Valerie Jones

{Live with Purpose. Lead with Passion.}

I am a blogger, worship leader, and speaker who helps worship leaders and team members connect with purpose and passion in life and leadership by offering encouragement, community, and practical resources so that they can thrive in life and leadership, both on and off the platform.

Thanks for stopping by!

Filtering by Tag: Jesus

{Story | Day 1 of 31}

The Five Minute Friday community is the best! I love the spending five minutes just writing. I joined the 31 Day Writing Challenge two years ago, and I decided to participate again this year. When I started a new teaching job last year, my time to write seemed to vanish. Instead, there were lesson plans, parent emails, and all the things that go with being a teacher. And, that's ok. But I miss writing. If you aren't familiar with Five Minute Friday, here's the scoop. FMF means unedited, straight-from-the-heart-to-the-paper writing. Yep, you write whatever comes out based on a given prompt in five minutes flat. So . . . Here's to the Write 31 Days challenge, five-minute Friday style! I'm excited, and I'm glad you stopped by. I hope that at the end of 31 days, you find a collection of posts that encourage you and maybe even stir something deep inside your soul. At the very least, perhaps we can be reminded that we aren't alone and that there is always hope.

Day 1 {Story}

Go.

I love a good story. Don't you? I appreciate words, so it's no surprise, I suppose, that a well-written story is one of my favorite things. In any good story, there's usually something that you can follow beginning to end. You know, like a thread that ties it all together. In Scripture, that's Jesus. In my life, let that be Jesus. We all have a story to tell. We're living it every day. I used to be very protective of & private about my story. A certain amount of vulnerability is inevitable when you talk about your life. Vulnerability is uncomfortable. And, then there’s this need for control. I tell you the story — but I can’t determine how it lands with you. I used to worry and then worry some more about what people might say or think. But, not anymore. The Lord corrected me. He changed my heart and mind and reminded me that this story, my story, is His. He's already written it, and He knows how it ends. My story is His because my life is His. My priority is always to aim people in the right direction—away from me and toward Him—in everything I do. Here's the thing: my story paints a picture of God's relentless love and unfathomable grace, redemption, and hope. Because, Jesus. That's the story I want my life to tell. I want my life to point people toward Jesus. I don't want it to be about me. It's not about me. It's about Jesus. Always.

Jesus. Changes. Everything. Yeah, He does. Grab hold of Him today, friends. Look for Him. Listen for Him. Let Him tell His story through your life. He's perfectly faithful, and He knows what He's doing.

Stop.

God has a story to tell through your life. Let Him tell it..png

{Global | Day 24 of 31}

Ready? Go.

Go into all the world. Preach the gospel. (Mark 16:15)

The gospel reaches. It was never meant to stop reaching until the day of Christ's return. I love that.  God had a plan for salvation and redemption before the foundations of the world that would span history. It's unchanging and powerful. For all people. In all the world.

We have the best news ever told. It's the most beautiful story. What if we started telling it again?

Stop.

{A Guest Blog | Purpose Over Preference}

I'm hosting a very special guest blogger today, and I'm SO excited. Y'all this guy is one of my favorites, and that's not just because he's my brother! You can follow Aaron on his blog, aaron-gibson.com or find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  I couldn't be more thrilled to have him as my guest today.

Aaron Gibson | Musician. Teacher. Coach. Mentor. Husband. Coffee Drinker.

Aaron Gibson | Musician. Teacher. Coach. Mentor. Husband. Coffee Drinker.

This is Aaron. He's a husband, puppy-daddy, musician, and pastor. As a teacher and speaker, he's relatable. He engages the topic at hand with an outside-the-box perspective and real life examples. His dynamic approach and teaching style are unmistakably authentic.

Aaron has been in full-time ministry since 2006 and currently serves on staff at Blythe Island Baptist Church as the Worship & Creative Arts Pastor.  He has a heart for ministry and wants nothing more than to see churches thrive and help people to experience the love of Jesus. He brings a wealth of knowledge to the table in the areas of church planting, team building, vision casting, and church production.  Aaron hopes to serve as a resource for others who are in need of direction and for those who are looking for fresh inspiration.

Aaron and his lovely wife, Tamara, live in South Georgia with their two puppies, Lyla and Sadie.

