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Worshiping through Discouragement: a discussion

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  • Worshiping through Discouragement: a discussion

    I'm sure all of us have been there - if not yet, I trust you will be. You're a 'worship leader', and as a 'leader' there is a certain degree of pressure on you to 'lead by example' because, face it - people tend not to follow us to where we've never been. What does a worship leader do, however, in the face of great personal tragedy (i.e. - the death of a loved one), or maybe not any one huge event, but the overwhelming nature of innumerable personal disappointments that build up to where one questions the goodness of God, not 'doctrinally', but in their heart? More...Or, even in the case of - as I have somewhat regularly, working two very different jobs - when you have a really rough day at work, and then suddenly have to 'shift gears' and lead a team, and then a whole room full of people, in 'corporate worship'. How do you deal with such situations? How do you - as a worship leader - cope under such circumstances? What have you found helpful?

    I know I'm not the only one who's ever dealt with this, so I suspect this conversation can be helpful for a good many of us.

    I appreciate your input - check out the responses that have already been given over at my personal blog, and chime in here or there...

  • #2

    1st I spend some time in prayer (myself and with others) and then you just be honest. I don't think you have to be all bubbly and excitable and happy when your in the midst of a personal tragedy or just having a really rough day.
    To me, the really rough day part usually gets better at a practice or Sunday morning b/c all of a sudden I'm not about to do something I absolutely love and have fun with and something that brings about significance in my life and quite simply glorifying God through music brings me joy, so that helps turn around the mediocre moods.

    REALLY rough days, like after the Virginia Tech shooting, death in the family, things that shake you to the core, I think your honest about them. It was a cool God moment when I had a weekend like that and before that we had already chosen to sing "It Is Well With My Soul." Then that week I found the story behind it and it brought tremendous hope and a calming to my disgruntledness. When Sunday came around I shared the story & the meaning of the song with the congregation before we sung it.

    That's why I love the lyrics in "Blessed Be Your Name" that say "You give and take away but my heart will choose to say 'Lord blessed be Your name.'" That's a really powerful line that we sometimes simply sing through. I think we can praise God even when we don't feel happy happy joy joy


    • #3
      I remember a time a couple years ago, when I felt like God was calling me to take new steps out in the area of corporate worship, that it seemed like everything came crashing down all at once. I went to this school of worship in Redding, CA and right in the middle of school my dad had a massive heart attack and almost died. I barely made it through the rest of the school between visits to the hospital and classes... I then had to take care of him and the whole family for almost a year. It was without a doubt a very trying time and one in which I questioned both the goodness of God both internally and doctrinally a few times! But you know what? I've never grown so much as I did then. The songs I wrote during that time have become staples in my everyday walk and ones that speak deeply of God's goodness; because I did discover that He truly is good!

      I think suffering, even though it's never fun and always hard, brings out the best in us. If we could just understand that during the suffering!

      I like what worshipcity said about being honest... too often we are tempted to be "professional Christians" and ignore the fact that we have feelings too. One of the best times of worship I've ever had the privilege of leading was right after one of the worst days of my life and trust me, I was in no mood to be all smiley and happy!


      • #4
        I like to take a trip down Psalms lane whenever I'm feeling discouraged. It's good to know that even a "man after God's own heart" struggled with discouragement, yet still praised the One who was, is and will be worthy of praise.
        Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church .He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community.


        • #5
          Personal worship bails me out every time.

          Here's a unique situation/blend of personalities which I deal with within me that tend to send me over the edge regularly. I am both the Worship Leader in my church and a full time Sheriff Deputy. As a result of the latter capacity, I can show up a our practices with a bit of a chip on my shoulder from time to time. At other times, I have experienced tragic events such as fatal accidents and made death notifications to loved ones. All while working in a small mountain town where friendships run deep within the community.

          What I have found is that through personal worship, (and by that I mean meeting with the worship team members, having prayer and just playing and singing a few songs just for us), God ALLWAYS!!! takes me to a place where I am ready for his service.

