For a long time, my sense of identity came from my role in ministry—specifically as worship director of Irvington Covenant Church in Portland, Oregon, serving as the next scion in the House of Greenidge, hoping to springboard, Game of Thrones style, into a greater role as a prominent worship musician/pastor.
That vision eventually crashed and burned.
Now, even though I still have plenty of expertise and passion for multicultural worship music, I am coming to terms with my latest transition, from worship leader to 911 dispatcher. My paycheck now comes from a job that has nothing at all to do with the church.
As such, I’ve occasionally found myself feeling wistful about being “out of the game.” I still lead worship occasionally at local churches, and I still do worship events with my band, but as I inch closer to forty and survey the music scene, I wonder how much room there is for me. At the risk of appearing self-serving and desperate, I sometimes find myself posting in worship leader message boards and Facebook groups, finding ways to subtly say, “Hey guys, remember me? I’m still here. I still matter.”
I wonder if that’s part of the appeal for people who support Donald Trump. Those of us on the outside looking in mostly spend our time being shocked and offended by his flagrant racism and general buffoonery, but I imagine there being an appeal for a certain white audience who are looking for someone to specifically vouch for them, address their fears, and reassure them of their significance. Trump’s campaign has tapped into fears that many white people have about the multicultural present and future of America. They’re afraid of being cast out and left behind.
Before we pile on Trump supporters too hard though, it bears mentioning that many of Jesus’s disciples experienced similar feelings. After Jesus had performed miracle after miracle (including the resurrection!), his disciples were still anxious about the future. We see this in their post-resurrection interactions recorded in Acts 1. They ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6). Anxious about Jesus’s impending departure (again!), they wanted to know if he had plans that would secure their future. They might’ve cloaked it in religious terms, but what they wanted was, bluntly, power.
Jesus responded by granting their request—well, sorta.
He said, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (vv. 7-8, NIV, emphasis mine).
The power that Jesus granted was not a political, Kanye-and-Jay-Z-Watch-the-Throne display of dominion.
The power that Jesus granted was not a political, Kanye-and-Jay-Z-Watch-the-Throne display of dominion; rather, it was the power to be a witness to God’s power and goodness, and to humbly admit, like John the Baptist, that we’re not even worthy of untying his shoelaces.
One of the benefits of my new bivocational arrangement is that people at my job will get to know me as a person before they know me as a minister, so my witness won’t be encumbered by the baggage of church culture. If I offer to pray for someone or take a risk to help someone in need, I won’t have the temptation of trying to look good in front of other church people. I can just respond to God’s leading in the moment and leave the rest up to him. In other words, letting go of one role has freed me up to find power in another.
As the church continues to evolve, my prayer is for God’s people to trust him enough to allow our concept of power to be redefined into anything that enables us to participate in his kingdom. And also, I’ll be praying for Donald Trump to be defeated, because come on.