Heart First

I have just finished reading Wayne Cordeiro’s The Irresistible Church. It’s a great book and particularly relevant to me as I had spent several months looking for an “irresistible church”. Here, I extract Cordeiro’s third trait of an irresistible church:

The third trait of an irresistible church, a church God loves to bless, is living heart first. It’s the opposite of living image first. It means working and serving God with true passion. It means living with an intrinsic desire to travel the pathways down which God invites us.

I am not suggesting that competency within a church isn’t important. Heart and excellence are not mutually exclusive. In other words, it is not either/or. It is both/and. A common tendency is to use heart as an excuse for being sloppy. But when we live heart first, excellence usually follows.

Cordeiro then goes on to describe how at his church they stripped away the programs that relied more on image than heart. And he continues:

I do not want to suggest that programs or maintaining programs is the enemy of the church. In years past program has almost become a dirty word in some church circles. But programs are only organised forms of ministry. They are not wrong. They are needed. They can be useful tools. The important distinction for us to make is that a program does not always equal ministry. Just because a program is in place, it does not necessarily mean that lives are being impacted for Christ.

The danger comes when our programs outgrow our hearts. Usually in the beginning of any ministry-oriented initiative, we lead with our passion. We take more risks. We develop things with a sort of raw energy. Yet once a program is implemented, the temptation exists to slip into autopilot. We rest, thinking the program will continue to endlessly produce the same results. The problem is that our hearts start to depend on the programs. We can have programs going, but no heart behind them.

I love what Cordeiro writes here. Let me bring this into the context of worship ministry.

First, the issue of excellence. Worship ministry is a prime ministry in which the dichotomy of heart and technical ability is played out sharply. For some reason, lots of people like the attention of being on the worship team. And lots of people think that because they sing in the shower, they are ready to sing on stage! (In fact, I used to think I had an excellent voice because of the way everything echoed in the shower. Now that I’ve been in worship ministry for many years, I am acutely aware of how much more my voice needs to improve!). So just because people have “heart” and desire, does that mean they should serve even though they are not technically competent?

Cordeiro’s point is deft: heart and excellence are not mutually exclusive; excellence usually follows after heart! I think that we need to properly balance this. I always think that if it wasn’t for people being lax with standards to allow me to join the worship ministry, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Being given that opportunity though, I was determined to live heart first and develop my skill as a worship leader and to improve.

The second point Cordeiro makes is programming. Whenever you are part of an organisation, it is impossible to do things without planning. At one level, I sort of think in an ideal world, the Holy Spirit would speak to everyone simultaneously and simply lead us together in unison without the need for prior planning. I’m not really sure why He doesn’t do that (maybe we don’t have enough faith!) but in my experience, most ministries function through vision, strategy and planning.

At the strategic level, this means that worship ministries should set goals and plan how to develop their members in pursuit of both excellence and spiritual depth. At the level of Sunday worship, the worship leader should visualise the set, plan transitions and dialogue with other stakeholders of the meeting.

But the caveat is that we must not rely on planning. We shouldn’t go on autopilot and disengage our hearts. After laying the foundation of planning, we must take steps of faith as we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us. And we need to make sure that our hearts are fully behind our programs. That’s what it means to live, serve and minister “heart first”.

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