St. Francis famously prayed, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
Prominent in the biblical concept of peace is the Hebrew word shalom – a peace that goes beyond the absence of conflict to experiencing life and relationship “as it should be,” in wholeness and complete wellbeing. It’s the kind of perfect peace, the true shalom of God, that will continue to elude our grasp until the Lord makes all things new.
And yet, Psalm 34:14 tells us to “search for peace and work to maintain it.”
Our Lord himself said, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
The takeaway? Living in a fallen world means peace doesn’t come easy. Like learning a musical instrument, it takes training and practice.
As a leader, you may be frustrated to find that you are often responsible for the very moves that bring conflict to a relationship or a community.
Worship leaders, you know what I’m talking about.
I’d like to address three contexts in which worship leaders experience conflict.
1. YOUR CONGREGATION
Your congregation is probably the largest group affected by your leadership. And the old adage is true: you can’t keep all the people happy all of the time – nor should that be your goal. But it should always be your desire to seek peace.
What about the couple that insists the music is too loud, constantly referencing studies related to decibel levels and hearing loss? They write harshly worded notes on response cards, button hole you in the hallway, and regularly fire off grave emails citing evidence of the auditory health risk they’re subjecting themselves to just by attending your church.
You’ve responded to them before, but they keep coming. There is no peace. What do you do?
2. YOUR CHURCH STAFF
Personally, I’ve worked with some really great folks, but even the most unified teams face conflict from time to time.
The youth pastor is convinced that the main meeting for the student group should move from Wednesday nights to Sunday mornings – during the second hour. She figures she’ll get more students at her meeting when the family is already there, rather than asking the students to come up on another night. She’s probably right, but you know that since most of the parents only come for the second hour on Sundays, the students will be in youth group rather than the main service. You don’t want to lose the energy the students bring. After all, they never complain the music is too loud.
It’s not the first time you and the youth leader have dealt with competing interests and goals. What do you do?
3. YOUR MUSIC TEAM
It’s hard to imagine that a group of musicians living the dream of using their gifts for the Lord would ever be in conflict.
What about the musician who is consistently unprepared? You plan ahead, you produce accurate and helpful charts (I hope you are) and you make your charts and listening files available week after week. And yet, he shows up for rehearsal without a clue.
You’ve had this conversation before. Now what do you do?
These are just a few examples that bring unique relational challenges. And yet, over the years, I’ve learned that there are some general attitudes that apply in varying measure to any circumstance where you are sincere about working for peace.
My top three:
1. AGREE WHENEVER AND HOWEVER YOU CAN.
This may be the most overlooked step in peace making.
So often, we begin from the assumption of disagreement. Instead, pause and reflect. Are there any points that are valid? What can you learn? Is there anything you can change that will make their input valuable? If so, do it! I can’t overstate the power of this approach. It will make you better at what you do.
Do you really think you already have all the right answers?
Bonus tip: You may need some time. I need 24 hours to let my initial defensiveness dissipate to where I can see the value in what a critic is suggesting. Figure our how long you need and commit to delay your response for that length of time.
This takes practice.
2. VALUE PEACE MORE THAN VICTORY.
This should go without saying. You simply have to decide. Is your ultimate goal to win a debate, or is to be an instrument of peace?
I’ll make this promise to you: If you are willing to elevate peace over victory, you may feel like you are suffering loss in the short term, but you will actually win in the long term. This is a hard and beautiful thing to learn.
I’ll let you apply the details to your situation, but I dare you to practice it.
3. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.
Again, it seems like we shouldn’t have to remind ourselves of the second most important commandment. But, we do. We forget about the person in the context of the conflict.
Here’s what I sometimes have to do: I repeat over and over in my head… “as yourself, as yourself, as yourself…”
What if it was me in that chair, on that end of the email exchange, holdingthat view? How would I want to be listened to and understood? What would make me feel loved? What would bring me peace?
If this seems hard, it’s because it is! It doesn’t just happen, anymore than a person who has never put in hard work and practice is going to pick up a fine instrument and make beautiful music.
It takes motivation, passion, desire, and practice.
And which is more important, the musical instrument you employ when you lead, or the instrument that you are as a leader?
You know the answer.
Want to be an instrument of peace? It takes practice.
Get to it. And may the peace of Christ be with you all.