Community is a big word right now. Supposedly it’s the fresh new thing in churches as people long not to observe, but to participate; not to simply attend but to truly belong. We all know that this is in reality nothing new. It began long ago in Creation, when God the Father said “Let us make people in our image to be like ourselves.” (Genesis 1:26 NLT)
Community is not an invention of man but rather a concept invented and modeled by The Trinity. As an artist, I find it interesting that God said “Let us make”. Many artists work alone….they create alone….they labor alone…..and yes, they may feel alone. But for us who are artists that serve the church, much of our creative efforts can be wonderfully collaborative, which has the potential to reap great benefits both for us and our churches. Happily, most of us are fortunate enough to work with teams that plan services, bring songs to life and lead our congregations into worship together.
Together is a powerful word don’t you think? When I hear that word it makes me feel happy. I love that I don’t work alone, but together, with a team. No matter the circumstances, I find it much more fulfilling to plan, create, rehearse and lead worship with my team than to do those same things by myself. While I am certainly able to do a lot of these things, it is a much more profoundly enjoyable experience to learn from one another, to have all of us bring something of beauty to the family meal of worship each weekend, and together to share that with our church family. I love the satisfaction of creating in community! I would go so far as to argue that we follow the model of the Trinity when we create together. Creation in community is a deeply spiritual act for us worship artists as it touches on our own connection with God as creators designed in His image. But our communion in worship is not only with God, it is also with one another as we sing and play. When we create and worship in community, it touches a chord within our hearts as we meet one of the deepest needs of the human heart – to know and be known. It gives us that relationship with others we so desperately need. In the Creation account, God also said “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:28 NLT) It’s obvious that it was God’s intent that we not “do” life alone. In fact, I believe it is God’s design for us to enrich one another, ultimately bringing joy and color to all of our lives as we both give and receive understanding and love as well as talents and abilities. Our worship teams are not filled with people who act as fellow musicians and vocalists only, our teams are filled with people are also our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who can become friends deeply committed to one another and to the holy purpose of helping others encounter the Living God.
There is another element to creating in community. As we join our voices, our instruments, our abilities and talents, as well as our hearts together and worship with one voice, we create a beautiful sound and sight that would be impossible to create on our own. When we create and lead together we celebrate the fullness of God’s own creative efforts showcased in mankind as multiple talents are displayed, a variety of experiences are shared, and we each bring our own unique “voice” to the gathering of worship. Just as each of our voices and instruments bring a different tone and dynamic, so do our lives and personalities. Our congregations are served more lovingly as we bring an offering that is richer than what we could create or implement alone. We each bring a gift – some sing, some plan, some play an instrument or run a sound board, some direct, some pray in intercession, some bring humor, and others bring thoughtful contemplation, some bring attention to the nitty gritty details and others bring the grace of joy and laughter. Together we create something more joyously and authentically worshipful than we ever would be able to do alone. And I am thoroughly convinced that God is honored.
I believe He smiles when He sees us leading worship together. Perhaps you are thinking: “Of course we lead worship together – we need a band and vocalists to lead worship.” I urge you to think much deeper than that, to the heart of the musicians and technicians you work with. Are you simply standing on the same stage together singing the same song or are you truly leading worship together? There is a very profound difference. One is easy and the other requires much more effort, especially of the leader. While I know you all have so much to do already, I urge you to seek out the best gifts your team has to offer, to learn their strengths and passions, to allow them to help you, to learn from them, to give them a chance to let their light and life shine. We will all benefit.
It doesn’t stop there. Creating in community goes beyond allowing others to use their abilities and heart for ministry. Creating in community requires that we first of all create community and invest in it and protect it at all costs. It must become a core value of our ministry team. Community, as I’m sure all of you have learned, is fragile. Trust and patience are required, as are huge doses of time and love and commitment. It doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen easily. It can also be easily destroyed and requires tender care. It requires that the leader put forth a huge initial effort and intentionally lead their team in this direction, all the while modeling it with their life. Perhaps most of all it requires priority – in rehearsals, in communication, and in how we choose to live life together as a team.
If we want to follow God’s model for community we must do more than simply show up and sing and play together. We must create together, learn together, and be committed to one another in loving relationship. Then we will lead in more than one way as we model worship, relationship, humility and service – together.