Alone In The Crowd: A leader’s curse or blessing?

Am I the only one? Sometimes a crowd will be moved magically by a phrase in a speech, a hook in a song, and the vibe in the room which all may work to enraptures the majority. I’m perhaps alone at times. I see other things that might not be quite as flattering.There are several reasons for this, perhaps. When you have been a speaker, a worship leader, and one who produces events on a regular basis, the magic of losing yourself in the crowd wanes. The behind-the-scenes life dodges hazards and dulls the senses. Or, does it? Some of us simply live as observants to a different layer of activity. Leaders see things others may not.

What do I see when I go to church? A guy in the back clapping or expressing louder than the rest to prime the pump, a worship leader offering a “prayer” to cover a bad musical transition, a preacher sounding super-excited about something the 150th time all come to mind. Add the audio guy mixing in more bass when the congregation seems to lose interest and church goers targeting the new couple sitting in front of them. All of these might feel inauthentic. There is an act of performing in any leadership role, and sometimes we just need to be open about that. Right? These all happen to be positives, by the way–good behaviors. I am not going to even mention all the actual bad stuff I notice. Fill in the blank.

Leaders will be bothered by the things they may actually be able to fix. If you are in the room and it bothers you to see batteries run out on the wireless microphones, you may be a good candidate for the church audio team–maybe even as a team leader. If you notice people not being greeted as they come on the church campus, it may be that you are a perfect fit for the hospitality team. Am I the only one who sees things? The choice is critical for those of us who “see” things–either use what you see to dig and make a change or sit and become possibly a dreary cynic. It is actually easy to see fault. It is quite more taxing to own it and contribute to change.

Challenging the process is a clear mark of leadership, according to the book The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner. If a person is unwilling to put him or herself out there to make things better for the greater good then perhaps leadership is not his or her calling. Leaders sometimes feel like we are the only ones in the room on a particular issue. If not, then perhaps you are not leader. That feeling of loneliness is not enjoyable. You often must hide what you see and think and be patient to wait for the appropriate time to unload your ideas. However, challenging the process of ministry is needed, necessary, and potentially highly effective.

Remember the hazards to dodge? What happens in a church setting is two-fold. A well-meaning member challenges our process and those of us in leadership take it as a personal challenge. After all, we made the decisions that created the process and result being questioned. A hyper sensitive attitude hurts the chances of finding and encouraging grass-roots leadership. We silence people because of our insecurity. The other scenario is a brooding church leader who feels it right to complain, but does so as a cynic lobbing stones rather than a prophet weeping to be part of the change. 

There is indeed a difference between a prophet and a cynic. I was inspired by this dichotomy both presented in talks by authors Ian Morgan Cron and Glen Packiam this past fall at the National Worship Leader Conference. Choose wisely. If you choose to be a cynic, you will surely not be alone, joining throngs of the disgruntled, entitled, and loud. If you choose the prophetic road, then you may be alone. The prophet is sometimes never heard. He or she still speaks, still works, still prays and surely present with the people. Challenging the process must occur. But, you may be the only one in the crowd that sees the need. Are you OK with that?

Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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