, back to the reason you first began that pursuit. That is how you overcome the wall of routine.

The summer of 2009 was filled with leading worship at summer camps. Every week, a new group of campers would come in. I had the same band for the whole summer; so naturally, we played the same set of 20 or so songs over and over for those 8 weeks. By week three, I had hit autopilot. I could play the lead line to “Salvation is Here” blindfolded, and I don’t even play lead guitar. I wasn’t sure where most of my band was in those worship times, but I was definitely leading out of “leftovers” instead of “fresh manna”. Sometimes it’s just easier to do what you’re comfortable with, knowing that you don’t really have to rehearse but just refresh the song set for the night. Then I discovered a pretty obvious revelation: To the campers that were coming in to the chapel every morning and night, these songs were not getting old. In fact, for most of them, this summer camp was their first glimpse into what musical worship was. It got me thinking about the first worship moments in my life that left an imprint on my young mind. How those early moments in worship filled my heart with the desire and passion to begin a lifelong pursuit of God that was marked by Spirit led worship. It was a quick realization that when we’re leading worship, we should never forget our first joy found in the presence of God.

David writes in Psalm 16:11 – “In your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” With all the various things in life that fill up our plates, we can begin to lose the fullness of joy. In that sense, maybe we begin to operate outside of God’s presence, even as we’re leading worship. It’s in these moments that I thank God that He moves IN SPITE of us and not BECAUSE OF us.

There’s a reason that Matt Redman wrote the line “I’m coming BACK to the heart of worship”. At some point he had strayed from it. Whatever it is in our lives that can distract us from the joy and take worship from supernatural to mundane, we need to recognize and call it out. It’s great to have a spirit of excellence but when you become more concerned with every lead line and drum fill being flawless than with the Holy Spirit transforming lives, then it’s time to reevaluate. Sometimes it takes stripping everything away and just worshiping the Lord and entering into His presence in your basement with an acoustic guitar. Jesus promises that those who seek will find and those who call on His name will be answered (Matt 7).

I think when we get to those points in our worship and even in our walk with the Lord where we’ve become drained, empty, or burnt out, we need to run back to the presence of God. That’s where we find joy, freedom, and everything we need to live this life to the fullest. We often lose joy when we are empty, but when we are filled, we actually have something to pour out. And that’s a heart that God can use. Psalm 16 doesn’t promise a little bit of joy, or just enough joy. It says in His presence is FULLNESS of joy. That’s what we need, just His presence.

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