Over the past week end I began thinking about an event in my youth, probably about my 6th grade year…maybe 7th. We had music class and we were all in the class and the teacher had each of us come up and sing a part. After we finished she called me over and requested that I come to a high school choir practice to sit in with some of the older guys. I did. There was not much explanation but I sat next to a fellow who I believe was a senior. Pretty intimidating really but he was kind and had an incredible booming voice. In fact later on he went into local TV work, some behind the scenes work and some in front of the camera. Anyway we did that one time…then nothing else. I do not remember her saying that I had a good voice or even that I had potential and nothing more came of it. In high school I was involved in sports and choir seemed like not a guy things to do. More importantly to me…no one asked. If there was something there I wondered why not be a little more persistent to get me to join? I loved and still love music.
So for years I figured this was not a talent I had and I listened to others and dreamed a bit. Barb and I married and I was introduced to church music, not choirs at first but a lot of hymns and blue grass gospel singing. We eventually moved to a little larger Baptist church and they had a choir…it was an awful choir but still a choir. I was also introduced to special music, you know the lead up to the the message but a soloist usually. We had some special music in our prior church but it was more of a, “Does anyone have a song to share?” This was more planned out. Then they hired a choir director at the new church. Immediately the choir improved. It was not great but much better and Barb and I joined. Now Barb was a natural and and a great asset to any choir. She had sung in high school choirs and trios in church. I have never heard her sing off key or miss a note…she will make up her own words on occasion;) So I was now singing in a choir…and really enjoying it. No one ever said I could sing or that I had a nice voice but they said I could sing in the choir. Then the director began a young married musical group made up of couples and we tried out…and made it. Again I rode Barb’s ability to get in but we were in. Then a men’s quartet made up of 5 or 6 guys…yep that is right a quartet…math was not his strong suit. One song they gave us to learn he passed out solos to be sung and I got one. First time ever…I began by singing timidly and quietly which really is not singing at all. I have heard it said that singing is controlled yelling…yelling on key I guess. So at one rehearsal I just decided to let it rip, sing like it sounded on the tape. When my time came I let it fly, sang with all my might and heart and it actually went well. The piano player almost fell off her stool as I sang, the timidity was gone and I was determined it was now or never. If it was bad…I would be out but if not, I as going to enjoy myself. I did.
That choir director in a short time got more out of me than anyone ever before. He left a little while later and I even led the choir for a while, me a guy who could not read music, who did not know 4/4 time form 3/4 time. It was fun. Barb and I sang in a trio for a while with another friend and we had such fun. In my head we were going to be the next Bill Gaither Trio but that did not happen. Eventually we discovered worship. Not song singing…worship. We joined a growing charismatic church in town and fell in love with worshiping God in powerful way. The pastor had our worship leader train me to lead worship and I was over the moon excited. He did not really train me, to be honest. He was such a great musician and had such a great ear for music he had a hard time relating to a person who did not hear quite as well as he did, and I was not musically inclined. I again began leading timidly and it was OK at best. I could sense the pastor was thinking that this was not working and it really was not. So again one evening I decided that if this was going to work I had to go all in. Pretend to be confident even if I was not, sing with clarity and boldness so others could follow. Worship above all…worship the way I loved to worship. Boom, it happened!
That church went through a lot of stuff and eventually closed and that story in itself is a strange one. But later on I had coffee with the pastor and I thanked him for taking a risk on me, to seeing something and putting me in a place to go for it. I never really had the chance to thank our old choir director but I hope one day I will be able to. I do think I reached out to him on social media one time to think him but never heard anything back.
A teacher sensed something, I think, but never really followed up. Maybe it is all about God’s timing. Discovering I had a voice changed so many things for me. Developing my voice was fun. I knew I was limited in my ability and yet once I found my voice I could not longer sit back and watch. Most importantly, finding my voice pushed me to discover worship. Worship took me to deeper places…leading worship trained me to lead in general. Moving people from one spot to another place is what worship leaders do. Song leaders my pick a few favorites to sing and that is fine but a worship leader takes you on a journey.
Anyway, I wondered why I even focused on this memory. It was not that exciting or even disappointing, just a thought from a time past. In the past I probably would have gotten sad or even angry at the reacher for not doing more for me, kind of play the victim card a little bit. It does feel like I was overlooked by her or not valued enough to pursue more. So what…the real story here is how God used others to bring me to a place to discover a gift I loved. He placed me in places to expand and to use the gift. I do not think I would be doing what I am doing right now as a pastor if this part of my life had not been unearthed and brought to daylight. I knew I had a lid musically as I watched other worship leaders lead. I was not instrumentally gifted though I did learn to play guitar enough to lead in our Vineyard context. And that put me in the place to say yes to Jesus when the call to plant was in my lap. I led worship at the church plant because that was my comfort place and had to grow in other things like preaching.
Why do I even share this story? I think because, especially in leadership, what we do is to dig for the jewels all around us. To hunt for and discover all the Bill’s that might be lurking around waiting for someone to notice what is buried inside of them. Some of it might not even be buried…we seem to be in a season where we are seeing the gifts of some young teenagers and it is up to us to help them develop the gifts that will be used down the road. We tend to look for the more seasoned adult and then we wonder why the percentage of young people who leave the Church as they graduate high school is so high. We overlook them but the world does not…we wait for them to grow up and then it is too late. Ok…that was a bit of a trail. I do wonder why the teacher gave up…but I am grateful for those who took a chance. As I finish up here I remembered this also…The Vineyard took a chance on me years ago when they told us to go ahead and plant a church. I have spoken to the overseers we had back then numerous times to thank them for the risk they took. I did not see what they saw…I was an average worship leader who had a few people say that they would like to see us lead a new Vineyard Church. I was not classically trained scholastically, I was a life long factory worker who loved Jesus and served in every known capacity of church life. No one…no one ever looked at me and said, “You should plant a church.” Only a few thought that being a pastor was a good idea for me…and I was not one of them. Honestly one choir director unearthed something buried deeply, another leader introduced me to worship and leading worship. The Vineyard grew that in me until one day…I said yes to being a pastor…a reluctant yes but a yes nevertheless…I again began leading timidly and grew into it. Thank you Dan Larramore, wherever you are. Thank you Tom Polker. Thank you Rich Nathan and Danny Meyer…this oft overlooked fellow thanks you for not overlooking…for seeing only what God could see…