Up until a few years ago, I was known primarily as a worship leader. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s someone that “directs” the musical worship portion of a church service. I wrote songs a bunch of people sang, recorded some albums, traveled overseas … I can’t stress how big a part of my life leading worship was.
“Do you ever miss leading worship?”
Earlier this week my wife and I were in Central Park to do a shoot with a photographer, Nick Dantonio. (By the way, Nick is brilliant. If you live in the Northeast and need a wedding / engagement / family photographer, hire him!)
Nick and I knew of each other during my worship days and he asked, “Do you ever miss leading worship?” I was a bit taken aback … not because the question was inappropriate (it wasn’t). It just stirred up this weird mixture of emotions and memories because it’s been a few years since I led worship regularly.
After thinking about it a bit, I answered along the lines of, “No, not really. Maybe a little from time-to-time, but it wasn’t something I held tightly to begin with. I tried not to find my identity in it.”
Have you ever had to let go of what defined you?
I stopped leading worship regularly in 2012. Though I held it loosely, letting go was still hard. After all, leading worship was my comfort zone … I had been doing it since I was 16. I held a full-time job as the worship pastor at a church. I had public affirmation. I could have made a long-term career of it, or at least leveraged my body of work to launch into another role.
But leading worship was also easy to let go of … all because of one short meeting. Strangely enough, that meeting happened when I was at the “top of my game.”
The day I realized I didn’t want to be a worship leader.
Father’s Day, 2009: I was in Colorado Springs sitting in the office of Pastor Ross Parsley. Ross was one of America’s most influential worship pastors at the time … his team had best-selling albums to their credit. He raised a small army of powerful leaders, launched a worship school, and held a conference that drew thousands of people each year.
I long admired Ross because of his wide range of skills. He was more than a worship leader — he was an organizational leader, speaker, mentor, and teacher. I wanted to emulate the same kind of versatility. I contacted him out of the blue, and he was kind enough to meet me 1-on-1. I flew to Colorado just to pick his brain for an hour. I still remember almost everything he said … it was totally transformational.
But that was also the day I realized I didn’t want to be a worship leader for the rest of my life. See, Ross was the epitome of someone at the “top of the mountain.” Heck, his office windows provided an unobstructed panorama of the Rocky Mountains. How can you beat that?
Meeting Ross gave me a picture of potential success in the worship ministry world. After our talk, I remember sitting in my hotel and thinking to myself, “Let’s say all went right and you had the kind of stature and success Ross does … would this be the kind of life you want?”
And at 29 years old, while I was recording albums, traveling all over the world, and working full-time as a worship pastor, my answer was “No.”
“I don’t know what I want to do, but this isn’t it.”
It’s scary to realize that what defines you today may not define your tomorrow. I didn’t know what to tell my wife after this little revelation. I didn’t know how I would pay the bills. I didn’t have answers. The best way I could frame my feelings was by telling her, “I don’t know what I want to do … I just know that what I’m doing now isn’t it.”
I held my worship position for two more years. In that time I continued to see opportunities and influence grow. Go figure … the less I held onto it, the more it expanded. The success was tempting! Maybe I just needed to ride it out, re-discover my passion for worship, and get a second wind. Sounds logical, right?
But I stuck with my gut and tried to grasp what the next season might hold. I didn’t have answers, but you can bet I looked for ’em. I read a lot of books. I took my personal development to the next level. Most importantly, I learned to build up courage, faith, and moxie.
Back in the saddle … just this once.
So here I am today, holding a comfy corporate job that I’m already thinking of leaving (I want to be my own boss). The good news is that I’m at least in an industry I love: marketing. I’m starting to see trickles of success here in the same way I saw it as a worship leader. My prior ministry experience has actually helped me bring marketing value to churches and nonprofits because I understand them.
Despite all that, I recently dusted off my guitar, prepped my gear box, and packed my bags to lead worship “on the road” for the first time in almost two years. I was honored to be invited by a mentor, Eric Peoples, to lead worship at the first “beta” service for his new church plant in Connecticut, Legacy Church (pic above). My voice was so weak it was crazy, but we survived.
What does your future hold?
I don’t know what the future holds for me … you probably feel the same way about your own life. But I hope some of my journey will encourage you with these simple considerations:
- Letting go of something that defines you isn’t the end of the world.
- If you’re not sure of what your next step should be … that’s normal.
- You can’t control what’s ahead, but you can control what you do to prepare now.
When you’re tempted to go back to what’s comfortable, linger just a bit longer outside your comfort zone. Give time for new seeds to germinate. You are amazing … you just have to remind yourself of that, even when the “rational” voices tell you to go back to what’s safe.
People have encouraged me to get back into leading worship, but I’m still apt to hold it loosely. I miss leading worship a little more than I did when I started writing this post, but I relish the unknown more.
Step out and stay there a bit longer … maybe you’ll get a bit more comfortable with being uncomfortable, too.
Question: What is one struggle you’re facing right now in going through a life transition?