Years ago, several friends of mine made the jump from their flip phones to an iphone. I remember thinking, “there’s no way I’d pay that much for a phone!” I had a laptop, an ipod touch, and a flip phone, what else could I need? Well, when one of my friends upgraded to their new iphone 2, they gave me their old iphone. It was like I came alive for the first time! My life would never be the same again. Ok, maybe I’m overreacting a bit. But nonetheless, I have been attached to my iphone since day one. I now have a family plan with 5 iphones, which includes my wife, my kids, and my mom (who is somehow under the impression that I am tech support!!!). By now you’re probably wondering if I work for Apple, Verizon or AT&T. Let me reassure you that I do not. I am merely one of millions of smart phone users in the world who depend on these devices daily. This little device has changed the way I connect with family & friends. It’s replaced my digital camera, and is now the primary way I access email, the Internet, and my daily schedule. My life plan is attached to this device. Now, I’m smart enough to know that I don’t need my phone the way I need food, clothing and shelter. But if I forget to charge my phone overnight, or if my battery runs out midday, my world begins to spin out of control. Without power, my iphone is absolutely worthless.
When I was beginning full-time ministry close to 20 years ago, I remember one of my mentors telling me that a worship leader that only worships God publically, or prays publically is worthless. He knew from experience that the danger in public ministry is that your passion and pursuit of God and his presence can quickly become a mere performance. And in doing so, you can easily forget why you began serving God in the first place. Before you know it, this calling on your life, and the gifts you’ve been given, are about as useful as a dead iphone. The bible describes a time when people will succumb to this kind of living.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Understand that I am not in any way trying to ring the “end times” bell, or cause widespread panic among followers of Jesus. I do however think we need to view this as a strong warning for those that identify themselves as Christians. The scriptures tell us that it is fully possible to have a “form of godliness”, but be “lacking in power”. The bible also says that many will stand before God one day with the list of all they’ve done for him only to hear him say “depart from me, for I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23) If I’m being completely honest with you, I’ve had seasons of ministry where I’ve “gone through the motions”. Times that I’ve lead worship, and ministered to others relying heavily on my gifts, Bible knowledge and acting skills, instead of being tied into the power source and relying on God’s spirit. We can fake it for a season, but eventually the batteries run out and we simply have nothing left to give.
Approximately one year ago I found myself headed in that direction. Fortunately, I was able to sense it coming on and was willing to humble myself and ask for help. My pastor graciously offered me a 2 month sabbatical. It was a chance for me to step off the stage and out of the spotlight for a season. To seek God, return to my first love, recharge and renew my mind, and to remember all that God has done for me. I so needed that time… I was doing incredible things for God, but I wasn’t seeking him first and relying on his strength to sustain me in the process.
Next week close to 1,000 worship leaders, team members, and pastors from all over the world will be attending the Experience Conference in Orlando Florida. The purpose of this conference is to allow God to do for those who attend, what He did for me during my sabbatical break. The leadership team and steering committee having been praying for each attendee by name, and we are asking and expecting God to show up in incredible ways as we gather together and seek His presence, ask for His guidance, and allow him to minister to us and renew us from within.
Jesus said in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing”. This year I will be serving at and attending the conference with 5 of my team members. I hope to see you there, iphone and all.