This summer marked my 4th time on the Vans Warped Tour with my band, Memphis May Fire. A little over 40 shows in a little under 2 months. The best part about Warped is that it draws from every major market in the US, and since there are almost 100 bands on the bill, it’s a sure-fire bet that you’ll see thousands in attendance every day. With 100 bands comes 100 different opinions and messages – spoken loudly from the stages each day, which is a lot for the crowd to digest in an 8-hour timeframe. “Believe in Yourself”, “Be Who You Are”, “Fight for Your Rights”, etc. all of that is great, but I wonder how much of it actually sticks with the people after they leave.
When I was at my worst with anxiety and depression, the messages I desperately needed were “Lean on Jesus”, “Trust Your Creator”, “God Has A Plan For Your Life”. I want so badly to share those words with the crowd, but I know I’ll just get a sea of middle fingers in return. Makes sense, because the vast majority of people outside of the Christian community these days relate the name Jesus to people holding hateful picket signs on the side of the street. So as a believer, how do I share the unfathomable love of God that saved my life with a group of people that simply don’t want to hear it?
I’ve always loved the saying “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s so true! Why would thousands of people trust what I have to say about God, if the most time they’ve ever spent with me is 30 seconds in an autograph line? Most nights, I’ll stand outside of the bus after the show and talk with people as they leave. There’s usually a few that ask me about Christianity, or tell me how my lyrics have influenced them to believe. Those are my favorite moments on tour, but unfortunately, I never have more than a few minutes with each person before we have to make our way to the next city.
I wrestled for years with the desire to share Jesus with people on tour and the realistic lack of time to actually pour into them. Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that I just had to trust God to speak through the music and the live show, and let that be enough. Music can be an incredible tool for ministry, because it allows the writer to establish a connection with listeners all over the world. When they listen to these songs, they are getting a vulnerable and transparent insight into my life.
As time goes on in my music career, I see less and less value in “preaching” from stage to a crowd that didn’t come for a sermon. A few years ago, I started praying the same prayer every night before walking on stage, “Holy Spirit, fill this place! Be seen, heard and felt by everyone in this crowd. Give them something more than lights and sound. Don’t let me be a distraction when you are at work in their hearts, and last but not least, please help me remember all my lyrics” I started to see God move like never before. I saw believers worshiping in the crowd, being encouraged to speak out. My social media inboxes were filled with questions from people that were curious about faith. My conversations outside of the bus started to be less about me and my music, and more about God and His work in my life.
It’s AMAZING how God can use us when we get out of the way. God doesn’t need our help, but He allows us to be a part of His story because he loves us. Ministry isn’t about what WE can do for the kingdom, it’s about what GOD can do with a willing heart. Ask God to use whatever platform you have for his Glory, and no matter what the obstacle is, He will.