Embracing the Journey: My Story of Worship

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I have a story to share. It is a story that began 16 years ago. It is a story that began when I was 10 years old.

It’s funny which moments you remember from childhood but I remember two moments of a certain week in the summer holidays. The first was this: I was at New Wine in one of the children’s groups when Holy Spirit showed up in my life for the first time. It was quite an overwhelming experience – the only other clear memory of that day was my sister who was two years younger came to meet me so we could walk back to our tents together and I basically shouted at her and ran off because I was overwhelmed by what had happened! A hilarious first move for a 10 year old who had just become a Christian. Thankfully my parents explained to me what had happened and encouraged me in the early days of my walk with God.

A few days later the team had invited Scott Underwood, a worship leader, to speak to the children. That, in itself, it turns out was pretty generous as this man was a well known worship leader and author in the Vineyard movement. Anyway, I don’t remember any of the session but I do remember at the end there was an invitation to anyone who felt God might be calling them to lead worship. I was only 10 years old but for whatever reason, I felt compelled to respond. We went forward to the right hand side of the stage and I remember Scott Underwood praying for us.

After the session I recounted to my parents what had happened. Now, my mum has since said that when I told them the story they laughed to themselves – this was a small boy stating he was going to lead worship… a small boy who had never shown any interest in music, had practically failed playing the recorder and couldn’t really sing. They didn’t really think it could happen. I don’t blame them!

The good news is my parents are fantastic and have always invested in us. This time they bought us an electric guitar. The only problem? I didn’t play it. It collected dust in our downstairs hallway. I had a go here and there but never really got into it. To this day, I’ve never really played that guitar.

A few years into secondary school I got significantly stuck into the music scene. I loved music. All my money was spent on CDs. Music spoke to me in a way nothing else did. I was inspired by it and challenged by it. I met God through the lyrics and the sound. It expressed what I felt on the inside but couldn’t find the words to describe. When I was 15 I borrowed an old acoustic classical guitar and taught myself some chords. It was a ridiculously hard guitar to learn on with a really wide neck. I still couldn’t sing but with a small bit of input from an older guy from church I taught myself the basics.

I kept going, never really investing in learning in any meaningful way, but trying to pick up a few songs here and there. I started trying to write some of my own (most are awful). Along the way I found that I could actually sing.

I kept playing in my room. Since I was 10 I always had an intense passion to be in the presence of God. I worshipped my heart out in my room whilst I was at college and then at university. I went through some hard times but I felt close to God when I sang. I poured my heart out before him, strumming and singing to myself. Me and the creator of the universe. Looking back it was like King David in a lonely field. I give Him my all. I learnt to lay down my life before Him with a sacrifice of praise.

I never played in front of people but people who didn’t know me very well kept giving me prophetic words about having a worshipping heart and leading others. I rationalised that this wouldn’t be in a music way as I wasn’t good enough for that kind of thing. I couldn’t sing properly, I couldn’t play guitar properly. It’s a heart thing, I thought.

I did Form (discipleship / leadership year) and ended up involved in our ministries for 18-30s at my church in Sheffield. Somewhere along the way, leaders who I trusted started saying I should lead worship. They were gentle but forceful. They were patient as I was very opposed to any thought of me being at the front of church, let alone playing guitar. I was nowhere near good enough to play the guitar in a church!

My leaders encouraged me and started giving me opportunities. My parents bought me an electro-acoustic guitar. I started leading in small groups with students and young adults. I was asked to sing at a friend’s wedding and played a song I had written. More importantly I kept pouring my heart out before God in my bedroom. I worshipped Him in a quiet and secret place. I wasn’t great at the guitar, I didn’t have the perfect voice but I knew He loved to spend time with me.

The first big opportunity I had to lead was at a worship event called His Presence. The organisers rang me a day before saying the person they had to lead couldn’t make it and could I play. Erm…?! I led with another guitarist (also called Tim) and my sister on keys. It was the first time I had played plugged in. It actually seemed to go well. I still didn’t think I was good enough. I kept putting off joining the worship team at church. Nicole Brown asked me a number of times. I avoided the opportunities. I wasn’t good enough.

Throughout this time I would speak to my mum on the phone and she would always remind me of this prophetic promise that a little boy received at New Wine when he was 10 years old. Every time she spoke of this it sounded as though she was convinced God has spoken. I did not believe in myself but my mum believed in me. More importantly, she had come to believe in the word from a loving Father over my life.

Over the last two years I have had more and more opportunities to lead worship. I finally joined the worship team and Nicole has always been generous in helping me to learn. As everything I’ve learnt was self-taught it has been a steep learning curve! Since September 2015 we have been having Worship Nights at our church and Andy Stone (church leader) has basically forced me to play with him! He saw something in my heart, encouraged me and believed in me.

Since the beginning of this year I’ve had the beautiful opportunity to lead worship with my lovely wife-to-be. Honestly, this is a dream come true. She has a stunning heart and an equally gorgeous voice. Her desire to pour out her praise to Jesus is contagious and inspiring. I have been very fortunate to meet a girl who I get to sing with. I have been very fortunate to meet a girl who believes in me – who sees things written on my heart by God and stands with me to say them come to pass. All praise to Him!

Finally, last Sunday morning – Sunday 28th February 2016 – I led worship at church during our Sunday gathering. 16 years since a boy heard an impossible word. 16 years of getting to know the heart of the Father in an empty bedroom.

