While I've titled this post "Leading when you feel sad", I'm really getting at something deeper.
How about this instead,
"Leading when you're stressed"
"Leading when you are depressed"
"Leading when you have doubts"
"Leading when you have no sense of hope."
It's a common notion that has been handed down through generations of pastors and preachers and vicars and bishops and people with little white plastic slip-in collars.
When leading worship - smile.
Let the congregation know you are enjoying it.
Let the congregation see that everything is rosy with you.
Let the people see how well you bask in the halonic light of the messiah as you draw people forward in their profound journeys with God.
Don't let the congregation know if you're not happy.
This little list of aphorisms were in one wording or another given to me as a helpful inheritance by a former supervisor.
The purpose of these little flatulent sayings are on the face of it quite reasonable.
If I went to a concert and the lead guitarist was looking a little jaded I might question their commitment to the cause, or they're belief in the band's lyrics.
But even then I'm not sure I'd prefer them to smile flatly and falsely.
But within churches - when push comes to shove, this is an unwritten rule - look happy when leading.
I get the feeling R.S. Thomas would have had an answer to any who dared suggest such a thing to him.
But genuinely, how do we respond to such ideas?
How should we act if quite frankly we feel terrible, or actually can think of no worse place, than stood at the front of church?
Maybe one answer might be given, "yeah but it's your job/hobby/idea of a cracking Sunday morning, so just get on with it yeah?"
To which I would respond, but who can honestly say they've felt their best everyday they've been to work, or have some salesmen and women actually been fed up of trying to sell used cars and looked tired? Or maybe they're not sleeping, or are ill?
But someone at the church, speaking, well lets wheel out 1 Peter 3:15b,
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you.
Take that - depressive types!
It's because it's all about hope isn't it?
Yes.... and no....
Because a life in leadership is just that, a life. And a life is full of ups and downs. Clergy types who spend years baptising, marrying and burying should know this.
"But just keep smiling."
The horrific catchphrase of some ridiculous parody of a church at worship.
Cutting to the chase I have two things I really want to say at this point (and I may blog more at another time).
THE FIRST: In the late 90's and throughout the 00's I think much of youth work and evangelistic ministry within the church was about big event, showy event. It's all about the zapp and the boom and the pow. We're going to impress these people into the kingdom with mediocre Christian rap, bleached hair and an OTT event.
And these things were (and still are) great at many things.
But something has happened in the last ten years.
Teenagers discovered the internet.
And then they grew up to be mid-twenties, and are now going on 30.
If they want a zapp, a boom, or a pow, the internet can provide a bigger and better one than the Church can.
Rather than mourning over this, I rejoice. Because a thread that has emerged in youth work, and mission theory is that, wait for it, .............. what really matters is relationships.
You can have all the special effects you want but if you don't know the person whose sharing this story with you it's all worthless.
Relationships, friendships, mentoring, these ways of communicating and sharing life are essential.
It's through these ways of communicating (whether in physical personal contact, or via an interface like the internet) that people really share their lives and stories.
And here's a newsflash. When you share people's lives - you realise that sometimes things aren't all rosy.
There might be something wrong.
OR sleep depriving.
THE SECOND: In Chester diocese we're really getting into supporting the campaigns that say 1 in 4 people suffer from some form of mental health concern in their life-time. I have a mate who works in front-line Mental Health nursing who tells me that the statistics they base their work on say 1 in 3.
Depression: stress: medically recognised conditions.
It needs to be understood that telling a depressed leader to "smile when leading services" is an affront to a person's dignity and an unfair challenge.
Could you imagine the backlash if a service leader with a broken leg was told, "try not to hobble so much".
Or if a person in a wheelchair was told to stand up when reading the gospel.
It just wouldn't happen.
So I'm therefore left with a picture of clergy, and the like, who because they've never experienced profound sadness, can't accept it when someone has - and shock horror, is experiencing it.
Either that or they're disregarding someones health and limitations that result from it...... again, I don't think that would go down too well.
All in all, I want to encourage those of you who currently feel a bit fed up, and those of you who feel significantly more than a bit fed-up.
I want to encourage you to not smile (if you don't want to) when leading worship.
I want you to know that Christ has called you, as you are. To grow into his likeness, yes.
But to encounter healing and wholeness.
He's called the WHOLE of you.
I try to take as my role model from the New Testament, the Apostle Thomas.
A figure whose great faith and incredible insight has been white-washed with the word "doubting".
This man who says, "come on you lot, let's go to Jerusalem so we might die with him".
This man who says, "how will we know the way?" Which gifts Jesus the opportunity to say, "I am the way, the truth and the life."
So, let us walk to Jerusalem with Jesus and Thomas. Even if we feel like lagging behind. Even if our eyes are fixed into the middle-distance. Even if we can't quite dare to meet the eye of Jesus on that walk.
Let us take the walk with him, and in our own time, in God's own time, perhaps then, we might well encounter something we feel we can smile about.