Confession of a 40 year old Asian-American Worship Pastor
Last year, I turned 40.
It was a big deal. Maybe because I found more white hair forcing itself out on my head making me reflect on life and ministry. I’ve led worship for 20 years. It’s all I knew. It’s what I studied. It’s what I felt called to pursue. It was my passion. And yet, I had to realize the limits of my own age, my own music backward currents as well as a possibility of transitioning out.
Just like NBA players, in the world of worship many "older" worship leaders ask themselves when to hang up their worship jersey. If you’re like me, growing up in an Asian-American church, worship leading was always supposed to be a path and never a destination. No one attends a theological seminary, studies Greek and Hebrew, gets ordained to become a worship pastor. The ultimate end goal is to be a lead pastor or a senior pastor one day. Isn’t that what we’re taught to do and become in seminary? Isn’t that what our Asian parents taught us, to pursue for the top?
These were the questions I had to ponder with when I turned 40. In fact, it actually happened at 38. While faithfully serving in my home church for 20 plus years, I asked myself “I will be 40 in 2 years, what am I called to do?” It was a genuine struggle, a genuine pressure I faced as a pastor, a worship leader, and even as a husband and father. The reality was clear, I do not see any other giftings in ministry outside of worship and music. But what do you do when you see the latest worship trend gearing toward the younger folks? Or when you hear your congregation desiring for youthful worship teams rather than middle-aged ones?
When God called me out of my comfort zone last year to leave my home church to venture into the unknown, so many voices spoke to me. I would hear advices such as:
- “So, what are your plans? Are you going to pastor a church?”
- “Unless you’re planning to be a lead pastor somewhere else, I don’t think it’s wise for you to move.”
- “You sure you want to go somewhere else and do the same thing? You sure you want a lateral move? At your age and season, you should think broader about your ministry career.”
- “It will be difficult for you to find a worship leading position at your age. Churches are looking for young and energetic worship leaders.”
- “Don’t you think it’s time to think outside of worship?”
I love this passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
Paul’s reassurance to the church of Thessalonica is that God is faithful. And because God is faithful, our job is to be blameless until we encounter Jesus Christ face to face. And because God is faithful, we are to be faithful.
A friend of mine asked what I thought was different between a worship pastor versus other pastors. I believe when God calls you into ministry, he calls us to pastor a flock. And whether that flock is in the form of a college group, youth ministry, small groups, missions, lead pastor, or even worship pastor, we are to lead and shepherd the people God has entrusted us with. We are to point everyone to Jesus. If leading worship is one of the ways of helping others to Jesus, then God has called you to pastor over that ministry.
If you were to ask whether I’m still leading worship, the answer is a resounding “yes!” Because the God who is faithful is asking me to be faithful in the gifts he has granted towards me. Worship leaders and pastors, pursue your passion for Christ no matter what context you’re called in!