Wisdom To My Younger Self
My wife and I recently watched a movie called The Adam Project. I won’t spoil it for you, but it is based around the idea of time travel. “Older Adam” links up with “Kid Adam” to work on something that seemingly only they can solve. Throughout the movie, Older Adam would make cheeky comments to Kid Adam about the things he’d learn one day. As I watched, I began to think about what I might share with my younger self from ten years ago if I had access to time travel.
Now, my experience has been in the context of leading worship for the local church, but whether you’re involved with leading music, teaching, or serving a church in another capacity, I’m hopeful this will be helpful.
1. Love Jesus. Pursue knowing Jesus better. Promote Jesus.
Where selfish ambition exists, there’s disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:16)
You feel like you have a lot to prove right now. You are newly married. You’re a fresh college graduate. You turned down other opportunities that would pay more, one being your family business. It makes sense why you want to “find success”. But, what is success? Your current definition isn’t attainable because it's a moving target. You’re chasing approval from so many people and you’re neglecting the fact that you already have the only approval you need. Christ accomplished what you couldn’t so that you could be made right with God. You are already approved by God because of the finished work of Christ. Is this not the greatest reality? Until you submit to this, you will always be driven by selfish ambition and you will stop at nothing to get the approval you seek. If you don’t prioritize Jesus, you’ll prioritize yourself. Love Jesus. Pursue knowing Jesus better. Use your God-given talents to promote Jesus.
2. Be vulnerable with your community inside the local church.
I have met a man whom everyone loves but nobody knows. He presents a version of himself that he wants people to perceive, but never lets anyone close because he is ashamed of what people will see. He’s broken. He’s too prideful to admit his need for help. He uses his platform as a worship leader to be a voice for hurting people, but in reality he is neglecting the very advice he offers as solutions for brokenness (real community, deep relationships, communion with God). When he leads he hides behind his talents and insecurities. He pursues growth in the areas that gets him the “gig”, but seemingly never invests the time he should to grow in godliness and true wholeness in the Lord. His life is not a reflection of one who is hidden with Christ. It is a life hidden behind his own version of acceptance. Furthermore, because he isn’t fully vulnerable and known by those around him, there is no accountability and no challenge for growth in godliness. He is riddled with so much anxiety because of this, and this insecurity leads him to further distance himself. This unstable state also leads him to lead so many worship services that actually point more to himself than the Jesus he claims.
You need community. You, too, will be tempted to put on a mask and act like everything is ok and that you don’t have struggles. Don’t believe the lie. Be vulnerable and let people in. The accountability inside the community of a local church will both help you and guard you. If you don’t surround yourself with community and let people in on who you are, you, too, could become the man everyone loves but nobody knows.
3. You need thick skin and a soft heart.
Your quick bites back to constructive criticism aren’t a reflection of convictions… They’re reflections of ignorance, stubbornness, insecurity and immaturity. You have much to learn; one of which is that leadership is hard. The best leaders aren’t the ones who bulldoze people. Good leaders are the ones who can be bulldozed by people and not lose their footing. Successful leaders are the ones who are willing to take punches if it means the people they are serving will benefit in the long run… even if it is one of your own throwing the punches. People will malign you, misjudge or misinterpret your character, try to run you off, or not give you a chance…. Love them anyway. Love them and pursue them. Right now, you have soft skin and a thick heart. For what is ahead, you will need thick skin and a soft heart.
4. If you don’t win at home, you won’t win anywhere else.
God has blessed you with a beautiful bride. She’s supportive and she believes in you more than anyone. She’s a gift from God. The way you love her is what God has intended to be a picture of his love for the Church. She is your number one priority. Love her and lead her. When you add kids to the mix, it will rock you. You will be juggling Megan, your children, and a pastoral position at a church that will all need your best. Remember to sit at the table with the Lord, and don’t get up until you are fed. Prioritize your own nourishment. Invest in your own health. Then, prioritize your bride and her nourishment. Model to your boys what a godly and present husband and dad looks like. Love your kids. Tell them you love them and you’re proud of them. Make them uncomfortable with your affection towards them. This investment will not return void. Win at home, and then love your local church body.
Don’t get lost in the “glamor” of a traveling ministry. Steward the opportunities as they come, but reality is in the trenches of the local church. Invest at home, grow at home, win at home. Prioritizing these things first will give you the knowledge and strength to steward your other opportunities faithfully!
5. You’ll only ever be as effective as you are dependent.
You will find a rhythm in your work and by God’s grace and through the help of His Spirit you will grow in your ability to lead. You will get more comfortable with playing your instrument, leading a band, managing a team, writing songs, articulating theology, and so on. Do not neglect your dependence on the Spirit. The scary thing is you will get “good enough” to lead a service without seeking help from the Spirit and still have people approach you with praises and compliments. Do not fall into the empty praises of people. You need the Lord. You need the help of the Spirit. You need the grace of God in your life. You need to be reminded that God can and will accomplish what He wills without your help, but in the immeasurable riches of His grace He has chosen to allow you to be a part of what He is doing. You have nothing eternal to offer outside of what you receive by the grace of God with empty hands of faith in Christ. Rest in the finished work of Christ and believe he is enough for you and for the people you lead. You will only ever be as effective for the Lord as you are dependent on the Lord.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. More can obviously be said and so much more is still to be learned. I thank God for my experiences that led to more understanding of Him. It was my failings and misunderstandings that God used to sanctify me into more awareness of Him and His grace. May God continue to sanctify us all for His glory and for the good of His people.
I’m curious, what would you share with your ten years younger self?
Brett is the Worship Pastor at The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN and the founder of Journey Worship Co. He is married to Megan and has three boys, Keaten, Griffey, and Lou.
- Abiding: Moving From Simple Belief To Walking In Communion With Christ, Learning: Moving From The Shallow End To The Deep Waters Of Theology