I'm turning 30 this year and sometimes I can't help but feel that I should be a lot further on in life than I am. I'm going to be honest about how I've got to where I've got and I hope you find wisdom in what I say and you find it helpful for choices you make in the future, particularly if you're young and wanting to pursue music and worship leading specifically as a potential source of income. I hope I raise some thought-provoking questions in you.
Being good at creative stuff is a real blessing. I thank God that He's used me and my songs in our church during my time in Exeter. It's been such a joy to lead people in Spirit and Truth filled worship. I love being a musician in my two jobs in church and prison.
But for me sometimes I feel it's also been somewhat of a stumbling block. I'm sure there are other guys out there, particularly young worship leaders for who this is true. It's a passion and a thrill and it's all you want to do, but it doesn't pay well if you're at my level which is a 'not quite good enough' to do it full time kind of level. You can feel like you're getting led up the garden path and at the end of it find yourself in a place of disillusionment and financial lack.
For the past five years I have sacrificed financially to do what I do and it's been tough for me and my family, but I have been following what I genuinely felt God was calling me to for this season, which is to equip the Church with worship music, and as a result I've found jobs that have allowed me to do that and allowed me to grow in my gifting. I'm now at point where my priorities have to change. It could be so easy to look back now and label the choices we made as unwise or foolish.
But what do you do with the fact that we very definitely heard God call us to stay and build His Church in Exeter? You can't ignore His voice. I have a degree in French and German which elsewhere might get me a better job, but in the South West is about as useful as putting mudguards on a tortoise. (I do wish I had done something vocational at university). The moment Anna and I decided to stay in Exeter we knew it was going to be tough and that we wouldn't be able to use our full academic gift sets. We knew God had called us here, we couldn't ignore Him and that meant sacrifice. So in the end I guess I've ended up doing the other thing that I'm good at – music.
People often challenge me as to whether being in Exeter and doing what I'm doing is the right thing. I believe it was right to stay here. We've achieved more than I could have ever hoped or dreamed of. I don't regret living here or having focussed on developing my gifting in a way that meant sacrificing. By the grace of God our marriage is good, we have a roof over our heads, two wonderful little boys, we belong to an amazing church with passionate, loving leadership and we've had the privilege of building God's kingdom in a very deep and powerful way.
Things do have to change now in employment priorities and we've known that for a while. We know we've made financial mistakes and could have been a lot wiser at certain points.
But what I think I'm trying to say is this: When God calls you to follow and obey, He can often also call you to sacrifice. Just because things have been difficult or unwise from a worldly perspective doesn't mean that you're in the wrong place. Wisdom is dynamic and teaches us through all sorts of situations. Listen out for her voice. Listen to the Spirit and look for Jesus. If it looks to you like He will call you to a vocation and region that will mean you're financially blessed then that's wonderful. But if He calls you to a life that means that you'll never buy a house but only rent for the rest of your life then that's wonderful too. Just listen for His voice and obey when He speaks.
To finish I'll leave you with something Leonard Ravenhill once said about John Wesley:
John died in 1791, converted at 35. Turn that round it makes 53. Add them together it makes 88. Because he was saved at 35, preached for 53 years. And you know what he left when he died? He left a handful of books, a faded Geneva gown that he preached in all over England, six silver spoons somebody gave him, six pound notes, “give one to each of the poor men that carry me to my grave.” And that’s all he left: six pound notes, six silver spoons, a handful of books, a Geneva gown and ah… there's something else... what was it, the other thing? Oh, I know, something else... he left, the Methodist Church
He could have died as rich as your famous TV preacher Sunday. Sure he made money, and he built orphanages. Sure he made money, he printed bibles. Sure he made money. He compiled, with Charles, the Methodist hymnbook and look at his orphanages.
And he died worth about thirty dollars.
He printed bibles. He printed hymnbooks. He financed missionaries to go across the earth. That’s the way to use your money. You think of the reward. Why, in God’s name, do you think it says don’t lay up treasure on earth? Lay up treasure in heaven.