A few months ago, I attended a workshop on leadership development. We were given this glossy page, filled with a 6×6 grid of boxes that had words in them like grit, thoughtfulness, and perspective. I wasn’t sure if it was a test or some terrible icebreaker. The man in charge told us that we had 60 seconds to remove 20 boxes that didn’t resonate with who we are as a person. I immediately started scanning the page, slashing ink through words like empathy, listening, and sharing. Time was called and a mild wave of relief spread across the room.
I began to think “What if we have to share the unmarked boxes? How will others perceive…” Too late. I heard the voice on the microphone say, “30 more seconds and you must remove ten more boxes that represent who you are the least”. With no time to dwell on the social and professional consequences of my answers, I dove back in and began crossing off words. I whittled the boxes down to six.
The words left on the page seemed to stare at me as much as I stared at them. I found it hard to believe that these six words could define me. I thought “There is no way that I could…” The man in charge broke into my self reflection again, “You have thirty more seconds to remove three boxes”. What? I went from thinking there is no way six words can define me to feeling anxiety about losing half of who I apparently was. The ballpoint of my pen rolled over three more boxes. “You’re done” said the man in charge. He told us that what was left were our core values, the very values we apply to the world around us, to our work, to others, and to ourselves. I can’t even tell you what the other two were. Only one of them resonated, rose off the page, and connected. Joy.
We were asked to write one of our values down on a post-it, stick it on our head, and walk around to find out about the core values of others through awkward and forced conversation. Then I saw them. Two others with “joy” written on their foreheads. I made my way over. We talked. It didn’t take long before all three of us pinpointed the source of our core value, Jesus.
That exercise has stuck with me. It has given me context for why I see things the way that I do, and why I act the way that I do. I have this unshakable joy found in the presence of Jesus! As worship leaders, we get that. Voices raised, music flowing, spirit moving, lives changing, as the name above all names is lifted…We know his presence on stage. But how does that connect to the moments off stage?
“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.”
The joy of the Lord is found in his presence and where we gather, he is there. This means that being in community is a tremendous way to experience and grow in the joy of the Lord. It is in community that we are presented with the opportunity to love one another, work together, and grow relationally. There is tremendous joy in that! However, when we withdraw from community and from the presence of Jesus, we rob ourselves of joy.
My joy erodes when I am living apart from his community and outside of his presence. How can we stay there, in that sweet spot, where he is tangible and his joy is abundant?
Philippians 2: 3-8
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
Take on the attitude of Jesus. In his presence, your only privilege is that your are in his presence! In his presence, humility quickly becomes your demeanor and obedience your default. In his presence you die to yourself.
The joy of the Lord is more than a core value. It is a powerful gift given to those who take on the attitude of Jesus, live in community with believers, and experience is presence.
Reflect on this…
1. What is a practical step you can take to grow in the joy of the Lord through your attitude, your community and a deeper awareness of his presence?
2. How can you encourage others to experience the joy of the Lord?
3. How will your worship look/be different this weekend as a result of having the joy of the Lord?