Here in the Sojourn Community, we’re nearing Commitment Sunday — a day when we as a church are being asked to commit to above-and-beyond giving for the sake of the future mission and vision of Sojourn. It’s a good moment for me to pause and reflect (with hope) about where I think the Lord is going to take Sojourn in the next ten years.
Before getting to the future, it’s probably helpful to reflect on our past. Ten years ago, when Sojourn began, I was a 19-year-old kid charged with coordinating the musicians who would lead worship. We had only about 60 people at our early gatherings, and about 20 of them were musicians. From the very beginning, I had a desire to see a wide and diverse group of players and singers take part in worship at Sojourn.
Those early services would feature a constantly rotating cast of players – one or two singers might lead the first two or three songs, and then swap out places with a different pair. Drummers, bass players, and guitarists would change during the service, and no two songs would sound or feel alike. Music would range from indie rock to acoustic, to fairly standard pop.
It was strange and diverse, but God allowed those early years to create a sense of belonging for the musicians who were participating. Within a short period of time, the diverse, rag-tag band of players became a community, and the vision for Sojourn music became more and more clarified.
The years have taken us a long way. We’ve learned much about keeping Christ at the center of our gatherings. We’ve learned much about what kinds of songs speak to our community. We’ve learned much about the value of diversity. And we’ve rediscovered and reclaimed the hymnal as part of our heritage and voice. Still, we have much to learn, much room to grow, and much more hope for what the Lord will do at Sojourn Music.
To borrow language from the Vision Campaign, we want to see more and better. Let me explain:
In the next ten years, we want to see more and better:
- Gatherings. We want our gatherings to be places where people who live out the gospel gather to build up and encourage one another. This should result in more faith-filled singing as the words to the songs become more deeply and personally powerful. We believe that a congregation, singing in faith, will experience the richness of Christ’s word dwelling amongst them (Colossians 3:16). We want our gatherings to be places where the body of Christ is transformed by the word of Christ, and where the Spirit of God dwells richly and powerfully in the praises of his people.
- Diversity. One of the joys at Sojourn is the unpredictability of the gathering. One week might be delta blues, the next might be indie rock, and the next might be bluegrass. That diversity is something I’ve fought hard for over the years, and I’m eager to see it widen as we move more broadly across the city – especially as we enter Shelby Park. Being on mission as a musician means asking and answering, “What does it look like when a neighborhood that doesn’t know Jesus starts singing His praise? What are the voices, sounds, and rhythms?” I don’t know exactly what it looks or sounds like as we move forward, but I believe the diversity we’ve experienced is just a foretaste of an even greater diversity in our future. But that requires leaders, and not just leaders but…
- Worship Pastors. I’ve become convinced that the deep need of the church isn’t simply worship leaders, who are skilled at singing and leading a gathering, but worship pastors who understand the heart and pulse of God’s people, leading them in a life of worship and a rhythm of gathering that equips them for all of life. Worship pastors know that songs shape our ideas about God, and will skillfully craft services like sermons, that over the course of the year keep those ideas balanced, fresh, and powerful. As we plant churches and launch campuses, we need an army of pastors who shepherd us in singing with the church of all ages, and the church of every tribe, tongue, and nation.
- Records. We live in an iPod generation. Twenty-five or thirty years ago, the majority of our congregation would have had rudimentary skill at reading a piece of music and the hymnal would have been more than sufficient to equip us to sing. Not so today. Musical literacy diminishes while technology grows and flourishes. iPods, iPhones, iPads, DROIDS, and mp3 players are in almost every pocket, car, or purse. Despite the decline in musical literacy, music is more omnipresent in our lives than ever. While I may never convince someone of the merits of learning to play piano, read music, or play the guitar, I don’t have convince them of the value of music or their MP3 player. Sojourn will continue to press forward in writing and recording music because we believe it’s the best way to equip the church to sing together.
There’s more floating in my mind about where we want to go. I want to deepen our partnerships with other gospel-centered churches and artists, and help to impact churches across the globe by calling them to reach for depth in their songs and gatherings. I want to partner with Sojourn artists and help them do their craft in the world to the glory of God. I want to equip the next generation to sing and to lead us in singing. I want to know what Sojourn hip hop and Sojourn jazz and Sojourn gospel looks like. It’s the kind of stuff that gets me up in the morning.
But at the heart of it all, I want to see you – my friends, my fellow leaders, and the covenant community – experience the joy of the Gospel as we gather, as we hear God’s word, and as we respond with repentance, lament, joy, and hope.