I responded to God’s call to ministry when I was 17 and started leading worship in a small church not long afterward. God’s mercy and grace were abundant as I was helped and encouraged, corrected and guided by some loving and wise pastors and laymen and women during those early years. I was “adopted” by several families who made sure that “single young fellow” would have something to eat or someplace to rest.
In my limited experience, I was confident in what I knew and my abilities and had a sincere desire to serve.
Like many beginning in the ministry, the expression “you don’t know what you don’t know” fit me like a glove.
So if given the opportunity to tell my younger self some things, I believe I would start with these things:
1. Spiritual knowledge is not the same as spiritual health
Knowing some biblical knowledge is not the same as understanding the Word and applying it to your life. Though I had a regular time in the Word, I lacked tools in discernment and how to make application in my everyday life. Spiritual knowledge is not the same as spiritual health.
As Peter Scazzero shares we can’t be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. I desperately needed help learning how to be healthy emotionally. I needed help dealing with issues in my life. Somehow I thought I would just pick it up along the way or something.
2. The song of the Church started long before me…
I needed a biblical understanding of what worship was and wasn’t. I knew my experience, but had never studied worship, read much on worship, or how what I was doing fit into it all. I knew what I liked and didn’t like. I was trying the measure the distance of the earth to the moon with the short little ruler of my experience; worship was so much more than I understood. How we had gotten to the point of where we were in congregational worship had no connection in my mind of where we were going.
History was ok and some of the stories were great, but as far as I was concerned, life was always going to be singing, youth musicals, and new music. I didn’t really need the old stuff. I needed to see that the song of the Church started long before I arrived and will be going on long after I am gone. I needed to grasp what had gone on in the past to help me deal with the future.
3. I need to live in the acceptance that only Christ can give
My self-worth is based on what God in Christ has done in my life, not what I could accomplish or how well I could perform. I secretly longed for approval from friends, and others that could validate my worth and value. Little did I realize that I was giving them a power that they could never really give and could not serve to fill the vacuum I felt inside.
I really needed to see that Christ in me “was the hope of glory.” I no longer needed to be driven by the comments of those around me for my security, but instead live in the love and acceptance that only Christ could give.
4. The right to be heard is earned through trust
Developing strong relationships are basic to life, ministry, and discipleship. We will earn the right to be heard by the trust we had developed more than the position we hold. Learning how to become a servant leader, focusing more on what God is doing in someone's life and joining in that, is more important than trying to develop relationships that will "help further my career."
If I could go back and share with my younger self some things, there would be a lot I would want to share, but I think I would start with these.
Dr. Ed Steele spent two decades with the IMB in Central America. He came on faculty at NOBTS in 2003 and is professor of music at Leavell College. He writes at EdSteeleWorship.com.