I need regular time for reflection. My sanity depends on it. As I approached the end of my first year of residency at the Austin Stone, I knew that I needed to step away from my usual rhythms and contemplate what had happened over the past 12 months. That’s one thing that the residency doesn’t give you – much time to slow down and process. It’s one reason why I’m thankful for this blog – it’s an opportunity for me each month to take a small step back and reflect on what I’ve been learning.
For the past few weeks I’ve been in my home state of Illinois, intentionally trying to slow down and reflect over the past year. Don’t get me wrong – in some ways I’ve still been busy. I’ve spent lots of time reconnecting with family, friends, and supporters. I’ve been leading worship regularly. But my mindset has been slower, more reflective, and purposefully aimed at recharging myself for the upcoming year – assessing the last year and taking stock for what lies ahead.
“So,” you might ask, “what has the past year been like for you?”
There are a lot of things that I could tell you. I’ve grown in my abilities as a musician, in my ability to lead a band, to cast vision, and to pastor people from a worship platform. I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the theology of worship and how that theology plays itself out practically in different contexts. I feel like I’ve been well equipped to lead worship wherever God calls me after the residency!
But some of the ways that I’ve grown might surprise you. As I’ve reflected on the past year, these are things that the residency has provided that I didn’t expect. When I came into the residency, I never thought these things would be such a big part of what was in store for me. It’s sort of like opening the refrigerator at a strangers house – there are some things in there that you’d expect to find (ketchup, eggs, milk), but there’s always a few things that you couldn’t have guessed would be there! There are unique things in every fridge – because each fridge is unique to a particular person or family. Similarly, the residency has its own unique flavor. It certainly has provided a lot of things that I expected to find (growth as a musician and pastor), but there’s a couple of things particular to this residency that I couldn’t have guessed would be waiting for me. They are unique to my residency, and they are part of the reason why my residency has been so special.
1. I’ve been surprised by the network of worship leaders I’ve developed.
Like I said before, it’s not that I wouldn’t expect for this to be a part of my residency experience – it’s just that I couldn’t have guessed that it would turn out to be such a big part of it. One of the cool things about the Austin Stone is their commitment to developing healthy relationships with other churches and other worship leaders from different places. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many great worship leaders from all over the country – and it’s allowed me to develop and grow a healthy network.
2. I’ve been surprised by my growth in personal evangelism.
The past year has provided me with the opportunity to take a class through the Austin Stone called the Men’s and Women’s Development Program. This class is designed to teach theology in a way that allows students to communicate biblical truth to others in a clear and winsome way. Every time I step out into the city of Austin, there’s a good chance I’ll get into a conversation with someone of a different faith or belief system. People in the city are friendly and generally open about what they believe, and it’s led to a lot of opportunity to develop genuine relationships and share what I believe with people throughout the city.
3. I’ve been surprised by the close friendships I’ve formed.
Before I moved to Austin, I was unsure about how many deep relationships I’d be able to form. It’s hard to tell whether you’ll “click” with a group of people. Especially since my residency is capped at two years in length, I didn’t know if there would be enough time to form genuine, fruitful relationships with others at the church. I feel like I’ve “clicked” with the people at the Austin Stone from the first day that I started my residency. God has gifted me with great relationships, great accountability, and with lots of friendships that will last a lifetime.
The past few weeks of reflection have impressed upon me many ways that I’ve grown during my first year of residency. As I continue to reflect and take stock for what lies ahead in the remainder of my time at the Austin Stone, my mind goes back to you. Without your prayers, encouragement, and support, none of this would be possible – so THANK YOU!!! I am so grateful and so proud to have such a great team of people supporting me and cheering me on.
Here’s looking forward to the remainder of my residency!