You know that saying “preaching to the choir”? Well that’s what this blog post is for me. In fact it might just be for me and this is my way of journaling and reminding myself of what the Father spoke to my heart on Sunday. But I have a feeling, it might encourage and help focus those of us in ministry with the gift we have been given through the local church. Maybe not, but I hope so.
Ben and I are worship leaders at a wonderful little church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is simple and messy. It’s not perfect but it’s perfect for us. We have found such a beautiful home – a safe place in our church. We’ve been with it in the beginning and have seen God’s hand through all the details. As a church, we are open and honest. We welcome all. We discuss the hard stuff. We cry with one another. We encourage and edify. But most of all, we seek the heart of God as a people, striving to be “a community shaped by the Gospel for the renewal of all things.”
We have been leading worship together for over 10 years. Separately for a good 15-20. Worship is intertwined in who we are as individuals and a couple. We have seen an explosive knowledge and growth of worship music in these years. I remember when Dennis Jernigan and Darlene Zschech came on the worship music scene. The prayer of my heart was to have the influence they had when it came to worship music and leading the world towards the heart of God through this thing I found God in. It is still a strong desire of my heart. Nothing is wrong with that.
But something has taken place in worship…just like with anything, an industry is developed and somewhat perverts the purity of what it starts with. Does that make sense? Suddenly people are inspired and running towards making the next “hit worship song” instead of writing from a place of inspiration from the Father. We chase after catchy melodies and things that worked in one song that should work in another…and it’s skewed with a lot of people in ministry. We have the opportunity and honor to know many in the worship industry who have a large influence and in those raw moments of vulnerability, staying true to the purity of what worship is supposed to be birthed from…is a struggle.
We were signed to a label in October and it is such an honor to have people believe in your gifting and talent and want the world to know it on a grander scale. That’s not what this is about. This is about an internal struggle I have had to make something of the gift we’ve been given through being a signed artist. I’ve carried a weight to do something with this. We’ve asked ourselves over and over “what does this look like for Ben & Noelle” and there are lots of things that come to mind…but in the waiting for clarification, I’ve gotten anxious. I’ve carried guilt for not “chasing” what I thought I should be chasing. Let me clarify, this pressure comes from me, not a label or industry or anything…me.
So on Sunday, as we are encouraging our congregation to lift their hands and ask for healing to come, I felt the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit “this is what you have been given…this is what you are to be about”. People. The church. Knowing the stories of our people and loving them through moments of worship so they have the courage to lift their heads…to sing out…to lean into the goodness of God. We must, we must, we must be good stewards of the gift God has given us through the local church. As people in ministry, PEOPLE must be our driving force. Not exposure, not success, not fame, not influence, not the next hit song, not even an income. Someone walked through those doors carrying a load and they need you to remind them they are not alone. They need their eyes to be opened and hearts to be encouraged through the gifting God has given you. That is a gift YOU have been given. Forgive us, God, for seeking anything different.
I want to make sure I’m being clear in saying there is nothing wrong with being a part of the industry. We love being a part of it. Nothing is wrong with making music and writing songs and nothing is wrong with having success because of that. This is just a sweet and kind reminder to myself and to others, of what should be our inspiration and driving force behind the music. And if we are being honest, it’s very easy to lose sight of that. Get to know your people. Know their stories. Know their hearts and what we as a people need to be reminded of in our times of worship. Be inspired by your people. Birth songs from that. And maybe that song might not be on the top 100 worship songs, but it did something for your people. Your local church is what you are to be a good steward of. You’re needed there. Social media paints a picture of what ministry is and it so skewed. So skewed. Ministry is ugly and hard and messy but it’s beautiful and gracious and kind. It’s Jesus.
Bottom line, know your people. Love them. Do right by them. Lead them. Give them permission to trust you with their stories. This is the work of God. This is the honor and privilege we’ve been given in ministry. Blessings on you friends. Go and be about our Father’s heart.