“Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?”: Part 1

It’s not just a lyric from a popular song; for me, it’s a question I’ve asked myself often over the years.  It seemed that when I graduated college, the questions came more often and were more numerous.  There was the obvious decision regarding what career I should pursue and whether or not I should release my books and CDs.  I considered where I should live and where I would call home.  Once those initial decisions were made, I thought the questions would cease, but it wasn’t long before I was presented with more options.

I reached a crossroads in 2008.  I had felt that my books and music were not successful to the degree that I had hoped, and I sought out other alternatives.  Nothing proved to bring my career to the level of its hoped-for potential, and as a result, I fell into a time of deep depression.  When you reach a point where you have exhausted all of your options, a sense of hopelessness can often result and I was there.

My only true solace was in my times of prayer with God.  There were many late-night episodes of emotional communication with the Father, and although my relationship with Him was deep and personal, my sense of accomplishment and purpose was sorely lacking.  I longed to embrace Christian community and find a level of accountability from friends within the church, but “church” was a sore subject for me at that time.

I had always loved the church where I had grown up.  But in 2008, our church was vacant, meaning there were people attending, but there was no pastor.  The services were long and lackluster.  People came to worship, but there seemed there was no joy, no passion, and no purpose.  In a way, it mirrored my own personal state of affairs; I couldn’t make myself participate in that.

For the first time in my life, I contemplated leaving my home church.  I wasn’t about to revoke or transfer my membership, but I considered the possibility of worshipping elsewhere in addition to attending my home church.  So on Sunday mornings, I faithfully shuffled my way into my home church, but on Sunday evenings I attended worship with my grandparents at a church down the road.  It was at my grandparents’ church that I connected with the pastor, participated in special music, and got involved with some of the church’s ministry opportunities.  The pastor was gracious to me and encouraged my love for music.  I didn’t know it then, but he planted the smallest mustard seed-sized spark that would later develop into a full-fledged passion for worship ministry.  He further grew that passion by saying that if the church had the money, they might consider hiring someone like me to help with the music elements in their services.

Up until that point, I had never thought about a career in worship ministry.  I had thought that by pursuing a record deal and then independently releasing my CD, I would be fulfilling a role in music ministry.  But as I found out, it was a very empty role.  It was gratifying to hear from someone in the audience when a song spoke to their heart, but those comments were few and far between.  Besides, it was difficult for me to pursue my music when transportation was such a struggle.  This idea to pursue music within a church, especially a local church, was intriguing.  I wouldn’t need to travel.  Could this be the answer to my prayers, I wondered?

To make a long story short, I talked with the pastor and together (along with my parents and a few other trusted mentors) we decided to consider some Masters’ degree programs.  My father was particularly supportive during this stage in my life.  I can still hear him saying, “Well, you have always loved the church… not just your local congregation but the greater Church.  I could see this working for you.”

But the question remained: What would I study?  Should I pursue worship ministry even though I had no idea if that was my calling?  Was it more of an interest at that point, or was that mustard seed-sized spark beginning to flourish?

I got my answer over about a year-and-a-half time span.  I succumbed to prolonged allergies that nearly took my voice and breath.  I questioned God’s calling and my purpose in life even more.  I traveled to Nashville and competed for the possibility of a record contract, and when I returned home, I considered an independent record contract that later fell through.  Nothing seemed to be working out, but school was a constant, and I continued to plug away at my Masters’ program.

In the spring of 2011, it was like I had one last hurrah.  I published my third book— something that had been on my heart for a long time— and I was afraid that if I didn’t put it out there then, I never would.  I graduated with my degree, and finally had a chance to breathe.  I considered my next steps then.  Was it time to start applying for jobs?  I was free to put my name out to churches, and I had the credentials musically and otherwise to do so.  But something was holding me back.

My home church was starting to turn a corner.  A new pastor had arrived in 2009, and slowly but surely, improvement was taking place.  I was still attending Sunday morning services out of obligation, especially since my grandparents’ church had eliminated their Sunday evening activities.  For only a brief moment I considered just going to Sunday morning worship with my grandmother, but again, something stopped me.

It was almost as if I wanted a reason to stay with my home church. I just couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I felt this way.  Even as I started applying for jobs and actually interviewing for them, my heart was not in the process of moving forward.  Deep down, I didn’t want to leave.  It wasn’t just leaving the church that bothered me.  I didn’t want to move.  The thought of packing up my belongings, leaving my family and friends, and starting over again was not something I wanted to contemplate.  I never actually prayed the prayer out loud, but I think I got to the point where I simply hoped I could stay.

But reality told me that this wouldn’t be possible.  It was time to go.  If I wanted to move forward, I had to move on.  I couldn’t hold on to the comforts of home forever.  There have only been two times in my life where I audibly heard God speak to my heart, and one of those times was in Nashville.  I had just finished a competition piece when I heard Him say: “I have called you to this but not here.”  I perceived that those words had something to do with my new-found consideration of worship ministry.  Part of me had gone ahead with the competition just to confirm what I already knew to be true.  Writing and performing my own music would always be my gift, but it would not be a permanent gig.  I was pretty sure I was called to worship ministry.

So there I was in the spring of 2011 with a new dream in my heart and once more no prospects were on the table.  I was tired of interviewing and never really finding that right niche.  There had to be something out there for me, but it wasn’t manifesting itself.

Then I got a phone call from my pastor— not the pastor of my grandparents’ church but my church’s pastor.  I had gotten to know him a bit over the years and had even volunteered some of my time to the music department.  My involvement at the church had been spotty though.  There were already two worship teams and a handful of really talented accompanists.  It wasn’t in my nature to lodge myself in the middle of all of that and try to get involved.  I knew I needed a church and ministry where I could feel useful and successful.

But anyway, I digress.  So my pastor called, and that one call changed the trajectory of my life as I knew it.  Stay tuned to next week’s post for continuation of this very real tale.  Should I stay or should I go now?  You’ll find out! 🙂

One thought on ““Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?”: Part 1

  1. STAY YOU SHOULD!!! And I am so happy you did!! Can’t wait for all you have planned for us during Holy Week!! Love ya!

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