Looking for Potential: recognizing God’s call

September 5, 2007

Today I heard Jennifer Nettles’ newest song on the radio while driving in to work. At first I didn’t recognize her voice (she’s the lead vocalist of Sugarland), but was immediately taken with the song. When I heard her name, however, a huge grin came across my face. You see, I remember when Jennifer was one of ‘us’ – not a ‘rock star’, but a struggling musician in the dingy rock-clubs of Athens, GA. At the time I was new to town, and ‘the new guy’ at the Flagpole music journal. There was a c.d. that had just been released that was so terribly un-hip that no one at the Flagpole would touch it with a ten foot pole: Soul Miner’s Daughter “The Sacred & Profane”. The staff there encouraged me to tear it to bits, and sincerely – it was bad. However, in the midst of the average musicianship, mediocre songwriting, revolting sexual imagery, and poor production there was a shimmer of something beautiful: there were moments where the lead singer, Jennifer Nettles, showed a spark of life that suggested something more.

I thought back to a then recent experience where a friend of mine had let me hear U2’s demo’s, which are now available on iTunes, but which – back then – were very rare. Go ahead – log onto iTunes and check out “Twilight”, “Boy/Girl”, or “Touch” and tell me they aren’t average at best. In all honesty, they suck. But can you hear their hearts – the passion – the POTENTIAL for greatness? As a U2 fan I wondered what might have happened if they had grown discouraged and given up before making their first ‘great’, the ‘worship album’ (I’m using the term loosely, but the lyrics are quite powerfully Biblical) “October”, which has since led to a musical career that has honestly changed the world in many ways. So, I reviewed Soul Miner’s Daughter with an ear to their potential – pointing to where they could improve, instead of what I disliked, and emphasizing what they were doing well in hopes they’d pursue doing it even better. A few years later they released their 2nd cd, and boy did it ROCK. I can’t take all the credit, but what if their first review in their hometown magazine had thrashed them – would the story have been different. Would there be Sugarland today?

I was shocked to recently hear that the worship pastor over Mark Driscoll’s mega-church, Mars Hill Seattle, wasn’t even a serious musician when he got the job: Mark saw his heart, and God’s gifting and call through the spiritual and musical immaturity and began grooming him towards what he could be.

And all this draws my mind back to the various musicians and vocalists I’ve helped over the years, and how many in a very short time were far better than I, and have since long surpassed my ability – when we first met, many couldn’t play a chord, but they had that ‘thing’ – the ‘spark’ was there.  And in many cases it wasn’t my ‘lessons’ that helped – I had very little to teach them: it was simply the encouragement that, yes – they had ‘it’, and should keep on working towards what they would one day be.

I take this as a lesson – a reminder – this morning. Look not for greatness, but God’s gifting – which may sometimes be only a twinkle in someone’s eye rather than talent full-blown. Invest in that, build them up, encourage, and point out both how to strengthen their strength, and improve on their weaknesses. Trust – no – EXPECT that everyone you begin to raise up will one day be ‘better’ than yourself, and give them to tools to do likewise. This is how we’ll raise up our next generation of worship leaders and lead worshipers.

So, do you have a similar story of recognizing God’s gifting in someone long before it was evident to most? Please share it!

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3 Responses to “Looking for Potential: recognizing God’s call”

  1. klampert said

    That is awesome man…by the way…I love the new look

  2. elben said

    Very nice, shannon. Also, I wasn’t sure where to put this, but here you go: here or somewhere else more convenient, I pass to you the infamous “BLOG TAG.” You are now honor-bound to post “10 Things, Significant or Random that have affected your Life.”

    It came to me courtesy of Amanda Moncus, and to her from Heather,and so on and so forth.

  3. A. said

    I enjoyed reading this post. It gave me encouragement! 🙂

    I might have to plug this entry of yours on my blog tomorrow (when I am more awake) & share my thoughts if I have any worth sharing. 🙂

    & the new look here is wonderful!

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