          It has been after some of my most stressed and doubting times that I have emerged from both the service as well as practice feeling truly drunk with the Holy Sprit.

          God bless all, Peace and I hope this may provide for someone.



          • #6
            worshipping in the pit

            I remember 11 years ago as a pretty new worship leader, my husband and I had a miscarriage. Our marriage suffered in sorrow and discouragement for almost a year! It's a long story, so I'll just tell you that God was silent for a time and I was angry at Him and quite confused as to what our next step was to be. And here I was, leading worship through this! All I can say is that there was one Sunday as I was singing (I don't remember the song) I felt like I was at the bottom of a pit. It was dark and I was alone (feeling this, mind you, while in front of the body singing!) when the Lord placed on me the realization that in the dark pit of loneliness and despair, HE is there. I couldn't help but cry and worship Him, and thank Him for being with me. Psalm 139:11 & 12 says, 'If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.' Real life, real stuff, Real God.


            • #7
              The medieval theologian/mystics called these times the "dark night of the soul." Luther used a German phrase which communicated the idea of "coming to the end of yourself."

              Of course, when you come to the end of yourself and finally admit to God, "I can't do it" -- you've come to the place that He wants you to be. That is, you've become dependent upon Him.

              For some individuals this goes on for months or years, as it has in the case of myself and several of my pastoral friends. For me, I found the greatest comfort from the story of Job. In the midst of his personal tragedy he argued with his friends, defended himself -- and then argued with God!! Interestingly, Job's restoration was not immediate, but took a long time. At a minimum he had to heal from his physical distress, then his wife had to get pregnant, then 9 months -- and finally he began to see his family grow again. Same thing for his livestock, friendships, and finances!!

              All of this gives perspective -- of God, of ourselves, and of others. We learn that we need Him constantly, and in every situation. In so doing, we are able to lead others on the same journey...


              • #8
                I'm not sure that I have a whole lot to add except that I too have been there. I agree with Mark that it is often God bringing us to end of ourselves, which is where He wants us. Those are sometimes some of the most genuinely Christian experiences in that we become utterly aware of our need for God. I've often prayed something to the effect of, "God, I'm absolutely and completely spiritually bankrupt. I'm begging for You to move, because I can do nothing without You." I sometimes pray this way even when things are going well, but in those times of desperation I come to know more deeply what it means. As a result God grows me. I also try to remember all of things that God has brought me through, and remember that He has not changed. He will not leave me. He is faithful to complete His work in me. Beyond that I just trust Him.


                • #9
                  Great topic, Shannon ...

                  I have often been there .. and I've often started out a service, or done a brief segue between songs and I've stood there and said "church, I've gotta tell ya - it's been a rough week ... everything possible has come against me this week .. but I choose to worship ... I choose to lay it down ...".

                  I've found that the people of God RESPOND to such authenticity. They don't want a super-hero Worship Leader (hmm .. can we make a Real Men of Genius ad for that .. "mr. superhero worship leader guy?" ....)

                  they want someone who is real .. authentic .. who relates to them, and whom they can relate TO.

                  I also think of King David ... how he had to "encourage himself in the Lord". Sometimes, it's quite the sacrifice.

                  But specifically, your question is about how we manage to do this while being a leader ... and hopefully, I've answered it, at least for me .. .be real .. be authentic ... press in, but don't be afraid to tell the people exactly where you are, and where you want to go. I GUARANTEE that there are folks out there who will identify and embrace your soul and run with you into the arms of Christ!
                  Fred McKinnon, Pianist/Composer/Worship Leader
                  blog: www.fredmckinnon.com

                  Please check out my piano/instrumental music at:


                  • #10
                    I am not a worship leader - but I do lead the expressive worship team and there was a time when I was going through something that truly led me into a pit of depression. I had been in this pit before so I recognized it for what it was and did all I knew to do to fight it. - Putting on praise music - reading the Word - rebuking the enemy - prayer etc. Worship time was difficult but because I KNOW He is worthy of my praise and my faith is not based on my feelings I worshipped and praised anyway.
                    After a few weeks of battling nothing had changed however and my depression seemed to be getting worse, not better. Finally I said, "Enough is enough". I went to the church on a day when no one was there. I went into the sanctuary - up to the altar and got on my face before God. I told God I wasn't leaving until He took me to a place of victory. I don't know how long I lay there - I cried - I prayed and I waited. Eventually I got up and started to walk around the room - picked up a worship flag and began to praise Him. I walked - I flagged - I sang - I praised - I worshipped. I felt the weight of depression lift off of me. By the time I left I felt the joy of the Lord in my heart.

