This week we're joined by one of my heroes of the church tech world. We talk about what it means to be have a heart for ministry in the technical arts, how to manage your time and how churches should lead their technical artists.
Introverted leaders. Does that sound like an oxymoron? One of the biggest challenges technical leaders face is that most of us are introverts in culture that favors extroverts. As more churches call on their technicians move from being doers to leaders and developers of teams, we have a big, steep hill to climb. But there is good news; we are in good company. In fact, I would suggest (and I’m not the only one to do so) that Moses himself was an introvert.
Consider this; he spent most of his adult life wandering around the desert. By himself. He seemed perfectly content to not interact with anyone but his flocks. Of animals. Who didn’t talk back or ask him questions. Sounds like a dream come true, right? OK, maybe not, but my guess is many of you (and I) would much rather spend our days in a quiet, empty tech booth wiring, programming, mixing or editing than surrounded by a large group of people.
When God called Moses out to lead His people, Moses’ first response was, “I am slow of speech…” (Exodus 4:10). Moses wasn’t stupid; he was introverted. He didn’t think out loud; he processed his thoughts internally then spoke purposefully. Again, sound familiar? Extroverts tend to think introverts are either slow or aloof because we’re spending more time thinking than talking, but I know so many of you, and it’s not true. You’re smart and caring; you just display it differently.
So how do we, fellow introverts, survive and perhaps even thrive as leaders in an extroverted church culture? Well, I have a few ideas. Much of this comes from a book I read last year, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh. I highly recommend it. There is treasure trove of content in that book, but I’ll pull out a few principles that have already helped reshape my thinking.
Know Who You Are in Christ
McHugh writes, “We cannot find freedom in our introversion until we embrace our primary identities as sons and daughters of God.” Regardless of our introversion or extroversion, our Myer’s-Briggs profile, our SHAPE or our strengths, we are children of God and therefore significant, important and most importantly, called. We are called to do what we’re doing, and when God calls someone into a task, He equips them. Therefore, you have everything you need to lead your team successfully; you simply need to lean on Christ as the source of your strength. Trust Him to lead your leadership.
Many tend to picture leaders as the loud, outspoken, charismatic ones that people naturally follow. And sometimes that’s true. But perhaps that’s just the loudest voice getting all the attention at the moment. McHugh says this about leadership: “Leaders give people a lens and a language for understanding their work and experiences in light of larger purposes.” You don’t have to be a charismatic public speaker to lead people if that is your definition. Giving people a lens is something that you can do every weekend when the volunteers show up to do their jobs. You don’t have to do it in big groups, nor do you have to lead a thousand people to make a difference.
Re-Imagine Your Impact
At times, we introverts can feel inferior to the extroverts around us because our circles of influence are smaller. But instead of feeling like our introversion is a liability to leading others, perhaps we should consider it an asset. Again, to quote McHugh: “At times I have compared myself negatively with my extroverted counterparts who have more widespread influence. But I have come to see this ‘limitation’ as an opportunity to have a deeper impact on the people I do influence.”
Generally speaking, technical teams tend to be smaller, which favors our strength. While we may not influence hundreds or thousands, those we do influence will get much more from us. We have an amazing opportunity to make a lasting impact on those on our teams. Our natural ability to listen, get to know people and speak wisely will have a radical effect on our volunteers.
As introverts, we have a great opportunity in front of us. What some perceive as a weakness is actually a significant strength that has potential to be a transformative force in people’s lives. But we can’t allow our natural tendency to prefer alone times to isolate us from community. While we may not count dozens of “close” friends, we should have a few, and we should be intentional about investing in a small group of people. Pray about who those people should be, then begin pouring into their lives. Your impact will be profound!
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I have had the privilege of getting to know hundreds of technical leaders from all over the country the past few years. While everyone is different, there are a number of common characteristics we share as technical artists, not the least of which is that we like to plan. We want to know what is coming up not only this weekend, but the next two or three. I know a guy who was getting anxious toward the end of October last year because his input list for Christmas wasn’t done yet! Ok, that was me. I may be a fringe case…
Still, we love to plan. And most of us work really hard. We work hard not simply because the work is hard, though it is sometimes; we work hard mostly because we care so deeply about the results. We work like we have the opportunity to see lives changed—and we do! But what’s tricky about the work we do is that while we do indeed have an important role to play, the final results are up to God.