 


 

{Purpose over Preference | Shifting Perspectives for Leading Worship} by Aaron Gibson

Have you ever stepped off the stage after leading what you thought was going to be an incredible set and felt like you were the only one who liked it? Or put a lot of energy and effort into selecting songs and working on flawless transitions to leave the service feeling like it didn’t matter anyway? What about anger? Have you ever started to get frustrated or angry with the congregation you’re trying to lead because they just don’t seem to be getting it? I believe we've all been there before. We've all wanted to lead an engaging life changing worship set only to be left feeling like we were the only ones worshipping.

That is a common problem facing worship leaders, but what do you do with that? How can you leave the stage knowing you've done everything you can to lead and not be a distraction? Is there anything that can be done to walk away with a clear conscious? I believe so. Through a challenge-laden season of my life, God taught me there are few things we can do, while on stage, to avoid having this tsunami of guilt destroy our confidence in our calling. But, most of what we need to do has to happen in the preparation.

I can remember coming home some nights, sitting on the floor with my head in my hands and weeping. Feeling defeated. Feeling like everything I was trying to do was a waste. I grew bitter. As a worship pastor, I became bitter and angry toward the people I was trying to lead. I remember saying things like, "There shouldn't be this much resistance", "Why don't they just get it", "Am I even doing the right thing".  The more bitter I became, the more I complained about the people.  

During this season, my wife and I took a trip to New York. I can't remember why exaclty, but I'm sure I was probably eating pizza and bagels for most of the trip. I can remember having really negative thoughts about my congregation back home.  While I was mid-thought, Moses came to my mind and the many conversations and difficulties he had with the Israelites and the many intercessions I read about.  Then I felt God speak so clearly to me it was almost audible. I simply heard, "Aaron, I called you to lead them to where they need to be, not complain about where they are."  That was my Job moment with God. Immediately my mind shifted directions. I knew God was taking our church somewhere special, and up until that moment, my heart had never broken for our people that deeply.  Up until that moment my heart hadn't been broken for my purpose as a worship pastor. To help people experience the greatness and victory of Jesus through worship. That is our purpose as worship leaders. Above all. Our pupose is to help people see and experience Him.

To accomplish that we have to Pursue Purpose over Preference. When we pursue fulfilling our purpose more so than we try to satisfy our preference, then when we'll see God use us the greatest. I believe we see from the beginning of time that man's preference has kept him from God's ultimate purpose for him. In my opinion, there are 3 key areas we need to discipline ourselves in the preparation process to lead people to the worship experience we all desire.

     1. Pursue Obedience over Opinion

This may require some extensive conversations with your worship pastor or senior pastor, but this is where it all begins. God has called each every church to be and to reach someone specific.  Who is it God has called your church to reach. We have to be obedient to that calling, not opinions of who we should be as a church. Sure, we may have a specific skill set or certain abilities.  Maybe you're really good at pulling off that country twang in a song or nailing some of those Hillsong guitar licks. We have to come to a place where we realize God's plan isn't dependent upon our qualifications. Paul is a great example of this. Everything about Paul would have led us to believe God was going to send him to the Jewish people to preach the Gospel. He knew the culture and the religion better than anyone. Paul had to change up his style a bit to reach the Gentiles. But he did it. He looked past his qualifications, past his opinion and he pursued obedience.

If we're going to lead people, we have to know who we are leading.

     2.  Pursue Relevance over Preference

After we know who God has called us to reach, we have to be intentional about reaching them. Paul says it like this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

19Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

It's hard to do this one. It's hard to select songs based off of what people need versus what we like/want to play. I don't necessarily think there's an, "I don't care what you need" mentality. It's just not something on the forefront of our minds.  One thing that helped me with this is prayer. Not a prayer for wisdom, but prayer for the people. Prayer for them to experience the freedom and victory that worship offers. The more I prayed for the congregation, the more my heart broke for them. The more my heart broke for them the more natural it came for me to select songs that would lead them to where they needed to be.

Worship does an incredible thing in our life. Worship brings victory over life's difficulty. Worship positions us right in the middle of a collision where we are reaching for God and He is reaching for us. We get to lead people to that place. We can't make them worship, but we can remove distractions by selecting worship songs that are relatable to them and their life. Perhaps we should get past the words modern, traditional, or contemporary and simply try to relate to who God has called us to reach.

