FAITHFUL IN THE SMALL

Editors Note: Jourdan Johnson an incredible worship leader. The girl can lead you into the presence of Jesus like no other! Not only does she have a powerful set of vocal chords, Jourdan has a heart that beats passionately for God’s Kingdom. As a longtime friend of Redeemed Girl Ministries, we hope you will enjoy hearing from her as we continue our series this month looking at the gifts God has put in our hands! -Blake

I am one of those people who always knew what I wanted to be.  Some of my earliest memories involve a trampoline, a little purple Casio boom box, and Debbie Gibson cassette tapes cranked up full volume.  It was there in my backyard as an 8-year-old kid I would jump and sing and imagine myself in music videos.  The good ol’ 80’s “bubble gum pop” music videos where they danced around in big open warehouses on oversized boxes … or pine away in bedrooms, singing to a window while holding a pillow tight.  Throughout my childhood, I was convinced I would be a pop star.  I loved everything about singing.  I loved imagining myself on a big stage.  I loved the ability to express emotion through music.  Music made me come alive.

God saved me at a young age, and I was very blessed to be raised in a great church.  My first solo was in the church’s Christmas program when I was in the 3rd grade: “Christmas isn’t Christmas ’til it Happens in Your Heart.”  I would continue singing in the choir and doing solos in church and loving the ability to express worship to God through song.  It wasn’t until my senior year in high school I felt God really shift my goal from pop star fame. It was the late-90’s and the beginning of the modern worship movement. It wasn’t normal yet to have big bands and fresh, new, upbeat songs in a worship service. I was attending a Passion conference and was completely taken aback by the spirit of worship in the room. I’d never been in a place where thousands of students came together voluntarily (not because parents forced them to try something new), for a common goal: to seek God and worship Him together.

I remember seeing a girl on stage, not knowing her name or anything about her, but thinking how amazing it must be to get to participate in leading people into God’s presence like that.  It was there that I clearly heard from God–I can still remember the spot in the room where I was standing.  It was there that I believe He placed a specific calling on my life.  Not to be a famous artist, but to lead people in His worship.

It didn’t take long after entering college in 1999 that these types of conversations ensued:
New friend:  What are you studying?
Me:  I’m studying music.
New friend:  What do you want to do with that?
Me:  I’m going to be a worship leader.
New friend: Oh, so like, a music minister?
Me:  Not exactly.

Like I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t a lot of contexts then for what we now recognize as “normal” worship music.  But thankfully, I was able to get involved in a campus ministry that had a weekly time of Bible study and worship with a great band.  I started leading worship my sophomore year.  I learned so much during that season.  I learned how to prepare a worship set, to communicate with other musicians, to troubleshoot when people were late or couldn’t come to practice, and how to lead in worship.  And I BEGAN to learn what I still go back to today: bloom where you’re planted.

It didn’t take long for me to start dreaming of something more.  Wondering what leading worship would look like after college.  I had dreams of leading worship on the stages where some of my most memorable times with the Lord had been.  I think these are all pretty normal thoughts for a student with a creative bent.  But this longing grew into a discontentment that was not okay.  Thankfully, I was surrounded by people much wiser than I.  One day I remember getting an email from one of those wiser friends who was further down the road than me. She was responding to my passionate dreaming and feeling “ready” for what was next.  She said, “I would encourage you in this time to practice obscurity.”

Practice obscurity.

That two-word phrase would stick with me for many years to come.  I felt conviction upon reading those words. If I really hoped to honor God with my gifts, if I really believed in what He was calling me to do, then I needed to be faithful in the small things. I didn’t want to feel like I needed a big stage or reputation to have my calling affirmed.  The size of the venue held no bearing on my calling or the “level of success” I would achieve. To be a worship leader was to take just as seriously the chance to lead six girls in a living room to praise and adore their Creator, as I would leading thousands from a huge stage.  I needed a grateful heart.  I needed to learn to see every person I was allowed to lead as a child of God who deserved excellence.  I needed to be content with what He put in front of me and to give my very best to every opportunity presented.  I still pray that I never veer from that conviction.

Throughout college, God continued to open doors and allowed me to connect with people who shared a common heart for worship and music.  With each encounter and each opportunity, I felt Him affirm my calling.  After graduation, I took a leap that was totally out of character for me. Being a planner and a classic “fear of failure” perfectionist, I thought I needed a plan mapped out in order to confidently take my next steps.  But God, in His mercy, did not give me that map.  He asked me to take some steps into the unknown before giving me a confirming “yes.”  And with that, I moved from Florida to Texas.

If you and I were sitting at coffee, I would share every detail of that transition to show you how the Lord provided for me.  But since we don’t have that luxury, you’ll just have to believe me when I say that moment by moment He gave me just what I needed. Eventually, I would look back and say, “There is no way to explain how I got here apart from God.”  That continues to be my story to this day.

The life of a traveling musician is far from stable.  It’s not a path you choose for it’s benefits.  But there has been no denying that this is the story God wrote for me, and I would not have it any other way.  There were countless times in my twenties, as I was leading worship and working part-time jobs, I would look at my bills and bank account and not have a clue how it was all going to come together.  In those times, I would take my calling back to the Lord and say, “Is this still what you have for me?   And the next day the phone would ring, or an email would come in inviting me to lead, and I would hear Him say, “yes, keep walking.”  I believe that is how God affirmed this was my calling.  I have never had to go out and hustle to find opportunities.  I have been ready and willing to move, but I haven’t had to bust down any doors to serve Him.  He has provided the opportunities.  I’ve just needed to be willing to keep walking forward, and to keep my hands open along the way.

Sometimes I think we assume, especially with artistic gifts, that in order to honor God with them, it has to be in ministry or blatantly in the Christian genre.  I don’t think that’s true.  I believe God has given many people gorgeous voices, but I don’t think they are all meant to lead worship.  Being a worship leader involves more than being able to sing well.  There are pastoral elements, relational aspects, and it would not serve the body well for everyone with a voice to assume that position.

I have several friends who are incredibly talented and love Jesus deeply, but have an entirely different platform than I do. Platforms which allow them to take their gifts into places that need the light of Christ in totally different ways than a ministry setting.   They  encounter people who would never darken the doors of a church and offer them hope, and that is a beautiful thing.  My friend Jill is a truly gifted singer/songwriter and loves God with all her heart.  She sings in bars and clubs and coffee shops and all sorts of cool venues and takes Jesus with her into all those places.  A few years ago she helped me write a song for a worship album that I was working on at the time.  It’s a beautiful song about the Gospel that I love to sing now.  I’m so thankful for her gifts and that God allowed ours to join hands despite our different career paths.

It is amazing to see the creativity of God in the ways He chooses to let us use our gifts.  There are unlimited possibilities.  I’m still learning how He desires to use my voice.  I want to remain open-handed and let Him lead.  I don’t want to be bound by what I’ve seen and done before.  I want to let Him have His way and know that it’s there I will truly thrive.

Jourdan Johnson

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