I had a great conversation with great new friends last night, and whoa, Nellie…it’s amazing what a charge you can get from shooting the breeze about faith with people you’ve just met. My wise and quotable mom would call that the Spirit recognizing the Spirit.
It was a small collection of folks who all might be interested in church planting. So, of course, it’s quite logical to meet and talk and investigate the possibility that we could join forces and build a new church together.
At one point during the conversation, we talked about worship. One of my new friends, Katie (yes, that’s my name, too), told us that she had experienced the most powerful and genuine worship while on mission trips to Kenya. Another new friend named Todd (yes, that’s also my husband’s name) said that he had never encountered genuine worship before entering drug rehab at Victory Temple Ministries in Fort Worth.
They both described these times of worship as pretty lengthy. The worshippers take their time to sing and shout their praise—it’s not just three or four songs they have to get through so they can hear the message, take up the offering and head out to lunch. They linger in worship. It’s almost…leisurely, perhaps?
As the conversation turned to church planting, Todd said, “I think it ought to be standard to worship for an hour.”
I knew what he meant by that. He’d seen—experienced, rather–something very real. The people who engaged in worship with him at Victory have just that…victory. They had all come to the end of a long road of addiction and experienced a transformation that only Jesus Christ in His mercy and grace can bring about. To be sure, these worshippers have a solid frame of reference of exactly what Christ has rescued them from.
“Or at least,” I added, “it should be standard to just…worship.”
I’ve never been to Kenya, never been to rehab, but I’ve seen it, too. There’s a difference between a song service and worship. My own worship of Jesus Christ has dramatically changed of late. I spent a lot of years being pretty passive during the music, if not downright inattentive. A hunger for something more surfaced while I was singing with the band at First Baptist Church in Orange, Texas. John, our music minister, would always emphasize, “We lead worship.”
Taking these instructions to heart, I paid close attention to the lyrics. Theologically, I concurred. It’s all true. “How Great is Our God”?—Pretty great. “Mighty to Save”? Yep. He, in fact, can move the mountains. Hey, are these or are they not the “Days of Elijah”? You bet they are. And, “He (indeed) Knows My Name” which makes me a “Friend of God” and it’s “All Because of Jesus.” Hallelu-yer.
What troubled me is that I agreed, but that was about it. If we were to sing, let’s say—how about an oldie?—“I Love You Lord,” then I truly felt…uncomfortable. Do I love Him? Really? If He were to question me the way He questioned Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Could I say yes?
Honestly, I just wasn’t sure. I mean, I know that I wanted to love Him, I should love Him, I’d always claimed to love him, but it didn’t feel like love. It felt more…perfunctory, routine, habitual yet passive.
At about the same time that I began wrestling with these troubling thoughts, my husband Todd and I began questioning our involvement in the ministry altogether. One day we had a conversation that went something like this—
Him—“Maybe I should just quit and go to work at Home Depot.”
Her—“I think we need to see lives changed or I just don’t want to do this anymore.”
Sounds like a bummer, right? Don’t think your own pastor doesn’t go through seasons like this.
I prayed for these disconcerting issues off and on for a few years—that I would experience a true love relationship with Jesus Christ and that we would get to see lives changed. And do you know what God did? He proved Himself to me, alright. He fostered that love between us and changed a life all at the same time. He changed me.
It’s a long story, which is too much for one post. But between miscarriages and adoptions, deep depression and true abiding peace, anger and restoration, loss and acceptance, I experienced victory. Here’s the amazing thing. I would do it all again—the whole rip-your-heart-out-and-grind-it-into-a-powder devastating mess—to know Him and love Him the way I do today.
You know how I know I’m changed? When the very darkest day of my life was upon me, I was seized with the realization that salvation truly is a great rescue—that I, Katie Beasley, have been brought from death to life. Suddenly I understood that my earthly suffering is just an infinitesimal glimpse at what hell must surely be like. Though hell is the place I deserve, Jesus saved me and has gone to prepare a place for me in the Father’s house. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”? Dear friends, it is “vast beyond all measure.” So I worshipped Him. And it was real.