Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Backstage Living in a Center Stage World

As leaders we are all called to serve backstage in some capacity.

Most of my childhood was spent training to be on center stage. I immersed myself in academics and the arts. In high school I was a member of the elite jazz show choir, I was the first chair cellist in the orchestra, and I played important roles in musicals and other dramas. I loved wow-ing the audience as a soloist at community and church events and at vocal competitions. I was truly in my element performing in front of others. Center stage is where I wanted to be.

After graduation from high school, I continued my musical pursuits. I became involved in music ministry as a worship leader at my local church and on the evangelistic circuit. At the same time, I was in a worship trio for a revival association in my city. These opportunities had an added dimension that I found wonderfully rewarding. When I ministered in song, people connected with God and were visibly touched by His presence. I understood that it was the Holy Spirit and not me doing the work. I lived to be available for Him. By the time my husband and I left our home in Southern Oregon and relocated in the Seattle area to go to school at Northwest University, I was accustomed to leading worship for crowds of 2000 people, and it seemed that anybody that was somebody in the churches of our area knew who I was. I assumed that moving to a larger population would give me greater visibility and thus more opportunities to minister to people.

I was completed bewildered that my assessment was wrong. Some of it was that juggling ministry with children became increasingly difficult. But another curious thing occurred. Music ministry opportunities did arise and I would be eager to accept. However, when I prayed about it, God would unmistakably speak to my heart, You must say “no.” Confused and frustrated, yet obedient, I would decline the invitation.

I lived in obscurity for nearly a decade with no real musical outlet. My time was spent having and caring for babies. I loved my kids and I was committed to raising them for Christ, but I grieved the loss of center stage ministry where I had no doubt that I was used by God.

During those hidden years, God began to teach me the beauty of backstage living, using my experience of the performance world. The backstage crew is necessary to the success of any show. While the audience is engaged in the action on stage, most of the work is done behind the scenes. It is crucial work that nobody knows about (except for those involved) until something goes wrong. A scenery change takes too long. The curtain opens too soon. A prop is missing. But when everything runs smoothly, the backstage crew receives little recognition. In addition, the backstage crew wields great influence in the morale of the show. Their passion and enthusiasm rub off on others, creating excitement and energy for the entire production.

In the kingdom of God, we are all called to support Jesus Christ as the Star of His show. We all possess gifts that must be used to draw attention to Him. As leaders, we are all called to serve backstage in some capacity. When we bring passion and enthusiasm to our unseen position, our attitude will create excitement and energy for the cause of Christ.

For me backstage living does not mean that I never lead up front. It does mean that I reject the notions upon which I had previously built my life and ministry–that those who are truly blessed and anointed are center stage, while the lesser gifted are relegated to backstage. Instead I willingly step back and joyfully allow others to step forward. Every opportunity, big or small, becomes a divine appointment to reveal God center stage, by investing in others to develop their gifts, empowering others to take the lead in a project, lending a helping hand, offering hope to the hurting–in short, by demonstrating Jesus in word and action to the people around me.

Recently I found these words penned in an old journal that sum up backstage living: I don’t want recognition; I only want to make a difference. There is incredible meaning in serving others without the need for praise. How blessed it is to support others in their endeavors to build God’s kingdom without hidden expectations. Backstage living will look different for you than it does for me. The important thing is Jesus Christ be center stage.

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