A little story from a long time ago that gives you a glimpse into my development as a worshiper of Jesus and how I found out it was OK to be different.
A few months after giving my heart to the Lord I was asked to participate in a gospel sing that my church was hosting. I don't know why my pastor thought that I would be a good addition but he insisted that I participate. The singing was made up of 2 Southern Gospel groups with me opening up the show. This was my 1st encounter with a "gospel sing" – I had never even been to one as a spectator so I had no concept what it would be like and what people expected. (It should be noted that when I say I had "no concept" you should remember that I was just finishing up a gig playing beer joints on Saturday Nites )
As I was nearing the date of the singing I was working up songs that my pastor had given me because he thought I could sing them (more importantly these were his favorite songs that he wanted to hear me sing) so I was quite busy "finding my voice" on this new style of music. The style was a traditional gospel sound (which I am fine with) but I remember that, although I appreciated the words of the songs I was singing, none of them stirred my soul – I just wasn't connecting stylistically.
At the time I was regularly listening to a contemporary Christian station (107.3 WCLN) and was hearing a song that I just loved titled, "Free", and thought to myself, "I wonder where I could find the soundtrack to that?". I went by the local Christian bookstore and sure enough THEY HAD IT – I WAS PUMPED!! "Finally a song that just makes my heart jump!!!"
The next evening I was at the church with my pastor – I was rehearsing and he was working on some stuff around the church. I popped in my new soundtrack cassette (tape – remember those?) and began to sing the song…
"What's that", my Pastor asked.
"Oh, it's a song called 'Free' by a guy named Steven Curtis Chapman.", I replied.
"Where did you get that?"
"The Christian bookstore in Fayetteville".
"Why?", he asked me.
"Because it's an amazing song that just totally captures the feeling that I have in my soul. I've been hearing it on the radio and I just felt like it's more 'me' than the other stuff I'm working on. Don't get me wrong, these songs are great but they just don't sound like me as much as this one". End of conversation.
That Saturday night we had a good old gospel sing and I got up there in front of that church crowd and 2 seasoned Southern Gospel groups and shared my voice with the crowd and when the end of my set came I shared a little bit of my testimony of who I am and where I have come from. After the testimony I told them that this last song pretty much summed up the way my spirit now feels – "It's a song titled 'Free'"…
(cue the soundtrack)
(Begins with semi-funky electronic drum beat – the crowd's faces were blank…)
I sang it – with passion, with conviction and (I believe) with anointing. They didn't get it.
I've tried to live out the ministry God has placed me in by doing whatever it takes to reach people – not the opposite which is whatever it takes to keep people. I began to discover that night that if I was going to be a difference maker for Jesus, an "impactor", I was going to have to learn to be ME regardless of the blank stares and puzzled looks because for every one of them there are 50 more that might 'get it' because THEY DON'T get our church subculture.
I'll take those odds every time.
(by the way, the song "Free" is not very edgy by today's standards, but if you could see "their faces" )