Transforming Church Team Blog
resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

Monkey Trap


The more we strive for what we want, the more we struggle.  This is a simple truth of the human experience.  I give you chinese handcuffs…

As a worship leader for nearly 20 years, I have struggled to create, maintain, expand and express more meaningful worship experiences for the congregations I have served.  My goal was direct access to the heart of God, believing that He would be true to His promise and would inhabit the praises of His people.  My strategy often was to build and nurture a robust creative experience largely focused on music.  

The struggle was in the conflict between our expectations of the experience and His.  We wanted to experience certain styles, sounds, visuals and so on believing these things would assist and even be the catalyst for our worship.  This can be true.  However, we found ourselves, more often than not, energized around the gifts we offered rather than on the one for whom the gift is given and His extravagant, awe-inspiring and transformative presence.  Our presents became more important than His presence.

He wanted and wants, no, demands our undistracted attention because while our efforts help us express our adoration and praise, He alone is able to bring about the transformation He desires for each of us.  We need His presence and no amount of human intervention or creativity will bring that about.  Scripture tells us that when we gather together in His name He is there.  Worship is less then about how we express ourselves and more about how we experience our God.  Yet, how often do we lose sight of His presence and lose our grip on the one person that will transform our very existence while we hold tightly to our creative expressions and personal preferences?

Years ago I heard a story about how monkeys are caught by trappers.  It seems monkeys like nuts.  I mean, they are nuts about nuts.  So much so that trappers will hollow out a coconut with a hole just big enough for a monkey to slip his hand inside to get to the nuts the trapper has placed there.  Once the monkey has gripped the treasure, he can’t squeeze his fist back through the hole because he is unwilling to forfeit his prize.  The monkey will not let go of what he wants to experience what he needs and loses his freedom and sometimes his life in the process.

I can tell you that I have never created or participated in a prize or moment worthy of exchanging the transformative power of God’s presence and the freedom to unashamedly worship Him.  This IS life.  However, when my striving is after God Himself, His rewards are immeasurable and my struggle is made easier as I simply get out of the way.  The more we strive the more we struggle, but this is a struggle worthy of my best effort and offerings.


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