A speed limit. Five years past half a century. LV. Double nickels.
And today, my age. I finally qualify for the 10% senior discount at Jiffy Lube.
I remember when 55 seemed really old. Right now it feels like the prime of life. What does a 55 year old worship leader think about? Here’s a sample…
1. The years I have left for fruitful ministry are dwindling.
Used to be I never thought much about death. Now I think about it at least weekly. Life is short, and it keeps getting shorter. I estimate I have between 10-20 more years of fruitful ministry, Lord willing. Then again, I may not live to see 2011. A lot to accomplish before I’m done, though. Songs to write, messages to preach, albums to produce. Maybe another book or two. And then I get to see the face of my Redeemer. So I keep running the race.
2. Now’s the time to influence the next generation.
These years aren’t about me (were they ever?). I want to spend more time helping younger musicians and leaders grow in their godliness, gifts, and influence. I’m hoping to offer an study/internship next fall for a few guys, and in the mean time trying to spend more regular time with twenty-something potential leaders. I don’t want to act like I have nothing to learn from the next generation, and I want to do everything I can to help them avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made. So I mentor.
3. Relationships and the local church matter.
It’s never just about “my ministry.” It’s always about what part of the body I am, how I fit in with the rest of the body, and how I do my part to make the body function well. That means I make sure I have close friends at every stage of life who I’m walking out life with, who will encourage, counsel, challenge, support, correct, and pray for me. So I sink my roots deep in the church.
4. God has often used books (or sentences in those books) to change my life.
I can trace much of my thinking about life and worship to individual sentences in books I’ve read over the years, starting of course, with Scripture. Other books have included Music Through the Eyes of Faith by Harold Best, Desiring God by John Piper, Engaging with God by David Peterson, and Valley of Vision. There are many more. If I get one perspective-altering thought from a book, that’s time well invested. So I read.
5. Music can become boring—Jesus can’t.
It’s not the latest songs, creative arrangements, or unique sounds that make corporate worship amazing and awe-inspiring. It’s a clear and compelling picture of Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world. As long as I have that understanding, leading songs will never become routine or banal, and my worship of God will never be dependent on musical innovation. So I value truth over tunes.
6. Worship leaders can be cool. Biblical worship can’t be.
By nature, “cool” describes something that the world esteems as hip, desirable, elitist, and perhaps elusive. Biblical worship is very un-hip, hated by the world’s value system, and a gracious gift from God to those he has redeemed. It involves magnifying the glory of Christ and minimizing our own glory. It means acknowledging our sinfulness before a holy God, expressing gratefulness for the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for our sins, and responding in humble obedience to his commands. All very uncool activities. So, no need to worry that I’m twice as old as a lot of the people I lead corporate worship with.
7. Experience, planning, and skill are no substitute for the Holy Spirit.
Experiences have taught me a lot over the years. Planning ahead is a way of serving the people I lead. Skill is a vital component to leading worship effectively. But ultimately, only God’s Spirit can give people a knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). It doesn’t matter whether I’m leading 5 people or 5,000, my need for God’s empowering presence is the same. So I pray.
8. God isn’t seeking worship leaders; he’s seeking worshipers.
Since “worship leader” isn’t even a biblical term, I don’t want to find my identity in being one. I’m happy to use my musical gifts to draw people’s attention to the greatness of Christ, but there are plenty of other ways I can do that, too. Loving my wife, speaking kindly, being generous, sharing the gospel, caring for the poor, to name a few. In At the end of it all, the only ones worshiping God are bondservants (Rev. 22:3). So I seek to serve for the glory of God.
9. God only has redeemed sinners to work with.
None of the hype is to be believed. Everyone sins. There are no perfect leaders. No one, except Jesus, is worthy of emulation in every way. That includes me. When I was younger I thought I was a lot more godly than I think I am now. Maybe I’ve been backsliding all these years. Or maybe I just have a more realistic view of myself. And in spite of it all, God has mercifully given his Son to pay for all my sins, and graciously brought fruit through my life for his glory. Amazing grace.
Looking forward to whatever the Lord has in store for me in my remaining years, and want to say with Paul:
It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death (Phil. 1:20).
Whatever your age, I pray that’s your desire too.
(And if you’re interested, here’s the post I wrote when I turned 52.)