A few weeks ago, I was reading through Proverbs 21 in the Message. I love how practical Eugene Peterson made the entire book of Proverbs. The last verse in the chapter stood out to me, and as I read it, I thought, “This should be on a plaque in every tech booth.” It reads:
“Do your best, prepare for the worst—then trust God to bring the victory.”
If that doesn’t encapsulate what we do, I don’t know what does! Our entire role as a technical artist can be summarized in that verse.
Do your best. This is not about excellence, perfection or punching a perfect show. It’s about doing your level best, giving it all you have and going all in. What that looks like will be different for all of us. But we can all do our best.
Prepare for the worst. Stuff happens. Mic’s will fail, lights will burn out, equipment will break at the most inopportune time. Have a plan for when it does. This is not an “if” scenario, it’s a “when.” Bad things will happen. If you have a plan, you can recover more quickly and do so more gracefully.
Trust God to bring the victory. So often we feel like the results are up to us. If 10 people don’t get saved in a service, we beat ourselves up over the mix or the lighting or the visuals. But that part is not up to us. Our job is to present the Gospel in as clear and compelling a manner as possible, then trust God to use it as He sees fit. He is the one who changes hearts. He is the one who draws those who are far near. He will bring the victory.
A friend of mine said it this way recently: “Pray like it’s all up to God; work like it’s all up to you.”
We live in this tension every day. It’s as challenging as it exciting. Which is probably why we love it so much.
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The other day, I was reading through some blogs and came across a post on Phil Cooke’s blog that I thought was interesting. The post itself wasn’t what inspired this post, however, it was one of the comments. Here is what one commenter wrote:
I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t have to use special lighting or a tech manager when he delivered the Sermon on the Mount. And he got the message across just fine.
Before I develop my critique of this comment, I want to start by saying I’m not opposed to simpler, more traditional services. If you want to attend a church or service that doesn’t use special lighting, a loud PA or any other production technology, that’s totally cool. I think there is even a need for those services. So don’t take this as a blanket condemnation of traditional services because it’s not.
Jesus Didn’t Have a Lot of Things
It should be obvious, but Jesus didn’t have a lot of the things we take for granted today. In fact, Jesus didn’t have a big pipe organ, choir or piano to lead the 5000 in worship. He didn’t have a car to get him from place to place. He didn’t have coffee makers to provide a morning wake up for the crowds. He didn’t have those things because they weren’t invented yet. Now, we can debate all day long whether he would have used those things (I suspect He would have), but I don’t hear people like the commenter above calling for a ban on pipe organs because Jesus didn’t have one.
I generally find those making the “Jesus didn’t have one” argument only when it conveniently supports whatever they don’t like in the contemporary church. And that is amusing to me. Much like quoting Scripture out of context to support our own agenda, it’s really a poor way to construct an argument.
Can We Just Admit it’s a Preference?
You see, what we’re really talking about here is preference. Again, I have no problem if your preference is a more traditional style of service (which, lest we forget only really developed over the last couple of hundred years—it’s not “biblical”). But to broadly state that Jesus wouldn’t “put on a concert” is missing the point. Jesus spoke to the crowds using the idiom of the day. He was as contemporary as any mega church service is today. He communicated to the people in the language they understood. The modern church seeks to do the same through the use of lighting, visuals and audio, because that is the language of this generation.
Now, we can argue whether some of that goes too far and creates a consumeristic, non-engaged, concert-like experience instead of a worship service. But that’s another argument. To be sure, some services really are much more like a concert and less like a worship service, and that can be a problem. However, I’ve been a part of some really loud services that had plenty of lighting, haze and moving backgrounds that were amazing experiences of worship. I’ve also experienced a spontaneous service that had no technology at all, just voices, and it was amazing.
It’s a Matter of the Heart
We are commanded to worship God in spirit and truth. If you can’t worship at our current church, perhaps we need to find one where you can. If you can’t find one, perhaps you have an issue of the heart. If you are older and are attending a church that is changing to meet the needs of a younger generation and you’re bitter about that, you have an issue of the heart, not volume. You can either choose to support the efforts to reach the next generation for Christ or get pissed off that your personal needs aren’t being met.
As I get older, I already know there will come a day when I don’t really care for the style of music of 20-somethings. But boy do I ever want to be part of a church that is doing a great job reaching that group of people. And who knows, maybe I’ll split my time between an 80’s style service with 4 second reverbs and a “modern” service with whatever music it popular at the time.
But the point is, don’t confuse your preference with what Jesus would or would not have done. Because I’m pretty sure He wouldn’t do that…