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Monday, August 15, 2011

Truth, Bonhoeffer, and Worship Leaders

I recently finished reading Eric Metaxas’s, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet,Spy, the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Many are familiar with the Lutheran pastor’s famous book, The Cost of Discipleship and his teaching that although God’s grace is free, it is not cheap. The biography, however, is just that, a biography and not a simple retelling of his written works. Over and over throughout his shortened life [he was executed by the Nazis just days before Allied forces reached the prison camp where he was being held], Bonhoeffer’s life revealed the importance of not just knowing about God’s Word, but living it out. Truth was to be lived out, not just debated. The book was a great read, but it was more than that, it was convicting.

As I read about his uncompromising life, I was reminded how many times as leaders of worship we are tempted to compromise. The temptation to compromise on personal preparation for worship and planning, to explain our laziness with “half-truths,” to avoid confrontation of our weaknesses, pride, and personal failures only leads to deeper problems. I am also aware that these issues are not restricted to worship leaders, but anyone in the ministry.

I don’t think that compromising is blatant at first: life, family, ministry, other responsibilities overwhelm us and things begin to fall through the cracks. Our natural tendency is to excuse ourselves from these little failures and move on. However, if we never stop and take an honest inventory of our lives, attitudes, or responses, we may be setting ourselves up for more failure and eventually are “forced” into a compromising situation. We need to stop and ask the hard questions: Have we taken on more than we really should have? Are we responding emotionally because what is irritating us about someone is really a response to a similar weakness in our own lives? Have we failed to understand the boundaries God has placed in our lives? Are we unwilling to share the responsibilities or receive advise as to what to do? Are we too prideful to admit that we need help? Obviously, the list could go on and on.

I know for many there is a temptation to define our worth by what we do, rather than by what God has done for us. An attack on our performance becomes an attack on our very character. We become defensive. We begin to rationalize our actions with “half-truths.” But wait just a moment. Stop. The truth can never be a “half-truth;” half-truths are simply lies sweetened with the appearance of “right” to complete the deception. There is price to pay for truth, but the greater price is paid by those that settle for less.

God’s grace is unfathomable. His forgiveness is beyond understanding. He is there even in those times when we have really blown it. God has taken the initiative with His love and grace; we must respond with confessing the truth of our actions and attitudes. Satan will give a hundred reasons for not doing it, and the end result will be the same: eventually the “real” truth becomes evident and the price to pay is greater now than ever before. One compromise only leads to another. We must stop and confess, that is, “come in agreement with how God sees the issues” and commit ourselves to living in integrity. Only as we commit ourselves to refuse to compromise the truth in living out God’s Word will we leave a testimony and heritage that glorifies the Lord.

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