     3.  Pursue Engagement over Expectation    

I love soda. I love soda more than you do. Diet Dr. Pepper to be specific. I could drink it all day long. I would wake up in the morning to a bowl of Lucky Charms and Diet Dr. Pepper. Why? Because it's delicious. But about 1 1/2 to 2 years ago, I read that all the additives in a soda will certainly kill! But only after losing all of your fingers and toes. Well, maybe it wasn't that extreme, but I thought it'd be best to give it up. After about 6 months of being soda free, I thought I'd reward myself because I had been so good. Just a sip won't hurt. Besides...It's sooo good! Well, something happened in those 6 months.  My taste had changed. What I remembered to be so good, wasn't quite as good anymore. I went in with the expectation of complete satisfaction but left feeling disappointed. I believe we have the same type of expectation when it comes to the congregation we're leading.

We've all probably had or seen that worship experience that was just incredible. It sticks out in our minds and we strive for that type of experience again and again. Which is great, but often we are not having that same experience because we are expecting the congregation to come in ready to worship. We are ready, sure! But we have to remember, we've been there a couple of hours already. We've been playing the music and praying for the service. We were preparing with the intention for God to move in a big way. But what we forget is the husband and wife may have just had an argument in the car on the way to church.  They're feeling frustrated because they're running late and this time, they actually found both shoes, but only one kid. Maybe they had a rough week at work. Maybe they got fired. Maybe they got bad news from the test results. Whatever the case, we cannot expect them to come in ready to worship. We have to show them there is victory in life and over their difficulties in and during worship. We have to help them focus their hearts' affection and minds' attention on a God whose love for them is not based on their circumstances.  

Draw them in. Invite them in. Lead them to where they need to be.

I gauge the effectiveness of our worship gatherings a little differently now. Instead of asking, did they worship? How did they respond? I simply ask, was I obedient? Was I relevant? Did I try to engage the congregation into worship? God has me here for a purpose, did I pursue that purpose?

 I simply cannot make people worship. I can only lead them to a place of worship. If we pursue the purpose God has called us to, He is faithful. We will see the worship experience and life change we desire. I can honestly say that because it's His desire. Doesn't it just make sense to jump on board with where He's already going?

 

{Don't Forget to Remember}

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of celebration. Let’s see - there is turkey, dressing, dumplins, and pumpkin pie. After we feast, we usually spend a bit of time flipping through the newspaper ads, pen in hand, marking our favorite things. Christmas is just around the corner, after all. We play games. We take naps. And, we remember. I remember Tyler’s first Thanksgiving. He was 7 months old and the life of the party. He most likely had his hands in everyone’s plate getting his first taste of the delicious goodness that is Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the laughter. Lots of laughter.

I remember where I was standing when I received a phone call from the hospital just a few days later. I remember the heaviness in the room when I arrived there. It was suffocating. I remember being told, “He didn’t make it.” It was SIDS.

He. Didn’t. Make. It. The reality of that moment hit me in a way I cannot begin to explain.

I remember walking back to a different room. My eyes landed on my lifeless baby boy and pain pierced me to the very core. It would become a familiar pain. I wept while I begged God to “fix it.”

I remember walking away from that hospital without my baby. I can tell you it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

I remember losing a second child 15 months later. I remember my marriage falling apart. I remember being angry, confused, and feeling completely abandoned by God. The pain was relentless and I crumbled.

I also remember the moment I gave up and laid all the brokenness and pain at the feet of Jesus. I remember the moment He turned my mourning (YEARS of mourning) into joy.

And, I am so thankful.

I belong to a sovereign, perfect, faithful God. I am completely in awe of Him. He heals. He redeems. He restores. There is not one moment of my life when He has taken His eye off of me. (Or you!) He sees us. He loves us. Even in our darkest, most desperate moments. I know that now.

I know it.

So, don’t forget to remember. Remember who He is and what He has done. Remember the cross. Remember His lavish love and perfect grace. And in everything, give thanks...That can be a hard one to take in and live out until we remember Christ. Then suddenly even our most difficult moments pale in comparison to the pain and suffering He endured. For the glory of the Father and for us.