Several years ago when I was contemplating taking a job in ministry, there was one piece of advice I was given that still lingers in my mind today. I was told working in ministry is the best way to lose your faith.
By no means am I there. But at times I’m grumpier, more sarcastic and negative.
I started to wonder why that is. Part of it is the nature of working in church communications. It’s an area where there’s a lot of criticism and debate. Too many times, I run across churches who want to just ignore communications completely. I think that happens because looking at communications makes you really think about who you are as a church. And that usually leads to becoming more outreach focused. It causes you to change and that makes some people uneasy. So instead of going though the process and moving forward, churches find it easier to stay the same. It’s frustrating for me because those are the churches that will eventually fizzle away.
The other part of my occasional anger comes from seeing firsthand what my wife goes through at the Director of Communications at our church. Like many other people in her role, she was brought in as an agent of change. Fairly early on in her job other ministry leaders ignored her, stabbed her in the back and told her she should just give up and quit. While she’s stuck in there and made a lot of positive changes, the way people treat her makes you hate to see how your church is functioning. I’ve seen what it’s done to her physically and emotionally.
I recently started reading the book “Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic” by Anne Jackson. She’s a Director of Church Communications who worked so hard it sent her to the hospital. She wrote something that got me thinking. She said:
Since I had allowed spending time with God to be replaced by spending time doing things for God, my spiritual tank had been sucked dry. When that happened, I began to lose perspective on almost every area of my life. My defenses were down and I allowed myself to start believing the little lies the enemy would throw into my path.
For me, the biggest lie I started believing was I couldn't worship in my church anymore. I had a critical eye for everything. I knew the fights going on. Because I saw the behind the scenes stuff, I lost respect for the worship leader, pastor and others.
What a pitiful attitude, right?
I started looking for answers for how I could come out of this funk. And as He often does, God started speaking to me through scripture, a conversation with a co-worker and a weekend with a fill-in pastor and worship leader.
Then a couple of weekends ago, I had one of those moments where I felt God looking me strait in the face saying here’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. My pastor was doing a sermon of different types of worship styles, a debate in many churches. The simple question leading off the teaching was, "Is God accepting the worship you're giving him?" I assumed my answer was yes.
My pastor went through times in the bible when God rejected worship, even killed people, for not following what He said. One example was the story from 1 Chronicles 13 where Uzzah was helping move the Ark of the Covenant. As animals were pulling the cart with the ark, they slipped and the ark started to fall. Uzzah put up his hands to stop it from hitting the ground, a clear act of worship, but God had said only certain people could touch the ark. Because of that, He struck down Uzzah.
My pastor made the case that in similar ways if we're not doing what God want us to do during the week, or if we’re being overly critical of people during worship, God doesn't accept our worship. We're letting ourselves get in the way of worshiping God.
So as the sermon ended and the music began again, I found myself completely in tears singing a song I’d typically be so-so about displayed in a font I could barely read. In a moment where I’d typically be critical, I was in complete worship of God.
The song was “The Heart of Worship” and the lyric that hit home was, “I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it. When it's all about You.”