Worship Notes

"It's All About People"

I write this with a certain amount of angst. I'll admit that right up front. But as I write this, I approach the beginning of my 16th year of ministry, and I have finally got to get something off my chest.

As ministers, we have got to get to the point where we sincerely and habitually acknowledge that ministry is ALL about people. It's not about preferences. It's not about programs. It's not about position. It's not about ambition. It's not even about the church as an organization. It's about the people that make up that organization.

Ministers, praise & worship leaders, pastors - let me ask you something. Do you view the people in your church, and especially those in the Body that serve, as assets or human beings? Do you tend to view people as the sum of their talents and abilities? Do you look for what people can offer you and your church, or do you look for what you can offer them as a minister? We should be doing the latter.

It's obvious that our churches need people to serve. Of course we need nursery workers, singers, toilet scrubbers, and piano players. Of course we need people who can give financially to support the work of the ministry. But when we start to look at those people simply by the assets they provide, whether material, financial, or talent-wise, two things happen:

1) We take our focus off of God and begin to look at people as our source.

People are not the source of your success, your income, or your ability to accomplish what God has called you to accomplish. When we begin to look at sister so-and-so as the only way we can have a good worship service because she's the only decent piano player we have, we are limiting God. We have put our faith in sister so-and-so's talents rather than God's grace. But Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 2:5 that our faith is never to rest on the wisdom of men, but rather on God's power.

Several years ago, my dad asked me to come visit the family for a weekend. "I can't." I replied. "The church needs me. I'm the only worship leader we have." Dad's response was both insightful and profound. "Heath, you're not the Anointing. Trust that the Holy Spirit can accomplish His agenda without you." I've never forgotten that. And I've learned to not take myself as seriously as I used to.

When you view people as your source you will be hurt time and time and time again. Because people are imperfect. They WILL hurt you. Not necessarily intentionally. But they WILL fail you. Save yourself the hurt and disappointment by not placing your faith in them in the first place. Our faith is reserved for God, and Him only.

2) We devalue people.

The people that serve in your church - whether paid or voluntary - are just that. People. They are real people with real lives. They have dreams and aspirations. They have bills and families. They have ideas and imaginations. They have high-school diplomas and kids that play soccer. They broke their arm in 2nd grade, they once memorized the lyrics to "Billie Jean", and they have a cousin with Down's Syndrome. They are people.

When you take the sum of who a person is - all their experiences, their shortcomings, their wisdom, their hurts, their accomplishments, and their challenges - and reduce that person down to the sum of their talents, the sum of what they can offer you or your church, you have greatly devalued that person. You have proven yourself to be a terrible investor, because you have taken an awesome asset - a beautiful and unique person - and devalued them to the measly sum of what you think they can do to benefit you. Our job as ministers is to add value to people's lives, not take value away.

I was once sitting in on a staff meeting at a large church. One of the other staff members could not attend the meeting because they had a prior appointment in another area of ministry. One of the pastors said, "What do you mean they couldn't attend this meeting? They are our staff member. We pay their salary. Don't we own them?!?" This pastor was only half-kidding, but the heart behind that comment rang out pretty clear.

The answer is no. No, you don't own them. They are not a piece of property. They are a human being. And if for no other reason than that, you have a responsibility to treat them with decent human respect. I don't care what you pay them. They are a person. If you have a problem with them, then pastor them. But pastor them as a person, not a possession. Don't take the human element out of ministry. It's all about people.

I was once in a church service where one of the leadership pastors was complaining that it was hard to hire construction workers to help them build their new church building. "Sure, it's great when they volunteer," they said, "but when you offer to hire them, they want standard-grade pay. And we can't afford that. Don't they realize the value of sowing?" To that I would ask, "Don't you?"

They're people. They have families to feed and bills to pay. Why would you expect them to work for less than the industry standard just because it's for your church? If you can't afford to pay them, then perhaps you didn't count the cost of building the building in the first place. Jesus even told us to do that! (Luke 14:28)

I have never in my 15 years of ministry asked for a "church discount" from a retailer or laborer. And you know why? Because it's insulting to them! A guitar is a guitar. A light bulb is a light bulb. A fax machine is a fax machine. And 4 hours of labor is 4 hours of labor. Don't make someone else take the cut just because it's for your church. It's all about people.

Recently, I heard a quote from a well-known minister who said, "Life is too short to hang with people who always want something from you." My response to that is, what did Jesus do? Wasn't he continually "hanging" with people who wanted something from him? Didn't he constantly ask people what he could do for them? Is there any account in the Bible of where Jesus was NOT helping someone? Sure, I understand that there has to be a line drawn between what is actual help and what is enabling a mooch/parasite. But a true minister is always going to be around people who are in need. It's all about people.

Finally, it's time for churches (and all Christians for that matter) to stop exercising freedoms that they don't have over people. You don't have the right to demand anything from your congregation. You don't have the right to treat them as property. You don't have the right to treat them as your Sunday morning "audience". And you certainly don't have the right to chew them out when they're not responding the way you want them to. They're not an audience. They're people. The church is not an organization. It's people. Your staff is not a group of paid assets. They're people.

Pastors, you don't have the right to meddle in the personal affairs of your congregation or your staff, unless invited to do so. The only exception to this is if those personal affairs are jeopardizing the health of your church. Don't abuse your position. Don't abuse your people. Don't treat them like your property. You don't have the right to exercise freedoms you don't have - but you do have the privilege of treating them like people. So start treating them like people.

It's all about people.