Matthew 25:20 NIV
"The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.'"
After being married to Michelle for a year and five months, God made it clear to us that we needed to leave Columbia, SC and move to Houston, Texas in August of 1998. Not only was this move the best thing for our marriage, but it was also the best thing for my musical growth. At first, I chose not to immediately get involved with the music ministry that was established--you know, the whole "not tooting your own horn" conviction. It was about two months before I started getting involved. While we were there, there was a band that was getting started; at the time, it was called Revelation. When Michelle and I were asked to be a part of the band (which was in Katy on the the west side of Houston, while we lived in the Channelview area on the east side of Houston. For those who don't know, Houston is 50 miles wide!), the band's name was Know Fear. At the beginning of one rehearsal, the Spirit prompted me to share the biblical story of King Jehoshaphat and his army in 2 Chronicles 20 (check out the story--it's very inspiring). From that time and that Scripture, I suggested that the band change its name to The Forefront; the other members loved the idea and decided to run with it. Once we started getting an identity as a band, and once a choir was added to the worship ministry experience in Houston, Michelle and I were asked by the lead evangelist and women's ministry leader to move to Dallas in order to help bring some energy to one of the regions within a Dallas/Fort Worth congregation. We, as well as the Houston congregation, were shocked! We had just moved to Houston and started making a living there, and now we were being asked to just uproot and go? Well, one of the things we learned from that charge was to really pay attention to what the Holy Spirit wanted us to do. Who were we to say no? We belong to God--when He says, "Go," we go, unless we wanted to meet the same fate that Jonah met! So, in May of 2000, Michelle, Pepper (our cat at the time) and I moved to Lewisville, a town north of Dallas. We didn't know it at the time, but this move was the start of immense growth for me musically. It was there that God gave me the opportunity to glorify Him in the following manner:
Participating in the 2000 production of the musical "Slingshot" and the recording of its soundtrack
Serving as a worship leader within the Dallas/Fort Worth Church of Christ
Becoming involved in small a Capella groups
Directing the church's choir during various congregational services
Becoming involved in the church's band, inside and outside of services
Learning how to play piano, keyboard and percussion
Becoming a songwriter
Directing a children's theatre group called The Story Tree Gang
...all within three years of living in the Metroplex!
The reason the year 2000 is a milestone for me is because it was the beginning of my multiplying what God had entrusted to me. Once I knew that He gave me these musical gifts, He gave me the charge to honor Him with it through the praise of Him and the edification of His church. Woe to me if I don't use these gifts. Woe to you if you don't use yours. Remember, whatever gift you may have is from God--it's a loan. He wants a return on His investment; it gives Him no glory when you sit on those gifts, or when you use them for your own personal gain. Use your gifts to make Him known!
Genesis 2:18 NIV
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
God knew that I needed to have someone to be a part of this life journey with me; however, I tried to take matters into my own hands at first. After becoming one of Jesus's disciples, I started taking my sisters in Christ on dates in order to encourage them. Unfortunately, I thought that I liked every single sister I took out. You see, before Jesus became my life, not too many women gave me any kind of attention, and the relationships I had with those who did were unhealthy ones. After Christ, I got so much attention from them that I thought that there was a chance that one of them wanted to be with me for life. I was so fickle back then! It wasn't until January of 1995, when I was told to back off of pursuing a relationship with a sister that I was interested in, that I chose to surrender the situation to God and not make it a priority in my life. I decided to stop pursuing a dating relationship and just focus on encouraging my sisters with dates--no agenda. That was what God was looking for from me, because 1 week after making that decision, not only did Sanford Greene and Lesli Lawrence start dating steadily (they eventually married each other), but God also placed Michelle Meachen in my path. We instantly became friends, fell in love, and started dating each other steadily within three months of her moving from Hawaii(!) to South Carolina. We married each other on March 1, 1997. Michelle is the second greatest gift I've ever received from God; I'm so thankful to Him for entrusting her to me. She has been through this entire worship leader journey with me from its early stages; she has seen me at my best and at my worst, and yet, she's STILL with me! I tell ya, only by God's Spirit!