Am I an amazing guitarist? NO! I still struggle to play in time! In fact, last Sunday was the first time I had led with a drummer and it was a new challenge. I am still learning. But this is what I have realised: God has given me the heart. I may not have the skills that others do, I may prefer to revert back to the same four chords, I may struggle with tempo, I may not have the best singing range… but I have the heart that God put in me a long time ago. 16 years ago in fact. It’s a heart that grew in a similar way to David, in the quiet places, alone in a bedroom. It’s a heart that has been encouraged by the generosity of my parents and amazing leaders. It’s a heart that was invested in year after year by New Wine. And it’s with that heart that I am able to lead worship.

Let it be a sweet, sweet sound.

I’ve often written about the process of discipleship and I hope that this story encourages you to hold on to the promises God gives you. In this instant culture we expect quick fixes, immediate answers and instant breakthrough. This is not the way of the kingdom: “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” (Mark 4:27) Sometimes (and I’m going to argue more often that not) it is a slow burning journey to the promised land. Patience is a valuable gift. Little seeds take a long time to grow. We can do things to nurture them but it is a mystery how they grow. Some seeds take many years to become tall trees. Make the little decisions along the way that invest in your heart. Get to know His heart. There is no logical reason for me to have ever led worship in a church service. It is all through the grace of God, combined with the little decisions to get to know Him in the secret place.

Last Sunday felt like a culmination of a long journey. It is a time to give thanks for all God has done. But it is a journey that is only just beginning.

 

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Encouragement.

“That is SO encouraging!!”

How many times have we heard someone say that? It is a very typical response to a range of scenarios. Maybe I gave you a generous compliment… or maybe I prayed for you after a church service. Maybe I gave you a prophetic word… or maybe I said I was here for you if you ever needed it.

“Thanks Tim, that has really encouraged me…”

…has it?!

“…that’s really encouraging to know”

…is it?!

I have been thinking about encouragement a lot recently. I am not discounting the above as examples of encouragement but I believe there’s a new depth of ‘encouragement’ that we are yet to grasp.

It comes down the actual word. Think about this: the prefix “en-“ means to “make” or “put in”. The word ‘encourage’ therefore essentially means “to put in courage”. When was the last time you thanked someone for saying something encouraging to you? Did it really put courage into you? Did it deposit something into your heart that allowed you to courageously step out as who you are meant to be?

Because that’s the kind of encouragement that I want to start to give. That’s the kind of encourager that I want to become.

Everyone Needs Encouragement

You see, everyone needs encouragement. At the moment I see a lot of people with a lot of training but they do not have the courage to step out and see their God-given dreams fulfilled. You can have all the training and equipping in the world, but you won’t do much without the courage to step into the person that you were created to be.

The great thing about being in relationship with the God who created the entire world is that He has the capacity to released massive dreams in people. This is great! We are each created in His image with God-given kingdom potential embedded in us. Sometimes these dreams seem impossible, but they are not when the creator of the universe is living inside of you! That’s why encouragement is so important – it’s calling out that God-given potential in people and giving them the courage to live it out!

Think about the examples above: if I give you a compliment or a prophetic word but you walk away the same as before, has it really encouraged you (put courage in you)? But if I give you a compliment or prophetic word that instills a sense of courage in your heart where you can walk out the room with a smile on your face, believing that you can see the Kingdom of God come in your situation and you can see your God-given dreams become reality, no matter how big or crazy… then that sounds like encouragement!!

Invitation and Challenge

The great thing about this kind of encouragement is that it encompasses both invitation and challenge. Imagine someone comes to me and says: “Tim, I believe in you. I believe that you can see both universities in Sheffield transformed by God’s love. Your dream to see broken students encounter God’s love will become a reality. Keep stepping out and taking opportunities because I believe in you Tim and I believe in the dreams God has given you.”

What a great thing to say to someone! Not only are they affirming what God has put in my heart, but they are inviting me into relationship and backing me as a person. However, it is also contains an element of challenge – it’s saying “I believe in you, so go and do it!” Step out and live the life God has called you to. Go!

Jesus was the best encourager. When I read some of His words I like to imagine what it would have been like to have been there. Can you imagine how courageous you would feel if Jesus said to you “all authority has been given to me, so go! Get out there and make disciples everywhere… and I’m going to be with you along the way, every single day, no matter what!” (paraphrase of Matthew 28:18-20)? That’s encouragement! There’s the challenge of chasing after an amazing dream and purpose – people from all nations being discipled! To get there, they have to go. Yet it is combined with the invitation and the reassurance that He will not leave them! No wonder these uneducated fishermen saw 3,000 people saved on day one after Holy Spirit showed up in Acts. They were left full of courage by Jesus (courage that is reinforced and increased by the wonderful Holy Spirit – Jesus in them!!)

If we just challenge people without the invitation of relationship, we end up beating them down. I don’t think the disciples would have been as effective if Jesus had just said “go and change the world and disciple people”. That sounds scary! How could they step out to be the people they were created to be without the reassurance that Jesus was going to be with them?! In the same way, if we only challenge people we do not release people to be who God has made them to be. And my guess is that those people will continue to struggle to overcome the areas of their life that you are challenging in them. However, if we grasp what it means to encourage, to put in and instill courage in the hearts of the people we are discipling, then we will see a courageous generation stand up who see and hear the dreams God has put in their heart and they believe that they can play a part in seeing them become reality.

So go! Find people that encourage you and go and encourage the people around you. We need to create a culture of encouragement by being encouraged ourselves and learning to put courage in the hearts of the people around us.

  1. Are you good at encouraging (putting courage in) people? Think of some ways that you can encourage people around you.
  2. Who are the people around you that give you the courage to be the person that you were created to be?
  3. Who are the people you feel God is telling you to encourage this week?