How Chris McClarney Avoids the Pitfall of Perfection

May 11, 2017

It’s always funny to me that the busiest day of the week at WorshipTogether.com is Saturday. It just shows how many of us are scrambling to fill our setlist before Sunday morning. We all know that there is never enough time to plan for our services, so when I talk with worship pastors, I like to ask them how they plan their week.

On this week’s podcast, we talk to our good friend Chris McClarney. Besides being an artist and writer, McClarney is the worship pastor at one of the fastest growing churches in the country. We asked him to walk us through how he manages his week and his team.

Warning: His answer may give you heartburn.

 McClarney: “On Tuesday we’ll meet as a worship department to discuss what the weekend’s service will be about. Normally we leave with a rough setlist of maybe two or three songs.

But I’m the kind of guy who likes the idea of not exactly knowing what we’re going to do. (Which is probably making your listeners stress out.) But I enjoy the unknown. Obviously, I have the luxury of having amazing players at my church. When Stu G is playing guitar, you can basically do whatever you want.

So, Saturday night is when they finally get the set list.”

Jimi: “You’ve got to be kidding! Saturday night? Really?”

McClarney: Yeah.

Jimi: “OK. Everyone listening, do not take this advice!

So on Sunday morning, do you prep your team? Like, hey I might change something?”

McClarney: “No. Even after they have the setlist, I have the tendency to, mid-service, just decide that I want to do a different song. The reason is because I really enjoy that moment when nobody is looking at the chord chart. Nobody is looking at their iPad. Nobody is thinking about the riff their supposed to play. So all of a sudden, maybe for the first time all morning, everyone is genuinely engaged in creating worship.”

This pursuit is an interesting dichotomy. While most of us are using our limited resources to strive for perfection, McClarney (who may actually be able to achieve it) is deliberately creating controlled chaos. His goal isn’t perfection, but authentic worship.

We know that about 70% of worship leaders are part-time or volunteers. And most of those who are full-time pastors have many responsibilities beyond leading worship. There are going to be those weeks when you just don’t get to everything. Maybe you don’t have enough time to plan your set, rehearse, or pray. Maybe it’s in the times when all we can do is rely on God is when we see Him take over a service.

Have you ever had a week when your song selection had nothing to do with the sermon, yet the themes of the songs fit perfectly with what your pastor is preaching? It’s like the Holy Spirit has gone before us and taken care of what we couldn’t. It’s not always about picking the perfect song, it’s about serving God and his church with a good heart.

Praying over our worship services and planning for them is always good. But when we over plan and put all of the pressure on ourselves, we limit what we allow God to do. Let’s not forget that, at the end of the day, God understands our circumstances and our resources. In those moments of “controlled chaos,” let’s all relax and allow God to show up.

 

To listen to the full interview with Chris McClarney please visit your favorite podcast provider or listen to the Soundcloud embed below. 

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The Worship Together Podcast is an opportunity for our team to have honest conversations about the songs we sing and the way we lead. Join us weekly as we speak with some of the most instrumental artists, worship leaders, songwriters and pastors influencing the creative culture of the church today.