My dad traveled in a worship band called Gabriel from the mid-70s to the early 90s. Actually, “traveled” is an understatement. Before I was born, my dad was on the road as many as 250 days per year. He knew how difficult it was to be a traveling worship leader, so he encouraged me to major in Business and get a stable job. God had other plans.
For the past 12 years, I have been following in my dad’s footsteps, traveling and leading worship wherever the Lord leads. Itinerant ministry is a joy and an honor, but it is also full of challenges and temptations, so I always keep these five Biblical concepts in mind:
1. ONE THING IS NECESSARY
In Luke 10, there is a story of two sisters named Martha and Mary. Martha is hosting Jesus at her house, and like many hosts, she busies herself with serving. To Martha’s dismay, her sister Mary does not help with the chores. Instead, Mary chooses to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his teaching. When Martha confronts Jesus about Mary’s laziness, Jesus says “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
When we travel, there are many chores to be done. There are itineraries, set ups, sound checks, leadership meetings, set lists, pro presenter problems, breakout sessions, tear downs, blown tires, etc. In the midst of the chaos, we can’t forget that “one thing is necessary,” and that’s to spend time, sitting at the feet of Jesus.* We must be reading the bible and praying daily. For me, that means a bible reading plan through YouVersion and a prayer list that is organized in Evernote. The road is unstructured, so I have to be creative about how I plan and structure my life.
For example, when I arrive at an event, I think through a time for my band to sit at the feet of Jesus together. Sometimes it’s before evening worship; sometimes it’s in the morning. Sometimes it’s in the green room; sometimes it’s at the hotel. When I am intentional about finding a good time and place to study the Word, my band gets into good rhythms. When I let things happen naturally, the chores overtake our schedule.
Tweet This: When I’m intentional about finding space to study the Word, my band gets into good rhythms. @asworship #ontheroad
*I am indebted to Aaron Ivey for pointing me to Luke 10 and giving me a black v-neck shirt that says “one thing is necessary” across the chest. Black v-necks are my love language. Thank you, Aaron.
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2. FAMILY TAKES PRIORITY OVER MINISTRY
1 Timothy 3:5 says “If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” In other words, your ministry to your spouse and kids takes precedence over all other ministries. When I was a kid, my dad worked his travel schedule around my baseball season, so he could be at my games. Even better, he was my head coach!
Tweet This: Your ministry to your spouse and kids takes precedence over all other ministries. @asworship #ontheroad
Now, I have my own household to lead. In January, I got married to a beautiful, smart, godly Spanish teacher. She traveled with me to six church camps this summer, and for the first couple of weeks, I must confess that I did not make her a priority. I busied myself with chores and did not do a good job of finding time to sit at the feet of Jesus OR be with my wife. When she expressed her concern, I said, “I love you and I can’t wait to talk with you about this…after rehearsal.” But as I was heading out the door, I felt the conviction of 1 Timothy 3:5. I had prioritized the Church over my own household.
I texted my band, letting them know that I would be late to rehearsal. I stayed and talked with my wife about her concerns, we made compromises, and I committed to being a more present husband. This was a defining moment in our ministry this summer. Now, even when my wife can’t join me on the road, she knows that my ministry to her takes priority over all other ministries.
3. MY ROAD MINISTRY IS AN EXTENSION OF MY HOME MINISTRY
In Acts 20:28, Paul says “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God.” Paul gives two instructions in this verse. The first instruction is to “pay careful attention to yourselves” (check). The second instruction is to “pay careful attention…to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” In this passage, Paul is addressing the Ephesian elders, and “the flock” refers to the Church at Ephesus. So essentially, Paul is saying “pay careful attention to your local church.” This is a reminder that I am not responsible for overseeing every flock that I come across while on the road. Each church has its own leaders, teachers, and elders (see Acts 14:23). I lead worship at the Austin Stone Community Church, and though I am not officially an elder, God has given me a position of leadership here in Austin, TX. When I travel, I am taking the culture that God has created at my home church and using it to bless the big “C” Church.
At home, I have a “missional community group”, which consists of my band, our wives, and two newborns. This summer, we had as many as twelve people on the road with us, including the two newborns and our female vocalist, who sings at The Austin Stone on Sundays. During camps, we studied the Word and fellowshipped together, much like we do in Austin. We prayed over students, just as we pray over congregants at The Austin Stone. And we shared our worship culture with many different churches. Put simply, my band’s ministry on the road is an extension of what’s happening at our local church. Does this mean that our road leadership should always look exactly like our home leadership? Not necessarily, and I’ll explain why in point #4.
4. TRAVELING WORSHIP LEADERS SHOULD SUBMIT TO EVENT LEADERS
Hebrews 13:17 says “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” Local church pastors will have to give an account for their flock. This means that I will give an account for the flock at the Austin Stone Community Church.
But what about the churches I come across on the road? From my understanding of Scripture, it is the pastors of the local church (not the traveling worship leader) who will have to give an account for each congregation. So, if the pastors of the local church will have to give an account for their people, then I should submit to the pastors’ vision for their people. If I lead worship for a middle school retreat, I should submit to the middle school minister. If I lead for a college event, I should submit to the college minister. If I lead worship for a multi-church event, there is always a leader or group of leaders, whom God has entrusted with coordinating all the local churches in attendance. I should submit to those leaders. As a traveling worship leader, I am called to serve the ministers I meet on the road, not be served by them.
Tweet This: I am called to serve the ministers I meet on the road, not be served by them. @asworship #ontheroad
For example, my last camp of the summer was led by several youth ministers from primarily hispanic churches. I am not hispanic. And my home church, though diverse, is not primarily hispanic. So, when I arrived at the camp grounds, I asked the camp leaders how I could best connect with their students. They gave me a list of songs that their students knew and encouraged me to introduce some new songs. We found common ground, broke new ground, and had a great week of worship. My band still led in a way that reflected our home church culture, but we were submissive to the event leaders in the process.
Can I still make suggestions? Yes. Can I still have a voice of leadership as I travel? Yes. Should I submit to an event leader who asks me to do something that I believe is unbiblical? No I should not, just as Peter and John did not submit to the rulers and elders, who told them to stop teaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 4).
5. WE TRAVEL TO SPREAD GOD’S FAME, NOT OURS
God says in Isaiah 42:8 “I am the LORD…my glory I give to no other.” When God says “my glory I give to no other,” that includes gifted songwriters, recording artists, communicators, studio musicians, mega-church leaders, social media celebrities, etc. GOD DOES NOT SHARE HIS GLORY. If you are writing and recording music in an effort to make Jesus famous, then praise God for that. If you are selling band t-shirts to support your family and your ministry and ultimately bring glory to Christ, then keep going! But if you search your heart and find that your primary motivation is money, or the approval of others, then God asks that we confess and repent (1 John 1:9). I must search my own heart on a regular basis, and if I search deep enough, there is usually some pride or selfish ambition that needs to be confessed and laid before the cross in repentance.
When my dad traveled, he was often asked: “How can I do what you do? How can I get out on the road?” He would respond: “Be a kind person. We need more kind people in itinerant ministry.” I like that response, and I will add this:
Serve God faithfully right where you are. If God wants to use you elsewhere, He will. And whether we are being used at home or on the road, I pray that we would prioritize our time with Jesus, lead our families well, serve our local churches faithfully, submit to our pastors, and continue to give God the glory He is due.
Tweet This: Serve God faithfully right where you are. If God wants to use you elsewhere, He will. @asworship #ontheroad