                    Life is hard - Jesus never promised us it would be easy! But He is faithful and He will see us through - no matter what!


                    • #11
                      Awesome testimony .... which begs the question ... how many of us are determined that we'll lay it all down, and press in like that ... (I usually hate using words like "press in" that are so churchy sounding .. but I just don't know how else to say it!).

                      I've found in many times that I get worse and worse - knowing that setting aside that time will be well spent, yet, I get busy with life ... busy with ministry ... we can't slow down long enough.

                      During that time - whether it was an hour, four hours, or an entire day or night ... most of us think "I've got to do this, I've got to pay this, "i've got to ship this, I've got to write this ... I've got to do this w/ the kids, or I've got to ..." and the busyness of life carries us deeper into the pit ... all along, Christ never left us ... He's standing there, arms wide open, saying "Come unto me" ...

                      "Come unto me" means "COME TO ME" .. not keep running in your direction, begging for God to catch up to us.

                      Great encouragement ... may we all be so desperate as to do that very thing if we had to!
                      Fred McKinnon, Pianist/Composer/Worship Leader
                      blog: www.fredmckinnon.com

                      Please check out my piano/instrumental music at:


                      • #12
                        Worship Bathed Me in Peace

                        My husband and I have a handicapped daughter who has an extreme Bipolar condition. I'll try to explain a little of our situation so you can understand my comments in this thread.

                        Stacey has been in the hospital many times over the years, once for three months. Each time it has been traumatic for our family. With each visit every evening that she was in the mental hospital, we watched in heart wrenching agony as our daughter's mind was reduced to either a slobbering, non responsive Zombe or an animal-like creature whose mind was totally away in another realm and sometimes she was an angry individual who lashed out in hatred toward us. All the things that are totally opposite from her normal personality.

                        During those times my emotions were a mess and talk about being discouraged I had all but given up a few times. Yet, I needed to continue with all the duties required as a worship leader. Yes, I needed to continue!! Many times I would race from seeing my daughter in the hospital to the church in time to lead our practice. To be honest, the practice evenings and the Sunday mornings spent praising and worshiping ended up bathing me in the peace I desperately needed. It was a safe place, a place of comfort. So, it became my lifeline. I needed to worship! Now, I can't tell you that I didn't cry while leading a time or two, because I did. But, God used it all for His glory. Little did I know until much later, that people were being ministered to and encouraged to worship in the midst of their own troubles as they witnessed it in my own life. I had no idea...what a blessing to learn.


                        • #13
                          Worship through pain

                          The last two years have been full of pain in my life because my father has been very sick. My dad almost died, but was eventually weaned from a ventilator and is now getting around in a wheelcahir. My mother died unexpectedly right before she was going to spend an entire month with me celebrating one of my daughter's graduation from college and another's from high school (plus both Mom's and my birthday!) I was so looking forward to that time together, especially after such a difficult two years with my father's health. Instead, the Lord took her home. Add to that financial struggles, a broken foot, a tumor followed by surgery, and my husband having to have surgery too. We went through a lot in two years!!!!!!

                          I found that the pain in my heart always lifted during worship. I don't even know how to pretend everything is okay when it isn't, so I may be too real! But God always filled my heart with sweet joy when I would stand up front to lead worship. It was as if grace desended on me the second that I began leading. Many times, I cried or teared up during worship, but I was amazed at how wonderful I felt when I was leading. It seemed that in that two years, quiet times, being with loved ones, and leading worship were my times of blessing!

