when i returned to school in february of 1999, i suddenly found myself being asked to lead the weekly worship service at the b.s.u. (b.c.m.) at school. at the time, i knew about 4 or 5 chords on guitar, but luckily, they happened to be the only 4 or 5 chords i needed to play most of the songs in the worship repertoire of those days. as i began leading worship at that service, i devoted myself to reading the bible and any other material on worship that i could. i had little discernment at the time, but thankfully, the lord guarded me from straying too far into any extra-biblical philosophies or ideas on worship.
over the course of the next 4 years (yes, after my junior year, i had four more years of college... it happens when you change your major three times) my responsibilities and commitments in the areas of worship grew considerably. i was being asked to lead at more events, weekend retreats, bible studies, conferences and various other things. i served on staff at two different "first baptist churches" in missouri and in kentucky. it was during these times that i had taken on another aspect of ministry- teaching.
at the two churches were i served on staff, i was the music minister and the youth minister. having grown up with a father who was both a music and youth minister, this wasnt a new concept by any stretch. the music aspect was comfortable for me. after all, i was a music major whose emphasis was voice and had taken several music education and choral conducting classes. i felt sufficiently prepared to lead music during the services and direct choirs. also, i had the added benefit of being able to carry over the experience of leading worship on what was becoming a near daily basis.
what i wasn't prepared for was the shock of biblical illiteracy and spiritual malnourishment in the teenagers in the student ministries i inherited. i found myself weekly driving home from church frustrated, deeply troubled, and burdened that there were kids who came to church every day of their lives and who couldnt even explain what makes a person a christian.
choir members who couldn't sing, worship band drummers who couldnt keep a beat, and leading worship for weekend camps that demanded i play "the happy song" one million times i could handle. but i felt handcuffed when faced with trying to have a bible study with teenagers who didn't even bring their bibles to church, much less know or care what was in it.
it was in the midst of these times when the lord started to grow me personally. i began to sense the hypocrisy of my recognizing the lack of my students bible knowledge while all the while knowing that the only reason i knew more was because i was older and had heard it more often. it was because of no disciplined study of my own that i could beat them in a "bible bowl" or that i knew more memory verses or the books of the bible. i wasn't superior. i was older.
i began to study... yes study the bible for the first time in my life. not to just search through the scriptures untill i found what i was looking for, but to take the word of god and try to understand what it meant.
god, being able to choose whatever means he deems appropriate, threw a bombshell the size of wyoming in my lap in the fall of 2001. being a fan of the music of caedmons call and then member derek webb, i frequented their respective web sites to learn information about songs and where they would be playing next. it was at this point that i began to frequent their message boards, where topics of converstaion were moderated and segmented into topical themes. i found myself at derek's theology forum quite a bit. since god had piqued my interest in such matters, i figured their would be good conversation where i could learn a few terms and bible stories i may not have already known. what i wasn't prepared for, was to have my spiritual foundations pulled from under my feet and dangled in front of me like a second rate self portrait.
i was introduced to historical figures, doctrines, terms, and concepts that i never knew existed. being the stubborn person that i am, i sat out with my bible in hand to prove wrong the people who dared to suggest that i didn't have the grasp of my world that i thought i did.
again, another painful process had started, and i found myself actually having an internal struggle that i absolutely could not ignore. on the one hand, over the past couple of years, i had started to claim my faith as my own and felt like i was progressing beyond the elementary stages of the faith. but on the other hand, it was possible that i was a mere infant in the faith who was just beginning to realize the vastness of what there was to know, and what i should have known all along. there was a struggle of pride. i do not like to admit that i could ever be wrong. even partially. but laying before me was the possibility that not only had i sat out on a mission to prove something worng that was true, but i would have to humble myself and step back and say, " i don't know near as much as people think i do, and worse, as *i* think i do."
now don't get me wrong. what i was struggling with wasn't my salvation. i had already been there and passed that obstacle. but my understanding of who god is, and who i am in light of that was due for a drastic overhaul.
as i began to study more intensley, the lord allowed me to search and study with an open heart, and an open but discerning mind. he placed people around me to keep me grounded and to keep me from going completely off of the deep end when i would come to some stunning conclusions and try to push them on everyone, only to realize that those conclusions weren't all of the way developed... and sometimes... wrong. during these times i learned the importance and priceless truth of the total authority and inerrancy of scripture. without this, it would be easy to follow any concept or idea into its own independent conclusions, no matter what scripture siad about the matter. as i taught students at church, and was given opportunities to speak at bible studies and worship services, i was constantly aware of the percieved needs of a group of christians, and actual needs. what was assumed to be elementary and unimportant was in a lot of cases completely stripped of its rightful place of importance and needed to be brought back to the forefront and learned fully and correctly.
in essence, we had placed the gospel on the shelf of past priorities in order to make room for self awareness/improvement methods, relationship/lifestyle philosophies, and other "relevant" discussions. no one was saying that the gospel wasn't important. but what we were saying was " i have heard the gosple and responded. the lost need the gospel. i need the next step".
i was just starting to awaken to the fact that the gospel is never "over" we never fully get it. we don't progress to a stage where we don't need to hear it as much. it is never taught enough, it can't be known fully enough.
in the gospel, i was realizing, is the fullness of everything.
to be continued...