“Pastor Marcos, I want to lead the singing in church. I love music. I am a musician.” So said Roberto, a middle aged man in the all Hispanic congregation that I had planted some months previous to this conversation. Since I had basically been a “one man show” up to that point, leading the singing, giving announcements, reading the Scripture, and preaching the sermons, I thought this was a wonderful idea.
“Do you know music?” I asked Roberto. “Absolutely!” he assured me, “I used to be a professional musician.” So at the next service Roberto was in front of the congregation leading the music. He didn’t exactly move his hands in 4-4, 3-4, or 6-4 time however. Actually, he just kind of wildly waved his arms around with very little sense of purpose. When the service ended, I thought that I would give Roberto some instructions in the proper form of keeping tempo. He seemed a bit perplexed by the patterns I suggested but promised to practice and give it a try during the next service. When the next service came, Roberto lasted about three measures using the formal song leading technique in which I had so carefully tutored him. Then he began wildly waving his arms around with no apparent connection to the music whatsoever.
I tried two or three more times to instruct Roberto in the finer (or even mediocre) points of song leading disposition, but to no avail. So I finally told him that I would have to take over the hand waving responsibilities once more. Roberto was truly dejected at this turn of events. What I had failed to realize, however, was that what Roberto lacked in style, he more than compensated with enthusiasm. Roberto had brought such joy to the task that the people sang with a gusto previously unexpressed. So what if he didn’t follow my proposed smartness for the task? He got the people to sing!
Quickly recognizing my error, I apologized to Roberto and asked him to resume his duties as chief congregational arm flapper. The people sang, and Roberto flourished in his service to the Lord. His uninformed gesticulations were, from his perspective, his opportunity to joyfully minister for Christ. Roberto grew! His wife grew! Their ministry within our church expanded as they matured in the Lord. And I learned a valuable lesson from that experience with Roberto. Give people something that they can do in service for Christ. Help them do it as well as they are able, but don’t demand that they do it just like I would. Let them serve Jesus with their abilities and encourage them at every turn. I learned that my goal was not to produce the perfect song leader, but to grow a disciple of Christ. At some point, the congregation outgrew Roberto’s abilities, but by then he had moved on to more substantial roles of ministry leadership and was ready to let someone else lead the singing.
So how do we encourage people in the congregation to pursue ministry – either at home or on the mission field? We get them involved. We let them experience the thrill of being used in service to Christ. We foster an appetite for greater and greater commitment to the Lord and His kingdom. That’s what I learned as a very young pastor from a man named Roberto – who by the way eventually confessed that his whole experience as a musician was playing bongo drums in bars before his conversion. Perfect! He was just the right man for the job.
Guest Blogger: Mark Vowels, Bob Jones University