1997 was a milestone for me because I learned that there is a difference between going by my emotions and living by the Holy Spirit within me. Going by your emotions can lead you to uncertainty, doubt, and quite honestly, foolishness; living by the Holy Spirit leads you to God's will for your life, and there is certainty, confidence in Him, and wisdom, not to mention true peace. God knows what's best for you. Trust in Him and seek to know His will for you.
Romans 12:3 NIV
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Fast forward to 1996. I was enjoying the growth, learning, and experience I was attaining while serving in the music ministry. Another song leaders conference was taking place in Los Angeles, CA in July; I was hungry for more learning and for more networking with other brothers and sisters with this gift, as I made many friends the year prior at the conference in NYC. Therefore, after asking the church staff, I was sent to LA for more training. The conference took place in conjunction with the AMS conference entitled "Taking It Higher". Unfortunately, I went to this conference with the mentality that I had it going on, that I could sing with the best of my musical peers, and that I should be on stage with them as well. I was humbled immediately by God once I saw that I didn't know as much about music as I thought I did and that I couldn't keep up with the other singers around me. My arrogant chest was deflated; at the same time, I felt defeated, feeling like I didn't deserve to be there and that I should just go back to South Carolina. However, it was then that God began to encourage me to lean on Him and to learn from the new friends I had made, like Peter Wade and his wife Monica. They helped me to get my head and my heart back on track; they even introduced me to the delectable combination of fried chicken and waffles! (Hey...don't knock it until you try it. Remember the story "Green Eggs and Ham"?) By the end of the conference, I was on stage that Sunday morning with Peter during worship service, singing in a mini choir that was put together just the day before. It's true what Jesus said:
Luke 14:11 NIV
"For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
What made 1996 a milestone for me? It was a lesson in humility. Be confident in God and what He does through you, but don't toot your own horn--it's not wise to do so (Proverbs 27:2). Always remember that you wouldn't have the gifts, talents and abilities you have if God hadn't given them to you in the beginning. Stay grateful; stay grounded; stay humble.
1 Peter 4:10 NIV
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.
In February of 1995, I was sent to New York City, NY to participate in a song leaders conference, entitled "I Hear God Singing". What an amazing learning experience! Before this event, I really didn't know how to read music. I knew the basics: What a treble clef was, what a bass clef was, the names of the lines and spaces on both staves--you know, those kinds of things. However, I didn't know how to associate what I saw on the page to what I heard in the music. Going to that conference was the beginning of my musical growth, because it was then that my natural, God-given musical tendencies were being nurtured and refined. After that conference, I felt so empowered that I came back to Columbia, SC, ready to share the things that I learned and to implement them; I learned right away that doing this wouldn't be easy, as what I had learned wasn't necessarily what was wanted--the church staff just wanted me to get some musical training. Regardless of the circumstances, I kept those newfound convictions to myself and lived them out; most of them showed themselves within the gospel choir I was commissioned to start. We called ourselves The Multitude. Some people misinterpreted what I was doing as my being rebellious or as my being conspicuous. I just wanted to move forward and to take our worship and praise of God higher. However, I did submit to my leaders' authority and did what I was told, keeping God as my focus along the way.
1995 was a milestone for me because I learned that, no matter what the circumstances, I am to serve others with the gift that I was given. Doing this will show a very small portion of God's immeasurable grace to the people I serve and, hopefully, open the lines of communication between God and them. No matter what your gift may be, once you know what it is, you need to understand that it was given to you not to keep to yourself or to gain temporary fame, fortune or glory, but to help others to see God more clearly. God's plan is far greater than us, but the cool thing is that it also includes us. Remember that.
May God be glorified through my entire life!