By Susan ~
The Pentecostal church can be a serious mind-fuck. I honestly can not believe what I agreed to do in order to try and win the ‘favour’ of my pastors and of God. I was a sheep, faithfully following my strong leaders as God’s appointed. Coincidentally, in the church that I attended, God had chosen the pastors family and closest friends as his cohorts! Amazing:)
Of course, this couldn’t be questioned or one would be seen as dissident and therefore in the way of God’s work.
I once ‘served under’ a young worship leader that was told specifically not to sing for several months because of a serious jaw condition. The church had already committed to recording a live worship CD and had invested over $10,000 in the project, not including the expense of flying out Christianity's hottest worship couple from New Zealand to coach us.
Our young leaders’ jaw condition persisted, but we were all told to simply trust that God would show up on the night of the live recording and miraculously heal her jaw. Obviously she needed someone to sing her ‘lead’ parts in the many rehearsals up to the ‘live’ night. I was chosen to do that and I willingly agreed as I knew this would show my faithfulness to the church leaders and ultimately help in my moving up on the worship team ladder. Being that I am a singer, I saw no other possible outlet to express myself vocally but to become a worship leader. The thought of playing ‘in the world’ was out of the question to me at that time.
Long story short, the day of the live recording arrived and with only hours left before the performance…er….’worship night’ began, I finally got up the nerve to address the elephant in the room. I chose to bring it up to the blonde 40-something worship leader from New Zealand in the leather jacket. “Ummmm…..I don’t want to sound like I don’t have enough faith, but….what happens if God doesn’t heal her tonight?”. She looked at me…smiled…shrugged her shoulders, and said, “Well then honey, it would all be on you!”.
Being someone that lives with an anxiety disorder, this may as well have been a forceful punch in my gut. It’s the truth I knew but hadn’t dared to address:
-hundreds of humans will be arriving within hours to help record a live CD that is being funded by the generous donations of the faithful people of the church
-the leader is incapacitated and has not exercised her vocal chords for months and is therefore completely unprepared
-It is entirely likely that her jaw will freeze up and I will have to be the shoulders the entire congregation stands on
It was more than I could emotionally bear, but even in that moment, I felt guilty for the pressure I felt…I felt that I wasn’t believing enough, and I felt that even to the final hour.
God I wish I could go back to that moment with the 20/20 I have now. (Exit, stage left. Now run as far and as fast as you can.)
Lo and behold, she was able to get through the worship night, though it was a complete shit show…complete with flashing lights and smoke machines and the young leader calling out “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”…over and over again when her vocal ability failed her and she needed to fill the dead air space with something.
I am known for having a terrible memory, but this memory is somehow forever emblazoned in my mind. I was singing background vocals on stage and looking out at the ‘pumped’ crowd. The leader was screaming something out, the congregation was cheering, the camera’s were rolling, the strobe lights were flashing, but in my minds-eye everything went completely silent. Silent.
All I could see were the false hopes and dreams of hundreds of people that desperately wanted to be involved in something that mattered. And to them, this live worship night was that thing.
So when the Director of the show….er…worship night….told them to cheer again and again and again so that they could get a good recording of the sound of the power of the Holy Spirit, cheer they did. When they were told to give God a ‘clap offering’…clap they did.
And they jumped…and they pumped their fists…and they raised the roof…and they lifted holy hands to the sky….
And I stood on stage…nauseous and dizzy and feeling like everything I knew to be true no longer was.
I endured the night as best I could and then I ran to my car. As soon as the door closed behind me I burst into tears. I sobbed and sobbed all the way home.
I cried because I knew I had seen clearly that night. And what I saw was ugly and proud and broken. It was cloaked in hair dye and heels, in smoke machines and strobe lights, in clap offerings and flat-screen teleprompter’s. But I saw it. And it was nothing.