I woke up with this thought this morning first thing on my mind. A topic all too familiar to me, and comes up frequently. I immediately put my thought out to Twitterland.
“Don’t mistake applause w/affirmation of gifts. Not the same. Any clown can get applause. True giftedness moves hearts”
This has been something I have not only addressed in the trenches of church ministry, but have also contemplated many times over when it comes to my own spiritual gifts and natural talents. I guess the continued focus on stardom in this country and talentless, giftedless people trying to achieve success and recognition through mediums like American Idol, America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance and the many other offsprings from those shows, has got me thinking that we have our priorities mixed up and we also have our own stages within the Church. The only difference is, most people who show up to audition are let in despite their gifts and talents not matching up because people are not as heartlessly blunt as Simon Cowell when it comes to telling the people the truth, so we don’t tell them the truth at all sometimes. We applaud them, even though they sing off key or without feeling, don’t have great public speaking skills, or don’t work well with others in the serving ministry. And when we do tell them “this isn’t really the right place for you to serve”, they don’t want to hear it. Then they move on to another church who will let them do what they want to do.
I see many people through the years trying to achieve the Christian music career, moving to Nashville, trying to get a record deal because they think God told them this is what they are supposed to do. Worship leaders trying to do “their” music on the side and get radio airplay instead of just focusing on the one place God has put you to minister to. It’s not enough to sing to 50, 100, 200 or even a couple thousand people each week. We set our sights on bigger and better things that will give us applause to tell us “we’re really being used by God.” I see churches, pastors wanting to build bigger buildings, reach thousands of people, build mega churches, even in areas where there is no population. I’m not saying God can’t do those things through us, but when our focus is on numbers, bigger financials, fans, and big engagements instead of having a realistic view of the gifts, abilities and placement God has asked us to work in, then something doesn’t add up. Doing “little” things for God isn’t enough for us. That’s when I think we have gotten in the way of God. It has become all about us, not Him.
When I was growing up and even throughout my music ministry, there was no shortage of people coming up to me and telling me a few things that kept coming up over and over again. I’m not talking about the little pats on the back about my “talent” for music. They were deeper than that. They were things like “that moved me spiritually”, “there is an anointing on you when you sing and lead worship”, “that song you wrote really ministered to me”, “I felt God speak to me through what you said.” As I continued to pursue music and writing, I found out that those were the things, the affirmations that kept me grounded, not the “you’re a great singer”, “wow you really hit that high note” responses. Because honestly, I can say that throughout my years of doing music, I have never received the applause I originally thought I was supposed to get as a musician who is supposedly oober talented, gifted, and called by God. At least that’s what I thought at the beginning. I see things differently now. I had always wrestled with that and it made me question whether or not I was really supposed to be pursuing music or not. Was I really talented enough? Gifted enough? Is this really what God wanted me to do? Because I wasn’t getting the response I wanted from people sometimes. I wasn’t getting that big platform we’re told a lie about that will come if God is really using you. I wasn’t getting record deals or knocks on my door. I got a lot of slams in my face and I had to come to terms with who I truly was, what my gifts were, and what my purpose for using them really was for. When I let go of those worldly expectations that have sometimes crept into our churches and twisted our spiritual focus, I never felt more freedom to just do what I was supposed to do. When a song came to me, I just wrote it, sang it, put it out there for whoever would listen. I stopped worrying about the music industry and radio charts, record deals, and tours. I just started coming from my heart and let God do with it what He wanted, not what I wanted. I still don’t have a record deal, but I do have many people who are moved by what God has put in me to do. I’m ok with that now.
I see a lot of people out there trying to get applause. They crave the stage, having people affirm them like they see them giving applause to other real talented & gifted people. They want it for themselves. They want to feel important and special. I see people on worship teams wanting to be worship leaders for the status and affirmation of their talent, not their true gifting. There are people who think that because they love music that they should be seeking that platform when the truth is, there is no real gift there, and sometimes a huge lack of ability too. Not to say that God doesn’t use people who are less talented than others and lift them up to do bigger things. He does, but I think it has something to do with motives and where our hearts are, plus just being available and obedient for a specific time and place. But I also know that many gifted and talented people will never see a huge platform or get applause from thousands in the audience. Does it mean they are any less gifted? Any less talented? Any less called by God to use those gifts in whatever way He opens the door? Of course not. God’s ways are not our ways.
So getting back to my point. Applause does not mean affirmation of gifts. I mean this in the spiritual sense. Talent is one thing…having the ability to do something really really well. Often it works hand in hand with spiritual gifts. But many times people are applauded despite their lack of talent and gifting. It’s like your grandma who always tells you how good you are, even if you’re not. I often wondered if I was given a false hope about this stuff. But I realized one day that I had fallen into the trap of gauging my calling and my giftedness with applause of people. It’s not the same thing. I think that your gifts do not always raise you up to high places. Sometimes God wants you to use them in the unseen places. If we are truly servants for God with these things, then we shouldn’t be looking for those kind of recognition indicators to tell us whether we’re doing what we’re supposed to. People will be moved by God. That’s your indication.
I’m tired of pulpit wanna-be rock stars who have no real spiritual depth and are playing to an audience for an emotional reaction instead of a spiritual one. I’m tired of worshippers seeking to be worshipped and gauging God’s presence in a place on whether the people clapped afterwards or how well they played the music that day. These things are of the flesh, not the spiritual realm. When you are moving hearts, that is when you know you are truly being used and your gifts are lining up with your passion to serve God. And the numbers or success of your platform isn’t important anymore. When you become frustrated with what you’re doing and aren’t getting what you want out of the deal, you need to change your perspective. Put the focus back on God where it belongs and the applause won’t matter anymore. He’s put you where He wants you for now. Be blessed in that.