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Your Dream Sucks

Hey everyone!  My name is Lee McDerment; and I’ve been the Worship Director at NewSpring Church for the past 12 years.  Perry asked me a few days ago to guest blog for him, and it is an honor and privilege to do so.

This post is directed at Worship Leaders.  And if you’re a worship leader, you might hate me for what I’m going to say, but please read the whole thing.

Before I start, here is the tweetable phrase for you.  I know that’s what you’re looking for, so I won’t make you read an entire post to get to it.  here you go:

The quickest way to achieve your personal ministry dream, is to let it die.

If you’re a worship leader, and you’re decent, then you’re having lots of people tell you how awesome you are every sunday.  They say, “Wow, man!  You do that song way better than Chris Tomlin.”  And you actually start to believe it.  You’re an expert at worship.  You read the blogs.  You know the latest about all things worship.  You know who just released the new hotness that everyone will be singing next.  Or, if you’re really awesome, you don’t even listen to worship music because of its clear lack of artistic merit. You work at a church in a suburb, but you dress like you live in the East Village.  You’re a hipster for Jesus.  You used to shop at urban outfitters.  You wore Toms before everyone wore Toms. You wear fashion frames (glasses used for non corrective purposes).  You have so many Apple products that you may as well have a little white sticker on your mailbox.  You go to Catalyst East.  You go to Catalyst West.  You drop names.  You have deep and passionate opinions.

And you think your church is a tiny thing; A small stepping stone on your way to Nashville.  To you, it’s, “just a church.”  So, you network at conferences in the name of Wisdom, but you’re really just leveraging others to build your own platform.

Trust me. If you keep living like that, you’re not going to get what you think you want.

Listen, I’m not a hater or a cynic.  I am describing myself.  I am that worship leader with the serious hipster ego issue.

I’m a so-called expert too, full of my own importance, trying to look cool, thinking for years that my church platform was just a rung on a ministry ladder I was destined to climb.

I even hate the lack of artistry in worship music until I try to write worship music and realize how hard it is.  Evidently God will not be mocked. Evidently he won’t share glory with anyone. (Isaiah 48:11)

Over the last 12 years at NewSpring church, I’ve wanted to quit so many times because I had this dream of writing songs and touring and playing at conferences and arenas blah blah blah.  I mean, who doesn’t want to rock a sold out arena?  So I bucked at authority when my leaderships’ directives didn’t seem right or cool to me.

About 4 or 5 years into it, my pride and ego were painfully revealed to me when Perry asked me to perform a country song for a Sunday near Independence Day… I thought to myself, “if I play that song, people will think I picked it, and people will think I have bad taste in music.”  (Notice how many times I used the phrase, “people will think.”  #fearofman)

Well, everyone loved it.  And they actually told me things like, “that song really moved me.” etc etc.

What a fool I was.  And then, by Gods grace, the Spirit instructed me and helped me understand that pride and envy were greater enemies than obscurity or a lack of artistic coolness.  Fighting my flesh was a better battle than fighting to be heard or known.  I didn’t need to be famous.  I needed to be humble.  I didn’t need to play a cooler song.  I needed to submit joyfully to my leaders. My job as worship leader was to listen to Jesus and serve my people through music, but sadly, Perry was doing a far better job than I was.  Boom. I suck. Time to wake up, Lee.

One day, about 7 years into serving at NewSpring, I heard a mentor of mine (@carlcartee) say a phrase that changed me forever. He said, “Into greater fame, or complete obscurity, Jesus will be my greatest treasure.”  Then and there, I realized that I would live a happier, more abundant life if I gave up on my dreams and spent all my life, effort and energy pursuing God’s dream of a beautiful and thriving church.  I would find my greatest peace and happiness God’s way or not at all.

I was finally free.  Free to push my talented friends (whom I envied) forward. Free to not be in the spotlight.  Free to share or even give up my platform.  Free to not be known.  Free to be fully known by God.  Evidently, He only knows the proud from afar. (Psalm 138:6)

Some of you guys need to walk into your pastor’s office today and repent for being double minded.  Your pastor needs you to be his biggest fan.  He has got to be Moses, hearing from God and delivering the Word to your people.  And if you as Aaron are trying to build your own kingdom instead of holding his arms up, you both lose!  Unity in the church is vital… And the potential for a church split is greatest between you and the lead pastor.  You’re the second most visible person in the church.  We worship leaders should fear dissecting the Bride of Christ over our own artistic ambitions.

Bottom line: the way up in the kingdom is down.  (Mark 9:35)

The whole idea of worship leading is to draw attention to Someone else, anyway.  Why strive for fame?  If God loves you and your people, you won’t get fame by striving for it.  Who cares about my name?? Only one Name matters in this whole thing.

The quickest way to achieve your personal ministry dream, is to let it die.

Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24

A couple of years ago, at NewSpring’s 10 year anniversary service, I got the opportunity to lead worship for a capacity crowd at the BiLo Center arena in Greenville, with my best friends, making great sound, with my church, for the glory of God.  The dream I had given up on was finally given to me in greater measure than I ever imagined.  (FYI, cranking up your Les Paul in an arena during soundcheck is every bit as awesome as you think it is.)

God had given me my dream.  And suddenly filled with overwhelming gratitude, I realized a new dream… To serve God’s church at NewSpring for the entirety of my life, in whatever capacity my leaders dictate.  To be a doorkeeper in the house of God (Psalm 84).  Music is no longer the dream.  God is the dream.  His bride, radiant and growing is the dream.

We serve a God who brings dead things to life.  And not only does He bring them back to life, but infinitely better than before.  Remember Jesus’ words.  Let your dream die.  Give it to the God who raises the dead, and let him return it to you 100 fold.

(This post was written by Lee McDerment, our Worship Director here at NewSpring Church.  You can follow him on twitter right here! )

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Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina. The church averages 26,000 people during weekend services at multiple campuses throughout the state. You can read all of Perry’s unfiltered thoughts about life and leadership at PerryNoble.com. Don’t worry, he holds nothing back.