[Word count: 566. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…” —Ephesians 4:11-12 NKJV
What do you want to be when you grow up? A fireman? An astronaut? A police officer? How about a doctor? What if it’s none of the above? If you have no plans to become anything on the list, does that mean you’re doomed to be a couch-stuck grown-child still living at your parents’ house? This is what failures are made of. And this is the conflict I felt whenever someone recited that passage from Ephesians 4.
When you grow up in church, you’re conditioned to be exclusive for Jesus. If you’re talented in anything, it needs to benefit the church. “Don’t go out and use God’s gifts in The World. Be a blessing to the people of God with your gifts.” And that’s awesome when you can fill a specialized need for a niche that might otherwise go underserved. But what about when you’ve got a specific talent that your church doesn’t really need?
A California law named after Motown singer Teena Marie made it illegal for record labels to keep a performer under contract without releasing new material and allowing them to fulfill their contract. I wish the church had that kind of law. You can shock-train people to stay in church. But what if the church doesn’t know who you are or what to do with you?
For those who really do belong in church, it’s fine. They won’t suffer. But for everyone else, it will create inner turmoil. It’s certain because they will at some point have to choose between:
- Being loyal to what they’ve been taught all their life, and…
- Obeying the voice of God within them.
This is why there’s something inherently wrong with teaching youth to find their identity in church. I loved my church. I wanted to belong there—and specifically in the music ministry. I wanted a place where I could excel and grow. For a long time that was happening. But my development was limited. I stalled out as a background singer who might occasionally lead. Not bad, right? Some people never sing lead. I should be grateful. Well, I am… but…
One day about 3 years ago, an invited guest said something revolutionary at a summit meeting we were having for the music ministry:
“Always desire for God to make you something outside the church so that you don’t use the church to pad your insecurity.”
—Pastor Jon Decuir
I was not attending a church that ran interference with guilt trips if you dared venture outside of church. As a matter of fact, it was encouraged and supported! You can’t affect the world if you don’t at some point go out into it. But I wanted to find an identity inside. I wanted someone to confer a title upon me and say “You are this! This will be your life’s path! This is what God wants.” I wanted to check the box next to apostle… prophet… evangelist… exhorter… something. I didn’t want to feel like a couch-bound disappointment of a son.
Turns out I pretty much have to decide my own path. I wish someone would have told me sooner that it’s okay to check NONE-OF-THE-ABOVE.
This is #3 in a 5-part series called Exit Wounds: Song of an Ex-Worship Leader.
Read the introduction here. You just read “More Than You Know What To Do With.”
- PART 1: The Miseducation of the Worship Leader [1/5]
— Whatever worship is, I thought it was more powerful than it actually is. When I found out how mystical it wasn’t, I could not deal. I wish someone would have done a better job warning me worship wouldn’t protect me from life happening.
- PART 2: Church Superstars: You Ain’t Got It [2/5]
— Music was one thing I was sure I was good at, so to hear that I wasn’t good enough was crushing. It left me unsure of “my calling,” and doubting whether I was good at anything.
- PART 3: More Than You Know What To Do With [3/5]
— Help. I don’t fit in church, but I don’t know how to get outside of it. What do I do now?
- PART 4: Performance vs. Worship: When Keeping It Real Is Wrong [4/5] — The act of worshipping in front of an audience blurred the lines between what was for God and what was for people.
- PART 5: So You Think You Can Worship? [5/5]
— The hokey-pokey dance of trying to understand what worship is and isn’t left me confused. I’m still not sure what it is right now.