When I moved to Sapporo and met with the pastors of my now-amazing-church-family-here, one of the first things they did was introduce me to the different ministries connected to our church. And so, on about my third day in Sapporo I met two amazing women, who run this awesome gospel choir called Heavenly Wind Ministries.
Now, I’ve led worship and sang in bands for years and years, but I’d never sang in a choir before. And I’d never really sang gospel music. I mean, I love gospel music… It’s just I’m a country-acoustic-girl who plays a Taylor and is comfortable singing about Jesus in bars wearing jeans.
But, I do really love singing and worship of any kind, and I did really want to get involved in some things that would help me meet more people, and, and, and…
In February I joined this gospel choir. With 130 Japanese people.
And oh boy, do I really love this gospel choir.
And oh boy, oh boy, have I been challenged, inspired and encouraged by this gospel choir.
It’s been a whole lot of fun. But what I actually realised in the post-concert-reflections, is that it’s taught me a whole lot about church. The church that Jesus calls us to be. The church that I love to be a part of.
So here are four things that I’ve learnt this year about church… From being in a gospel choir.
1. Belonging comes first.
We want it to be believing. Actually we often want it to be behaving. We want people who look like good, clean Christians and who hold steadfastly to our specific theology, and then maybe we can ‘belong’ together.
But Jesus calls us first and changes us second. Actually, He called this messy bunch of doubting-wrestling-with-the-truth-sinners His disciples. And He still calls this messy bunch of doubting-wrestling-with-the-truth-sinners His church.
The members of this gospel choir are not all Christians. In fact, most aren’t. There are all ages from 15 to 70. There are men and women. There’s pretty much every demographic you could imagine. But everyone belongs. And through that people get to experience the love of God in an incredibly real and beautiful way. They get surrounded and caught up in the love and praise of God before they even understand it, and I love the picture and the inspiration that is to me about real community.
2. There’s no room for your ego.
Like seriously, in a choir there is no room for your ego.
When you’re singing with 130 other people and you’re learning a part, your tiny voice makes up a tiny part of what then transforms into this massive sound. The spotlight isn’t on you. The spotlight isn’t on anyone. It’s a choir. It’s a group. It’s a body. It’s about trusting other people and singing with other people and holding each others hands. As a group. As a choir. As a body. It’s about unity.
I sang a solo on Saturday. A little 30 second solo. And I was more-profoundly nervous about singing a 30 second solo with this choir than I have ever been about singing anything in my entire life. Not because of the audience. But because I didn’t want to let these precious people down.
When I sing and it’s just me and a guitar, or just me and my band… Then there’s room for my ego. If I do well my ego gets a boost. If I sing a bum note then I’ve only myself to blame and only my ego to bruise. My motivations can be all over the show. But, this was so different. Being a part of something bigger means you want to sing your part as well as you because you are part of something bigger.
I want to have that attitude in church. That there would be death to my pride and death to my ego because I actually get that it’s not about me. It’s never been just about me. This plan of redemption that Jesus has is so much bigger than that. And when I get that, I actually want to sing my part all the better.
3. A culture of honour is a beautiful thing.
This choir embodies a culture of honour is a greater way than I have ever seen.
I don’t speak Japanese very well, yet they love me so well. They accept me so well. They love each other and honour each other so, flipping, well. It humbles me and it shows me Jesus.
When you sing in a choir you wear coordinated clothes. (You also have coordinated dance moves, which is a whole world of difficultly for my uncoordinated self!) So on Saturday we were all matching and wearing white, but we weren’t the same. There are many shades of white, there are many styles of clothes. We had these matching scarves but we didn’t wear them the same way. Some people wore them in their hair, some people round their necks, others round their waists.
It was this beautiful picture of unity and diversity, being entwined with each other rather than separate. Honouring each other, genuinely loving each other, means we can be unified in the central colour of our clothes get diverse in all of the secondary expression. You get the metaphor for church, right? We stand united, as one. We wear white. It doesn’t matter if you’re in trainers, or high heels, or ballet pumps. What matters is you’re in white, standing side by side with me, holding my hand.
4. Jesus holds it all together.
Okay. So this isn’t a new revelation but I had to finish with this.
This is the credit page from Saturday’s program.
I really do love this choir!
It’s been a beautiful weekend for me. This event, wonderful church, an afternoon of prayer and worship on Sunday… This evening I’m playing another live music event in my friend’s bar (back to my country-acoustic routes…) I actually cannot tell you how full-to-bursting my heart is right now. It’s a wonderful season.
Here are some more pictures 🙂