Wow. What an incredible experience the Gay Christian Network (GCN) conference was for me this past weekend. Traveling to Pittsburgh, PA last Tues, my wife and I both went with anticipation in our hearts. This was not my first time attending a GCN conference, so knowing what it was like from previous experiences, my expectations were high. Thankfully, I did not return disappointed.
But first, let me give you a little background. I grew up in a musical family that performed frequently together from the time I was young. It was not uncommon during my growing up years for people to comment to me about my natural stage presence, my warm smile, or the way they saw/felt God through me. I never took that for granted. I always considered it an honor that God would use me to reveal his nature and presence to others.
But when I came out, I feared that was lost. I feared that perhaps God couldn’t shine through me the way he once did–that the presence and spirit of God once evident in my demeanor was now made void in light of my sexuality.
It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve been involved in leading worship in any capacity. Even though I’ve only been out for the past five years, the five years previous to that, I was struggling. And I knew enough to know that if the church leaders knew I was “wrestling with same sex attraction” that my presence in leadership or on the worship team would no longer be welcome the way it was prior to that information. So I sat back…or shrank back. I put my talents on the back burner while the Enemy continually whispered into my ear that I was worthless and that God could never use me now. I was deemed untouchable, an abomination by these Christian standards.
I’ve been involved in music a small handful of times since coming out, but they’ve all been in secular arenas. My deep heart for worship has continued to sit dormant–hoping and waiting that someday it would be invited back into the light.
And then that day came–the day that GCN began assembling the worship team for its 2017 conference. I was invited, along with a handful of other outcasts and misfits to pool our talents together and form a worship team for this year’s conference. To be honest, when I accepted the invitation, it was more out of recognition for the need of healing in my own heart than with a focus of ministering to others. Yet both those things took place in Pittsburgh this past weekend.
Gathering together with this incredibly talented group of musicians and artists who, like me, had been cast aside as something unusable in light of their sexual orientation or gender identity, we led over 1,400 people in worship throughout the weekend sessions. And it was powerful. Songs about redemption, songs about belonging, songs about the truly unconditional love of God drew us into a place many of us had not experienced in quite some time. I think it brought each of us on the worship team to tears at some point, if not multiple times during the weekend, to see God redeem something in us that we thought had long been lost.
We heard countless stories of the people in the audience that were touched as well. People that, for perhaps the first time were able to bring their whole selves before God in worship without the barrier of a message telling them they weren’t good enough or didn’t belong. One gentleman told me that, though he loved hearing the keynote speakers, the worship meant just as much if not more to him, because he hadn’t experienced a freedom like that in worship in such a long time.
Yes, God’s freedom and love were present and obvious.
And then came my own little miracle–my whisper from God to redeem an even deeper part of my soul.
Following one of our worship sets, a man came up to me and said, “I just want you to know how much I saw and felt God through you while you sang this morning. Your smile radiates the joy of the Lord and I could really sense God’s presence through your worship.” Though I’m sure I’m paraphrasing his words, all I could hear was God whispering through him, “I’m still using you. Nothing that I’ve placed inside you has been lost. What you thought was nullified by coming out, will instead be the very thing that sets people free.”
And then I was reminded…that God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and he chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong, and the lowly things of the world and the things which are despised those God has chosen, and things that are not–to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no one can boast in his presence. (1 Cor. 1:27-29)
It is His nature. It doesn’t change. God redeems every time.
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