I wish I had a nickel for every conference I’ve ever attended. They start to run together as I reflect on some of the experiences we have had leading and taking part in literally hundreds of conferences during my time at LifeWay.
But I’ll never forget the last two.
Our SonPower Conference ended with a concert of 400+ students led by David Wise and Phil Nitz and joined by Michael Farren, Janice Gaines, and Joseph Habadank. To hear those kids sing with those artists with spirit, energy, and power blew me, and the rest of the crowd gathered at Christ Church in Nashville, away. Don’t even try to tell me that students leading in worship in a choir doesn’t work anymore.
This past week, our WorshipLife Conference in Gatlinburg was amazing as we heard powerful teaching from Michael Kelley and experienced the artistry of many great singers and worship leaders, not to mention great reading sessions from several publishers. There are simply too many highlights to single out for our space here. But, Tuesday night, something happened that was, well let’s just say, unexpected.
About halfway through a concert presented by Avalon, the keyboard player and record label owner, Jay Demarcus, introduced the bass player in the band who just happened to be Jason Scheff, the former lead singer for the iconic pop music group, Chicago. Jason stepped out and expressed his deep awareness of a new type of song he wants to sing. As he began to share some of his story and a recent tragedy in his life, the emotion took over and he literally wept. Then as Jay accompanied him, he sang, “It is Well With My Soul.” Later in the evening the entire conference prayed for this man so admired in the music world, yet vulnerable as a man seeking after God. The whole moment was quite unexpected.
Both of these nights make me wonder – how ready are we for the unexpected? Has our worship become so planned and orchestrated that we no longer expect the amazing to happen? Are the gatherings we shepherd more controlled by our worship plan and the estimated time of each element, than by the moving of the Spirit?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a plan. We should. I’m just wondering what it would do if part of our plan was an expectation that God was going to do something unexpected among us. What if we went into each service with a sense of wonder and expectation instead of only a sense of control and execution?
Maybe the place to start is right here with a simple prayer.
Lord, here is our plan. Now, would you invade this service and do what you want to do with our plan? God, we long for you to do the unexpected among us.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book (checkout his latest book: Worship Essentials). In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family (and his two new grand-babies). Visit MikeHarland.com to keep up with all that Mike has going on.