Most followers of this blog know it is connected with the First Baptist Church of Madras. A small rural church in Central Oregon.
A curious fact that we’ve had to deal with as long as I’ve been a member—nearly twenty-years—is trying to maintain competent musicians to back-up the worship team.
I spent most of those years singing, playing guitar, and performing original music for specials. Unfortunately, arthritis has made it impossible for me to keep playing the guitar. Luckily, my primary instrument is drums, and the arthritis hasn’t hindered that ability.
Off and on for a few years I was accompanied by “P”, a man with a similar musical background in a variety of rock bands. He’s a good musician, competent with both guitar and bass, and we had fun challenging each other. Unfortunately, “P” has never been able to commit his God-given talents to the one who instilled those abilities within him. And, the last I heard, he was doing studio work with a secular rocker that needs a “toke” break after each recording.
I recall a young man, “N”, who came to the church for a while. He and his girlfriend bragged continually about his ability to play guitar, so I kept inviting him to come practice with the worship team. Invitations he continually turned down because of the time commitments. So, I said he could do specials every now and then, like myself and others do. He told me that he’d love to, but he had to sell his guitar. So, I said he could borrow one of mine, which was met with more excuses…so, I quit asking.
A few months later, while preparing for Sing-spiration, a worship and praise event we do along with a church from the nearby Warm Springs Reservation, “N” asked if he could borrow one of my guitars, so that he could perform a special song (while his girlfriend took pictures of him on stage).
When he got up to play, I quickly realized that all the excuses were simply covering up and prolonging the many lies he had told. He had bragged about being a great lead guitarist, and as soon as he put his hands on the guitar it was painfully obvious that he didn’t know a single chord.
Choosing discretion, not wanting to make a scene during the two-congregation event, I took “N” aside later to voice my displeasure over his continual lying to me, and others in the church.
Unfortunately, many more lies were told by “N’, along with various other inappropriateacts; until he was asked to leave and never return.
In such a small community, we sometimes go months, even years, between having new prospective musicians come to the congregation. For instance, Nancy, a wonderful pianist, and myself on the drums, have carried the musical load for several years (with an occasional musician popping in to help every now and then).
Thankfully, we serve a caring God! A God willing to take an active role in our lives and His church. And when He apparently got as frustrated as us over musicians coming to our church and choosing to remain pew-sitters, or go somewhere else, God changed His tactic. Through the unction of the Holy Spirit, He created a new desire in a man that has been a member of this church for years. He gave him the desire to join the worship team, not just to sing (which had been all he’d ever done), but to learn how to play an instrument. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” — Phil. 2:13
When James first approached me concerning the urge, he believed God was placing on his heart, I stressed the need for commitment. At the time, the arthritis in my hands had not yet hindered my ability to play the guitar. So, I was willing to teach him how to play if he honestly made the commitment to learn. However, James was pushing middle-age, and had never wanted to play an instrument before. So, truthfully, I wasn’t expecting too much. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
I’ve been working with James over a year now. His commitment remains strong. And the only time he had to take a break was when his family went from a double-income to single-income household, and he couldn’t make the long trip over regularly. But as soon as the second-income was restored, James has been true to the commitment.
James knows he still has a lot to learn. And it’s not easy for him, because he’s not naturally musically inclined, so he has to work twice as hard. He also deals with a confidence issue when he’s periodically been asked to lead. But he’s made huge strides from the beginning to now, because he’s willing to commit and be used by God; unlike the first two examples.
“P” was naturally musically inclined. God had blessed him with musical talent, and he picked up everything quickly. Unfortunately, “P” could not make the same commitment to God.
“N”, on the other hand, was merely a wannabe. He lacked the ability to commit to anything. It was easier to lie and brag about how good he was, but he never took the time to actually learn how to play. And, sadly, he approached his spiritual walk the same way.
When the people with God-given talent and skills learned through education or life experience refuse to answer God’s call, or when people settle for the easy road and life as a wannabe, God will leave them to their foolish choices. Human standards mean nothing to God. He will simply find willing vessels, like James, to accomplish His plans.
Sadly, those with a willing heart and ability to commit appear to be the minority. In most churches, approximately twenty-percent of the members handle 80-90% of the work. The common denominator among those in the twenty-percent is that they are willing to be used by God—obediently following His purpose for their lives in order to bring glory to His name.
I have been a Believer for nearly half a century, and have seen just about every type or category of church goer and/or member there is. I’ve seen individuals so malleable to God’s perfect sculpting that they effortlessly slide into a position and produce unimaginable results. I’ve seen a large number of workers struggling and sacrificing as they learn tasks they never needed before, in order to succeed in one or more positions no one else would accept. And I’ve witnessed countless people casually earn the title “pew-sitter” as they habitually arrive, sit through the service, and depart—never getting involved with anything except, perhaps, the free meals.
It becomes clear, over time, that God puts His hand of blessing on the willing spirit who will trust Him completely, instead of the various other categories which lack obedience to God.
The category of willing workers being small should not discourage you, for it has always been that way.
“The harvest is so great, and the workers are so few,” he told his disciples. “So, pray to the one in charge of the harvesting, and ask him to recruit more workers for the harvest fields.” — Matthew 9:37-38
Don’t allow any perceived lack to stop you from willingly obeying God’s purpose for your life. God can use anyone if they’re willing to obey Him.
Notice among yourselves, dear brothers, that few of you who follow Christ have big names or power or wealth. Instead, God has deliberately chosen to use ideas the world considers foolish and of little worth in order to shame those people considered by the world as wise and great. He has chosen a plan despised by the world, counted as nothing at all, and used it to bring down to nothing those the world considers great, so that no one anywhere can ever brag in the presence of God. — 1 Cor. 1:26-29
Remember, “If you are really eager to give, then it isn’t important how much you have to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you haven’t.” — 2 Cor. 8:12. And, while this verse is presented in the context of finances, the same principle applies to your time, effort, and using your talent and skills, as well.
Instead of just taking up space or adding more problems to an already problem riddled world, wouldn’t you like your life to matter? You just need to be willing to trust and obey God, allowing Him to fulfill His purpose through you.
Every action taken for God counts for more than this temporal existence, it reverberates throughout eternity. And we do not have to rely on our strength and abilities alone. God equips us with whatever is needed to fulfill His purpose, just like Jesus did for His disciples prior to sending them out to continue the ministry He began.
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him, and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of sickness and disease. — Matthew 10:1
A life lived to help fulfill the purpose of God brings with it a satisfaction and contentment far beyond those surrounded by wealth acquired through avarice, greed, and blind ambition. And while the world’s wealth will disappear the treasures stored in heaven through obedient actions will never disappear.
For those of you already at that level of spiritual maturity, I thank you for doing your part for the Body of Christ. For the rest of you, especially the pew-sitters, isn’t it time to get off the bench and into the game? If you cannot see the warning signs in every area of present-day society, you have a serious case of self-denial. And I pray the Lord opens your eyes before it’s too late. And, for those of you that have seen the signs, and have begun to move on God’s behalf, take heart and remain courageous—for God is also working on your behalf.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. — Phil. 2:13
And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. — Romans 8:28
It has always been about our willingness, for God gave us freedom of choice.