by Jenn Petersen
I’ve been a worship leader longer than I haven’t.
I started leading worship while in high school, throughout college, and then for many years at a church in Texas. My husband and I recently felt called to plant a church in New York City. As one can imagine, this is no small thing, so we are taking this first year to learn our new context and culture. Now, for the first time since I can remember, I’m not leading worship at a church on a weekly basis.
It’s a funny thing, being a worship leader. There’s a constant tension between living out our calling and letting our calling become our identity. We know this to be true, but once our “position” is gone, we find where our true identity lies.
So what does it look like to worship in the waiting?
When you’re a worship leader and have no place to lead, I am more convinced than ever that you are in the best place of all: learning how to lead yourself. Whether you’re in a waiting place due to your own choice or circumstances beyond your control, this time can be one of the best gifts you’ve ever received.
I believe Elijah knew a bit about what it means to worship in the waiting. When we encounter him in 1 Kings 19, we see a man who is running away, afraid, hungry and depressed. He is spent. But even in this state of emptiness, the Lord speaks to Him, not in a windstorm, not in an earthquake, but in a gentle whisper.
Here in the hustle and bustle of New York City, I am learning to listen for God in the whispers. Here are a few ways I’m learning to worship in the waiting…perhaps they’ll resonate with you, too:
- Pray – Spend time praying like never before. First thing in the morning, come before the Lord with praise, adoration and thanksgiving. Ask for guidance and eyes to see how He sees. Pray that your heart would be broken for your city, community and world. As Jon Tyson says, “Ask for the gift of anguish.” Walk through your neighborhood while praying the Lord’s Prayer, slowly and intentionally. Try disciplines you may have never used before: the Daily Office, Lectio Divina, Morning Pages (The Artist’s Way). Use this time to truly lean into Christ and rest in him.
Come, ye weary sinners, come
All who groan beneath your load
Jesus calls His wanderers home
Hasten to your pardoning God
Come, ye guilty spirits oppressed
Answer to the Savior’s call
“Come, and I will give you rest
Come, and I will save you all”
Come, Ye Weary Sinners, Come (Charles Wesley)
- Sing – If you don’t have time carved out already for personal worship through song, this is a great time to start. Sing your heart out before the Lord. Sing familiar songs, sing through the Psalms, sing new melodies to old lyrics, sing new lyrics to old tunes. Invite your family into the experience. I have two children who love to be silly…don’t expect perfection, expect authenticity. And let it start with you.
- Encourage – While in a waiting period, you may have the incredible opportunity of worshiping in many new environments. Soak it up! Listen, learn and observe settings unlike what you are accustomed to. If you’re primarily from a contemporary background, go experience a liturgical service. If you are a traditionalist, find a modern worship service. Connect with other worship leaders and encourage them. Pray for them. Remember, we are not competing with each other, we are completing each other!
- Serve – Serve in and outside of your giftedness. Let the Lord stretch you during this time, and humble you.
I’m learning what it means to worship in the waiting, and for me it is a tuning of my heart. Whether you’re in a waiting place or in the throes of a heavy ministry season, may we all tune our hearts to sing of God’s grace.
Image attribution: Ingram Publishing / Thinkstock