Each semester, The Institute for Biblical Worship here at Southern Seminary hosts "Lecture Lunches" for our students. The goal of these lunches is to expose our students to different worship leaders and scholars from all over the country so that they hear and interact with leaders, writers, thinkers and practitioners beyond our own classrooms. This past semester, we asked three young worship leaders who have been serving in churches for just a few years to sit on a panel and share their insights about life in the ministry.
Each of them serve at established churches and they spoke openly and freely about their joys and struggles, the things that have surprised them about the ministry, and the aspects of the ministry they found the most fulfilling.
Toward the end of the panel discussion, our own Dr. Chuck Lewis asked the following question: "Knowing what you know now, if you could go back in time 5 to 8 years, what advice would you give to yourself?" What happened next was amazing to me. None of the three young panelists needed long to think about their answer. In fact, they didn't flinch, and their responses were spoken with such specificity and confidence that the other students in the room literally leaned forward to hear their responses. It was one of those moments that can't be planned, and it would be difficult to replicate.
Find a Mentor
Ron went first: "Find a mentor," he said. "You just don't know how much you don't know, and having a mentor will help you navigate some unsure waters that undoubtedly lie ahead. To this day, I don't know what I would have done without being able to call some very special people and ask them about situations I simply didn't learn how to deal with during my years in school. A mentor is a must."
Matthew then answered this way: "Don't be in a hurry to change things in your church. The church you serve has probably been there a lot longer than you've been alive and she will outlive you. Be patient with change because your relationship with the people you shepherd is much more important than the new songs you want to sing. The people are the ministry...Jesus didn't die for the coolest songs...He died for the people, and they are the ones we have been called to pastor and shepherd."
Make Purity a Priority
And Micah closed the panel with this thought: "There is more at stake than I ever realized in relationship to being a leader and living a pure and holy life. I really wish I would have known how important purity and holiness were then and still are now as I look back on my own life. What I do and how I live now has a huge impact on relationships in the future...with my wife, my son, my extended family, and the people I serve in the church. Holiness really does matter."
Three young men answered the question from very different perspectives and in different ways, but all three answers seemed to be a synthesis of the advice a mentor named Paul gave to his young son-in-the-faith Timothy:
"Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." - 1 Timothy 4:12
Not bad advice...not bad advice at all.
Dr. Crider is the Executive Director of the Institute for Biblical Worship and a professor of Church Music and Worship in the Department of Biblical Worship at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY. He also serves as Worship Pastor at LaGrange Baptist Church in LaGrange, KY.