I have been waiting over two years to write this.

Six months ago, Carlie (pregnant with Vivi), Banner, and I moved to Knoxville, TN to join the worship staff at Fellowship Church.  Our call to Fellowship ended a job search that began in the fall of 2010 for us.  Our long season of waiting has been the toughest thing I have ever experienced to this point in my life but I am grateful for it.  I want to talk in a bit about what my joining a church staff means for the future of Beggartown. But I first want to share our job search journey with you.

Beggartown began out of our desire to see the people of God live sacrificial lives for the sake of the poor and orphaned, for Christ’s Kingdom.  I longed for our ministry to be an encouragement and a challenge to the Church; that they might have the heart of the widow and her two cents, understanding what it truly meant to give.  We did not have some big platform to stand on or a turned-up megaphone to shout our message from.  I had a few songs and a love of leading worship, so I used that.  In the last 5 years we have shared our mission through leading worship and sharing songs in over 40 cities spread out across the country.  We have seen thousands and thousands of dollars go through our ministry for the benefit of orphans in Mongolia and Nicaragua.  I’m getting a little overwhelmed as I write this by the ways God has used Beggartown for His Kingdom since 2007.  We’ve been able to make music that sings of God’s love and then sell that music to show God’s love to the orphan.  That is an amazing thing to be a part of.

God began to do a new work in my heart in late 2010.  To put it plainly, I missed serving a local church community.   God began redirecting my desires. I began to sense that my season of part-time/full-time traveling was coming to an end.  It was not an end to Beggartown or an end to our mission.  It was a redirection. If you know me well, you know that there are few things that have made me come more alive than driving to a new city or a new event to share our message.  But as that desire in me began to wean I knew God was up to something.

The Lord began to show me that it was not only in the local church that my calling and gifting’s made sense but it was in the local church that, for me moving forward, my calling and giftings made the most sense.  So prayerfully and with excitement we began to seek God on what he had next for us.  To be completely real with you, I thought it wouldn’t be difficult for me to find a great position at a great church.  In my mind, I had enough talent, experience, and education to get a job wherever I wanted.  Remember I’m being very honest here.  I’d recorded three albums, I had run my own ministry for several years at that point, and I was about to get a masters degree in worship.  I even had my name as a web domain.  That’s got to count for something, right?  I more than assumed that my voicemail and inbox would be quickly filled with job offers.  I had all but packed my moving truck in my mind.

But then came silence.

It was not the kind of silence you hear when you drive in the car without the stereo on.  It was the kind of silence that intrudes deep in your marrow, cuts you down, and then beats your gut like a punching bag.  Before I knew it I had submitted my resume to more churches than I could count.  I waited hourly for responses that never came.  I’m not talking about positions at Saddleback or Willowcreek (although I did apply to them, too).  I couldn’t even get a “Thanks but no thanks” from churches looking for part-time or contract help.  As the days and weeks turned into months, I had a handful of opportunities that just couldn’t seem to work out.  The silence and rejection I felt was not that churches weren’t interested in hiring me.  It wasn’t really even a feeling of not being a good worship leader, musician, or pastor.  Although I did call those things into question, the real silence and pain I felt was from feeling that God had removed His Hand and calling from me.  That is a dark place.  I had spent the majority of my life serving Him and sacrificing for Him.  And He repaid me with, what I felt at the time was, a turned back.

I spent many months in depression as my hope in God’s goodness and faithfulness drained from my heart.  I wanted desperately to believe that God had not left me but I had falsely let my circumstances be my eyes, making it impossible for me to see His Hand.

The light started to come on for me after reading Ecclesiastes 7:14 which says “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other”.   He had not left me. He was present.  He is God in seasons of blessing and in seasons of silence. What I thought was God’s inactivity was actually His working in me. There are things that He cares more about than our jobs or our happiness or even more than answering our prayers.  I learned that His care for me is disconnected from what I do.  There were obviously things lacking in my heart and character that only His perceived silence could fix and restore.  He had graciously brought me to a place where I could find my true identity.  It was not in my job, not in my calling, not in people’s perceptions of me, not in His blessings, and not in my comfort.  I had to be OK with the fact that I might never find what I thought I was looking for.   God’s withholdings taught me to be satisfied in Him alone.

I very vividly remember the Thursday night this last December when God began to show me how much attention and obsession I had placed on my job search.  He called me to lay it all down (the anxiety, the web searches, the endless resume submissions) and trust Him.  And I did, with everything in me.  Within 24 hours of my surrender, two churches that I had no previous interaction with contacted me.  After many weeks and conversations it appeared that both churches thought I was their guy.  This was quite a far cry from the steady stream of “no’s” I had become accustomed to the previous 16 months.

In January, I accepted the Associate Worship Pastor position at Fellowship Church.  I cannot adequately describe to you how this position and this church are far more than what we have been praying and waiting for.  God’s Hand has been overwhelmingly evident throughout the entire interview process with them and in our first six months serving alongside of them.  I know that it is not a perfect church and I will not do a perfect job in the position but it is a perfect fit for us.  I could not have more accurately written the job description to fit my gifting’s and desires if I tried.   I get to focus on disciple making, mentoring, leading worship, writing music, and investing in people.  Not a bad job. Carlie and I have been exceedingly overwhelmed with gratitude.  I always thought that I would look back decades from now and see the purpose of this tough season.  But I see it now.  His plans are surely higher than my own and I am grateful.

Last night Carlie and I read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Verse 6 of John 11 caught me off guard, “So when he (Jesus) heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days”.  Why did Jesus wait?  Why was He delayed?  Why was He silent to the prayers of Lazarus’ family? To be honest, I don’t fully know.  I will never really know why it took me a year and a half to find a position at a church.  But I do know that Lazarus being dead those two extra days made his resurrection that much more spectacular.  Yes, God had to teach me things that only this last season could teach me.  But at the end of the day, God’s delay in answering my prayer revealed His glory more than if He had answered my prayer when I first asked it.  I know this position was not given to me and I surely did not earn it.  It was God’s working.  He has indeed been faithful.  He is indeed good.  This is not because He gave me what I asked for because sometimes He doesn’t.  He is faithful and good because that is who He is regardless of my situation.  And that is the lesson I had to learn.

 

Looking Ahead:

One of the many confirmations I have had about joining the staff at Fellowship was the leaderships desire to see Beggartown continue and flourish.   They are a church that cares deeply about engaging the body of Christ to care for the orphaned in real and very tangible ways. Fellowship has been living out the idea of Beggartown and its mission long before our ministry was even conceived.  As we look ahead, we know that Beggartown will not be as it has been.  Our ministry has solely existed through me traveling and selling my albums and merchandise.  Our message will continue but our means will change.  To be honest, I don’t fully know exactly what this will look like.  Maybe Beggartown will become a non-profit record label, engaging other artists to invest in orphan care through their music.  Maybe we will put out compilations albums for missions.  Maybe we will franchise Beggartown t-shirt stores in local malls or Beggartown will become a theme park that looks something like the cover of The Beggartown EP (just throwing those last two out there).  We will be taking this next year to get situated in Knoxville and in our new role at Fellowship but we are looking ahead and still dreaming.  Please pray for direction and wisdom for our ministry in these upcoming months and years.  There are good days ahead.