                          I love the song, "Blessed be Your Name" and "You Never Let Go"--both by Matt Redman. During those two years, I sang so many songs about Heaven, because the reality of Heaven became greater, stronger and more necessary in my life. God is so good and He is good even when life hurts. We often say that we live in a fallen world, but when the reality of that fallen world hits us square between the eyes, it hurts! How grateful I am that Jesus Christ, my Love and Lord has overcome the grave and lives to rule and reign forever!!!!! He is worthy of praise in the good and bad times--always and forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!


                          • #14
                            Mr. Super Hero Worship Leader Guy - that's me!

                            Okay, so here's my story. I'll try to keep it brief...

                            I was in a situation for a number of years where, as Worship Pastor of a large church with a good reputation in the region, I was expected to conduct my ministry on a certain "professional" level. I never felt the luxury of truly being honest before the body. I'm afraid that to do so would have been criticized as being self-indulgent and inappropriate. So I had to be the SHWLG that Fred described.

                            Fortunately for me I have a lot of acting experience. Unfortunately for the body, I probably wasn't the best example of a true worshiper in times of discouragement -- and believe me, I had my share.

                            So here I am -- one who, on the one hand has experienced the catharsis of worship during those trying times, while on the other hand has failed in leading worship in truth at other times.

                            Probably the most difficult challenge for me came when I resigned after 14 years. It happened on a Thursday morning, unexpectedly and under unfortunate circumstances. It was the hardest thing I had ever done.

                            That evening my wife and I had to struggle through choir and worship team rehearsals and then lead worship for three Sunday morning services -- without the liberty to speak to anyone about my resignation. So here we are, bruised and battered and carrying a good bit of resentment, leading 1800 believers in worship. I can't say that I succeeded. In fact, that whole weekend is a blur to me.

                            Okay - waaaa, waaaa, waaaa.

                            Sorry if I haven't provided anyone with any good advice or techniques for leading worship through discouragement. Just thought it may help those of you who have felt you have been a failure in this area -- you're not alone.

                            But God is good. You can find out about our current ministry here.



                            • #15
                              A couple of weeks ago, we had planned a great night of worship at our church. The band was going to be some friends of mine from Tennessee, and it was going to be a cool oppotunity for us as a church to sow into these guys (who want to travel, leading worship) and a great opportunity for them to get some good experience and a great event under their belt.

                              I was really proud of my students because they really took ownership of the event and making it happen. Then, two nights before the night of worship, the band calls me saying that their bass player is in the hospital, but that they were still coming if I could provide a bass player.

                              Fortunately, one of my students, Derek, just happens to be a genius with anything that includes strings and a fretboard, so that was no problem. The problem was that I by the end of the day, I had succumed to the wiles of food poisoning. I was throwing up like a supermodel after lunch.

                              To make things worse, the band called me and said that they'd reconsidered and didn't want to play without their own bass player and pretty much left me high and dry... a day before the event. Okay, so now, not only am I sick, but I'm also freaking out.

                              I get another band on short notice, but they cancel on me. So, I call in one last favor and that band cancels, too. Guess who that leaves to lead worship? That's right...me, the guy with food poisoning.

                              Then, to add insult to injury, I fell down the steps at my house and twisted my ankle REALLY badly. So I get to the church green in the face, limping, highly ticked off, and feeling a little sorry for myself. Basically, I had to throw together a band at the last minute, and by the time seven o'clock rolled around, we were ready to go.

                              I had Calvin, a seasoned veteran and my right hand guy on my worship team lead the guys in prayer as I went off and grabbed a couple of minutes to pray by myself.

                              "Lord," I said, "I'm probably the least prepared person in this room to be worshipping you. I'm worn-out, stressed-out, and empty. I need you to be my strength tonight."

                              That night I stepped away from my usual philosophy of creating an atmosphere where people can connect with God and just worshipped for myself. Fortunately, people seemed to follow along. It was a raw, revealing, and intimate time that we had.

                              It left me feeling exposed (something that I am not into feeling, and I can't help but think that it was good for me.