For the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to lead worship on Sundays for the youth group in my English congregation (how’s that for qualifiers?). It has been a joyous and daunting opportunity. The youth worship team is very competent and hard-working and the music on Sundays sounds great. It is such a rewarding experience to worship God and then have God use your worship to facilitate more worship for fellow believers.
Thankfully, I do not have to lead every Sunday, because the youth pastor Joshua Suh – while doing the preaching and leading for the youth group – also leads worship on certain occasions as well. In fact, before I came along, he had been doing all the worship leading and preaching himself! Three weeks ago (I think) I got to lead half of the worship times at the annual youth retreat [more on that later]. I am thankful and so glad to be doing this and investing this particular talent.
Leading is hard work
Even this, though, the Lord has used to sanctify and temper my mettle. Pastor Josh gets to pick the songs, since he knows the youth group and the songs they know. This means that sometimes the learning curve for me is steep. Learning a new praise song is not hard: learning it well enough to lead confidently and in time with the rest of a band is hard. It is a great situation because like just about everything in Korea, everyone knows that I am leading not out of sheer personal merit but because of my position. So I have humble myself to receive grace, to work hard to learn and lead, and to be transparent. Thankfully, again, the Lord has blessed and most Sundays the worship time is beautiful. I have really become more in touch with expressing my feelings towards God and being together with others: I am far more willing to sing out and tear up in the midst of praise.
But some days, things fall apart. Our first worship time for the youth retreat was one of those times. We were introducing a couple of new songs to the youth group, and there were 2 or 3 songs that were entirely new to me. Well, we got on stage and limped through the first one but in the second song, the wheels came off. The keyboard wasn’t giving us a pulse to keep time, the lead guitar forgot his intro riff, and I didn’t put my capo on my guitar [we had decided to change the key at practice a few days ago but that change was not made on the chord charts] so I was in the wrong key! Eventually I stopped playing and let the bass give me the right key to sing. The song was the new “The Way” from Tim Hughes and co. and so if you listen to the song, you’ll know the melody line is not your usual, paced praise tune and the chorus kicks up notably. So, just imagine tires screeching in a parking garage and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it sounded like. After that set, I was the most ashamed I’d ever been in my life – my first distinct failure since being in South Korea. The guest speaker got up to speak and I just prayed and processed and persuaded myself not to walk out of the worship hall and to the nearest bus stop for the airport. It was that bad. When the guest speaker ended, it was decided that we wouldn’t do the ending song we had planned, ostensibly because of time constraints. I felt very responsible for letting the youth team down, the youth group and all the adults there down, including the other pastors.
I could say more, but in that moment, I felt and experienced being completely melted down as all my impurities of pride, selfishness, etc. rose to the surface of my conscious. I had to forgive myself and feel exposed, vulnerable. Everyone now knew I was completely mortal and fallible as a worship leader. But, I am pretty sure that led us to more accurate intimacy for the duration of the retreat and so that picture you see up there of me confidently leading is only after the Lord has His way with me in front of everyone. It is experiences like these that I could never have sought or contrived myself but which the Lord has brought me to in order to make me more and more capably His servant.