I was raised in the Vineyard church, my dad was a worship leader in the Santa Barbara Vineyard and then later planted a Vineyard as the lead pastor in Lompoc CA. I was groomed in worship by some very talented musicians and worship leaders inside the Vineyard. I observed how these guys led worship, how they structured their songs, how they played their instrument…I was a sponge.
As I began to lead worship in my young teen years I went for it with everything I had. But at that point all I really had was a catalog of experiences, frustrations and longings, some painful, some joyful, some hopeful, some confused. As I’d lead there would be tears, shouts of joy, the full spectrum of “Charismatic” expression. I was a passionate kid that loved Jesus, wanted to know him and wanted to experience all I could. In fact one of my favorite songs to sing at the time was “I Want to Know You” by Brian Doerksen. Unfortunately, that “want” didn’t transition from fanciful longing to devoted journey until I turned 24.
I moved my family to Phoenix in 2004 and God led me down a study of grace. I thought I knew what it was, but I had no idea. As I began to read scripture and see evidences of grace in places I never had before, a gospel context started to form. I started reading books by Piper, Keller, Packer, listening to Driscoll, you know, the usual reformed suspects. And truth of scripture started to resonate in me like never before.
I was broken deeply by the revelation of God’s grace throughout creation and in my life. I had been enjoying it unaware and abusing it my entire life without any realization of the cost.
At that point I was comfortable calling myself reformed. The entire Gospel story was coming alive to me, from creation, to the fall, to incarnation, to the cross and justification, his resurrection and sanctification, and his return.
Now leading worship, singing the words I had sang previously, they came from such a deeper place. I was a basket case on stage a lot of the time and I was apologetic for it at first. I didn’t want to be a distraction but man, I couldn’t get through a song without crying. I was so broken, so thankful and empowered through the Spirit in such a different way, but I struggled to find my place. I didn’t know you could be reformed and charismatic. My experience with reformed guys up until that point was a bunch of old dudes who knew a lot about the bible but seemed otherwise unimpressed and unshaken by God.
Through guys like CJ Mahaney, Bob Kauflin and others I found out it was possible, dare I say, biblical to be both, to believe in all of scripture and practice all of it, how profound. So then I was comfortable calling myself a reformed-charismatic but truth be told, there weren’t (still aren’t) a lot of those types around, and even fewer worship leaders who called themselves that with an actual charismatic expression. As my theology grew, so did my expression and my passion and that seems perfectly normal to me. If my view of God is becoming clearer, his truth driven deeper and his word meaning more and more to me, wouldn’t my response to that grow? I’m confused by the all too often case of theology growing and expression shrinking.
It seems to me that reformed people should be the most charismatic people around.
But my observation in much of the reformed community is the more you get to know Jesus and His word, the less you are moved and the more dry and unexpressive you become. The common rebuttal to this is, “I love Jesus, but I’m just not an emotional or expressive person.”
I know we’re not all created the same way and there is diversity of expression. But if you are telling me you just aren’t an expressive person prone to any kind of emotional response, then you better not tear up at your wedding, or when your first child is born, or when a family member gets sick, or when they die. As big as those experiences are, they pale in comparison to the grandeur of our God.
If you’re moved by things on earth and not above, there’s a problem; it’s not that your heart is unaffectionate, it’s just unaffected by God.
My point here is not to attack anyone’s expression, I gave up a long time ago trying to evaluate someone’s heart based off expression. It’s an indicator, but not the only indicator. My point is to share why my expression has grown and continues to grow as I learn more and more about Jesus, what’s He’s done for me and what He continues to do every day of my life. I pray that the gospel never gets common to me, that when I hear it or sing it, I am moved. I want to be moved by the right things, and God is that.