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God in the Con-Trails

Wasted worship? What’s the answer to powering your worship?

“The worship service, the sermon, is meant to ignite, to stimulate awe in people, to make them rise up out of their pews and say ‘this is a God of such great glory, I can’t help but serve Him’. That’s what it’s meant to do. Now here’s the rub, it’s very hard for a pastor to give away that which you no longer have. And there’s evidence that many of us are cranking it out. We’ve reduced pastoral ministry down to strategic planning, to dynamic leadership meetings, to programs and initiatives and there are places where it feels like God’s left the building. That it’s not about Him anymore and awe of God gets replaced with awe of self, or awe of success or awe of acclaim and that means that this primary mission of the church, to draw by grace the hearts of people to the awe of God again just doesn’t happen in the way God intended it to happen. Because it cannot happen if the person who is most influential in that culture has years ago lost his awe.” – Paul Tripp

You might ask youself, What’s the answer?

How can I lead if I feel burnt out?

What’s the formula for success?

It isn’t slogans, I will not ask you to “lean in with me”, “just do it”, “no pain, no gain”.

I will say something counter-intuitive to marketing, leadership, and management skills, the answer is “I DON’T KNOW OF ANY FORMULA TO SUCCESS”. Some may astutely ask what I mean by success. I mean success as the majority labels the word, prosperous, happy, plentiful, comfortable. Or labeling success as a business man might label success, that is, an increase in profits, ending in the black, low turn-over, increase in productivity, increase in memberships, etc. There is a problem when we attempt to put worship into a metric to measure to see success of lack thereof.  Worship is something personal and spiritual. And many times we see only the outward signs of worship and can’t know about the unseen, or inward cues, prompts, motivations, thanksgivings and joys.

What I do know is this, before I wrote this article I walked outside and as I walked to the minivan I looked up to the sky and saw clouds.  One cloud was a straight line that kept forming and I knew immediately there was a plane making this line, called “con-trails”, i.e. condensation trails. By the contrails, I knew there was a plane flying way too high for me to see, however I saw the residue, or what happened after. I was looking into the past, I was seeing clouds, droplets left moments before, the further my eyes trailed away from the airplane the further back in time I was looking.

Similarly, we are affected by and see consequences in the present because of things that have happened in the past, for example, what I ate, how many hours did I sleep, if I’m sick. Many times we enter into new situations whether they are positions such as manager, administrator, pastor, coach and think that the slate is clean by virtue of the fact that we are new there.

Well, in a new position there is a sort of mercy extended toward the new bearer of the burden of leadership however the slate is by no means clean. We operate at present in the effects of the past and that is why there are so many theories on what it takes to be an effective leader. The abundance of theories is like a shotgun blast which is manufactured to guarantee hitting something. To try to apply leadership, or business principles to increase “worship productivity” is missing the point.

In order to be the person that Paul Tripp speaks about, who enables people to “grasp the awe”, regain that awe yourself.

What inspires you?
What do you dream about?
What have you seen that makes you feel like a kid again?
What makes you feel safe?
What calms you?
What do you fear?  All questions designed to get you thinking.

You are a different person than I am and I will not respond to things the same way you do.  But, whenever I read the book of Job starting at chapter 38 when God begins to talk to Job about creation, about power, about mysteries, about scientific things like measurements, names of stars, foundations of the earth, it always gives me a sense of awe and puts me in my place.  It’s THE reality check of all reality checks.  Check out God’s word and stay in it: Spend some time getting to know how God formed you, what He says about you, and what His ultimate plan for you is. This will give you a full heart and renewed hope and strength. And above all it will fill you with the awe of how wonderfully other our powerful, magnificent, glorious, loving, all-knowing, omnipresent and eternal our God is.

-Richard Sanchez, Major