One of the most common questions we receive (both now, as well as leading up to our move) is how did we make the opportunity in London happen. The problem is that the answer goes much further back than October of 2016 and the question isn’t framed correctly anyway.
Life has never been what I thought it would be. I know I’m not the only one (Those words feel like song lyrics and if they are I apologise). In 2012, I felt the Lord saying, “I know” and the phrase “The Lord Knows” has stuck with me since. That can be hard to hold onto when hard times come, as it can associate with the feeling of “if you know, why aren’t you doing something”. But what I always keep in mind with that phrase is in His time.
We had a conversation with Frankie, our daughter, about jobs. I was explaining that I’ve worked a lot of jobs before going into ministry and how thankful I am for all that I learned through them. I started as a custodian and lawn-care worker. Then worked in retail stores, a shipping company, a cafeteria, as a bi-vocational worship pastor, in live production, producing, and pastoring. Each job had it’s own purpose and reason. I find it encouraging to look back on the past and see how God was working, but I have plenty of “God, what are you doing?” moments as well. We might learn in this lifetime or we might not know until the next.
Growing up as a Pastor’s kid meant mandatory volunteerism. I’m not complaining. I appreciate it…now. I would sing on stage, but didn’t enjoy it, so I stood up to my Dad and said I wouldn’t do it any longer (while singing, “We’re not gonna take it, no, we’re not gonna take it”). My Dad, being the wise man that he is, smiled and said I would run sound instead. He would later tell people I was the best sound person they had. What he conveniently didn’t tell people is my competition wasn’t that stiff. One engineer was deaf in one ear and the other was more technically inclined than musically.
In High School, I grew to be comfortable in front of people again and picked up singing and playing guitar. On a missions trip to London I fell in love with the city, culture, and country and said I’d love to live there or work there some day. Ultimately, I thought I would go to university for music and either be a touring musician or a worship leader (that paradox alone is quite silly). When I enrolled my Dad recommended I double major in communication and music. Although I was gifted musically, he could tell the technical side came easily. Like any son that has a quality father, I respected his opinion and moved that direction. I ended up graduating with a major in communication and a minor in music and religion.
While in college I had to work on campus in the food service (as I didn’t have a car), predominately in the cafeteria, but at times in the café and doing catering work. I met and worked with a lot of people through this time. During this season I was always involved musically on campus, with churches, or working bi-vocationally as a worship leader.
As graduation approached my boss convinced me to come on full-time at the cafeteria. I was getting married and Stephanie still had two years until she graduated. She’s wicked smart (not evil, but Good Will Hunting “wicked smart”) and graduated with a double major a semester early. My boss left a month after hiring me (dirty trick, although in looking back I was thankful) and they brought in a new person who was not a fan of my working there and made life exceptionally difficult. It was hard work but I learned so much through the process. One big take away is that I could work with anyone and it wouldn’t phase me, which came in handy as my working years progressed.
At the same time I was on a pastoral team as a worship leader for a church in Orlando. I received some invaluable experiences in how to work as a production person by being a worship pastor.
During that time I had sent out 70+ resumes, DVD’s, and portfolios but couldn’t find any job opportunities (this is before personal websites, Vimeo, and such). It was good because it allowed Stephanie to finish college. As her graduation approached an opportunity with a church in Missouri opened up. I was an urbanite snob and after visiting Missouri a couple times and doing an internship in the area, I had told people I’d never live in Missouri and if I did, never southwest Missouri. God knew I needed the time to prepare me for accepting that position.
Upon taking the position it was in the fall of our first year that the lead pastor told me he had been praying for someone like me for five years. I was on staff for ten years telling that story to someone when it finally clicked that five years before that was when my Dad told me I should pursue both technical and music studies. I took a production position with the church, but my worship leading prepared me for how to do that well since I knew both sides of the microphone.
After almost 11 years at the church we transitioned out. We didn’t know what was next or where we were going, but our friend network went to bat for us in huge ways. The funny thing is the position at Hillsong happened when I saw the position on their website and filled out an application. It was the only place I interviewed with that I had applied for. After three weeks I got an email that they’d like to do a Skype interview with me. At the end of that interview they said they’d like us to fly out so we could check out the church. On the trip I told one of the staff I almost didn’t fill out the application since I had heard they were a hire from within organisation, to which they replied that they were glad I did. After offering and accepting the position, one of the staff mentioned they had been praying for that position for a year, the time when we started to feel like there would be a transition coming we just didn’t know what, when, where, or how.
Obviously this is just the summary of a really long period of time. I’d love to say I did all of these jobs to the best of my ability and was a stellar employee, but I made plenty, and some severe, mistakes along the way. The good times, nor the bad times define me though. Sure they shaped me and taught me, but they aren’t who I am. My identity is only found in one place.
One take away is this, it had nothing to do with where I came from. Hillsong London didn’t know me before I applied and they didn’t know the place I came from. Always remember God is much bigger than our resume, who we know, where we’re from, or what we’ve done. Plain and simple, it’s what God had for us next. Our family and friend network is a major credit to all the opportunities that were offered to us in the transition. Relationships are what matter. People are the purpose. If we lose that, we’ve lost everything.
Especially when working at some of these places for long periods of time the constant thought would be, why am I still here? But if I had short-circuited or ended any of them short I would have missed what I have in front of me now. Everything I had done prepared me for what I have next. In life, we as humans think in absolutes. Leaps of faith versus staying faithful and waiting. For us, we’ve done both and I don’t think it is an either/or. In the end, the Lord will show you what is required; you just have to be faithful with what he has for you to do. You give and do your best and the Lord will take care of the rest. Those times can be especially hard when faith can look crazy or when people you respect throw out phrases like “you’re probably operating outside of God’s will”.
One thing I would encourage is don’t be fearful of the choice or the lack of clarity. That is where faith falls in. Fear of failure, pain, hurt, or choosing right vs. wrong can and will be crippling. The one song/phrase that always encourages me in these moments is I’m no longer a slave to fear, for I am a child of God. In my identity as a child of God it doesn’t mean I’m perfect, as I never will be, but I’m not going to live in fear of that either.
Even still we don’t think we’ve “arrived” and know the Lord still has more for us. More than we can ever plan or imagine. It’s an honour and humbling privilege to be used in any way the Lord leads.
So, for those people that have asked how the Hillsong opportunity came about, I guess I’d say when my Dad told me I had to run sound if I wouldn’t be on stage. Thanks Dad.