Opening night of NWLC East = the PITS!
With all the hype and excitement surrounding the NWLC conference in Lancaster, PA, you’d think it would begin with a bang… a let’s get going, everything’s great, “God is awesome” vibe. You know… kind of how we like to plan our worship services: start off with celebration and end with more contemplative, introspective worship. That’s what you’d expect!
Last night was different. It was the pits! And I loved it!
Yes, we had meaningful, explosive worship. Yes, it was celebrative and upbeat. I enjoyed the responsive reading (yes, I said responsive reading) led by Buddy Owen. I loved the music and worship led by Evan Wickham and will probably look to use some of his stuff in my own worship leading. Likewise, I enjoyed Jeremy Camp’s set and felt uplifted as I sang songs of praise to my God, both new and familiar.
However, it was what happened between these two sets that brought us all down to the pit: a powerful message by Steve Berger, pastor of Grace Chapel in Franklin, TN. I came to find out that by design, the leadership of NWLC had been led to tackle the subject of burn-out and disappointment from the outset, freeing up room for genuine worship and honesty as the week progressed.
In his opening night message, Berger reminded us all that “new song”, many times, is birthed out of the pit- a spiritually dark, miry place that we despise; a place from which we can only be rescued by God’s strong hand. As Steve spoke, he connected. Using Psalm 40:1-3 as his backdrop, he reminded us all that ‘the pit’ is something we all either are experiencing or will experience. It is unavoidable. It is awful. It is dark. It is relentless….. and it is God ordained! God uses the darkest times in our lives to conform us to the image of Christ and believe me… there are so many Christian leaders around the world that are finding themselves in a pit. The challenge last night was for us to recognize it for what it is: a place to cry out to God in ways that perhaps we have not before.
You see, as worship leaders, we sometimes like to put on a happy face and talk about sharing in the glory of Christ, but we don’t like the fact that we also are called to share in His sufferings. This was the reminder last night in Lancaster, PA: that in order for a new song to arise in the hearts of worship leaders, we must embrace the pit, stop asking “why?”, but instead, “WHY NOT?” and never forsake our faith, for it is in the pit that we re-focus and know that true salvation is only from the Lord!
So, as I see it so far, NWLC East is the pits…. and I’d have it no other way!