1,300 Little Finish Lines

My pastor is a college prof, and he just finished the semester. He turned in his grades and closed the book on a job well done. He felt so great that he baked bread. That’s how you know when he’s celebrating and is experiencing euphoria. He bakes cinnamon swirl raisin bread. And it’s heavenly, I’m told. (let’s see if this hint works)

But as a worship leader, when was the last time you felt like that?

I began to think about how great it feels when you hit a finish line like a significant milestone, a big project, graduation. But as worship leaders, as soon as we round the corner of one Sunday lap, next Sunday is just around the next corner. Where’s our finish line? Christmas? Easter? Are you kidding? Well, at least not for me. Relief maybe, but not ecstasy, not euphoria. I’m certainly not getting ready to toast freshly baked bread after those “holidays.”

Do I have to wait until heaven for the finish line? The tiring line “you can sleep when you’re dead” comes to mind. And I don’t think the surge of work you do before taking a vacation counts.

Or maybe this idea of a finish line is an illusion. When worship leading is your job, it gets confusing. There’s calling mixed in with job performance, and following Jesus with leading people. It’s both exhausting and thrilling.

So maybe what we need isn’t the massive buildup to a “trip of a lifetime” that we’ve saved for years to go on, but rather a healthy, productive, sustainable rhythm that keeps us running and winning until the end of the race that is set before us.

Maybe more than “finish lines” we need mile markers. Leadership takes guts, it takes heart, it takes surrender, it takes stamina. And we need to see progress. We need to feel like we’re not on an endless loop of Sundays.

I think it’d be helpful for us to think of Sundays as miles. Every Sunday is a mile. That’s it.

One way we’ll make it is to run like we’re in a marathon. You don’t often hear “Welcome to the race of worship leading! This little race is only 1,300 miles long!” I mean, that’s only 25 years of leading for 52 Sundays a year. This is my 26th year...and 1990 is a speck in the distance behind me. And the Call points the way forward to continue with the vigor of my first time leading.

Here are some practices to help us make it to the end. After all, Hebrews 12:1 reminds us clearly: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

Not everyone will make it to the end...but you will

Because you’re the kind of person who knows isolation and burnout are as deadly as frostbite and bears on a long hike, you’ll get in a worship leader group (even start one if you have to.) And you’ll reach out to a coach who can walk and run alongside you. It’ll save your life and keep you in the race.

Carry each other: pray for your team

Have you ever seen one of those heroic images of a runner carrying a fallen teammate across the finish line? That’s prayer.  “On Him, we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:9b-10) Not only will it be a tangible blessing to them, but it will also exponentially increase the love and affection for them in your own heart!

Live physically healthy

I heard Greg Denning say, “We all are experiencing life through our bodies...good health is to life what taste buds are to the tongue.” It struck me because when you’re sick, everything gets filtered through your sick body. Lack of sleep = cranky me. But do we take care of our bodies like we believe that? It’s easier to stay up late, eat junk, and avoid activity than sleep enough, eat fresh, and be active. But it’s critical to our longevity AND our productivity every day!

Work smart by procrastinating on purpose

To-do lists, demands, recurring tasks, interruptions, lack of focus...all these things get in our way. We each have something significant to accomplish. We must work like we mean it, like it’s are worthy of our lives. _ “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”_ (Ephesians 4:1)

Rory Vader gives us something remarkable in his book “Procrastinate On Purpose.” He says we are to be multipliers by giving ourselves the emotional permission to spend time on things today that create more time tomorrow. We do this by doing only that which is _significant_, meaning that which is important _longest._ (versus urgent or simply important)

For example, mentoring another worship leader doesn’t do much for this Sunday, but a year from now...wow! Or setting up Planning Center Online takes a couple of weeks, but will help you thrive in future Sundays because lots of work distracts you from Sunday’s setlist. So take every task through the “focus funnel” and in order: eliminate, automate, delegate, procrastinate, or concentrate. You can get a quick overview of his book below.

So let’s be a band of leaders celebrating mile marker after mile marker until we’ve completed our race!