For most of the last 18 years Lori and I have done vendor work at all sorts of Christian events, festivals and conferences to create additional income. We have had a wonderful relationship with the Assembly of God district office in Ohio for most of that time and 16 of the last 18 years have sold stuff at their annual events. This last weekend we did that again and something new began to happen. When kids run out of money (as they tend to do of course) they will often ask if we have anything for free. The Lord whispered an unusual instruction to me to give away some product to those who could quote certain scripture verses.
So what I began to do was ask them to quote a verse, they would often quote a common verse such as Gen 1:1 or John 3:16 so I would say ok, give me John 3:16 AND 17 together and you can have the free product. They didn't know verse 17 so I had my bible out, open and ready. I would tell them to go ahead, look it up, study it as long as they needed to and then repeat it back once they had it. Perhaps upward towards 100 kids did this with various verses and it was a true joy to watch the excitement and discovery of young people getting more of God's word into them and then getting rewarded as a result. In previous years we couldn't afford to give stuff away like that but God has blessed our efforts and I knew I had heard His voice.
As I sat there I began to see these future leaders and it reminded me of the past several years here in Central Ohio where there has been an unusual amount of transition and change in leadership at the city level. The prophet in me likes to avoid cliches like "we're in a season of change" because life is always in a state of change so a "season of change" could mean anything. However, as it relates to the leadership within Central Ohio, the last few years have absolutely seen a large amount of flux and shift with key leaders retiring, resigning, even passing away.
While this has been happening, others have been moved in, relocated in and installed fresh to brand new church works and the leadership landscape is absolutely in a state of shift right now. Its not just churches either, its Christian radio and TV stations changing management and ownership in some cases. It's Christian personalities going from one station to another. Some embracing sodomy and rejecting the God they once loved and served while others who were once filled with corruption have been delivered and are now in deep love with Jesus. We are absolutely in a very real season of change right now and this has me excited in a way I haven't been in many years.
I want to add, there is a place for loyalty and honor. It can be a delight when a person remains committed to a given place, work or ministry for decades but it is also true that if you are in the wrong place you not only potentially harm yourself but you potentially harm others by them plugging in with you they miss plugging in with who God truly had for them to plug in with, plus those where you are supposed to be are forced to plug in with others who were supposed to be plugging in with you... so it really is important that we all discern and get where we feel we need to be in this season.
A great indicator that can help is to simply ask honestly if you are being celebrated where you are. Are you being celebrated for your giftings and talents that are unique to you? Are you being identified for what makes you different than others? Are you being given the opportunity to function in gifts and callings or at least being given a path to get to that place eventually? If not, you may want to pray about a relocation to a place where leadership can properly identify who you are and what God has placed in you so you can flow freely as you were created to do.
Leaders right now have an especially important job, more so than usual because we have to hear the Lord as it relates to whom to give those opportunities to and now more than ever we need a return to fresh and proper new testament governmental structure in our churches.
Blessed is the leader who pass the microphone and sit down confidently knowing their authority allows them to be out of the spotlight and elevate others. Mark 17:1. ;)
It has been rightfully said that God's only obsession is order. Nothing is more common than people out of place in this world. Primarily everyone was ultimately created to be in relationship with God. Thus, until a person gets saved and develops a personal relationship with God thru Jesus, nothing else in their life can ever truly come into it's ultimate proper alignment.
Then we turn our attention to the church and let me first say that this is not another of the many "here's what is wrong with the church" blogs as those are out there by the thousands and if you haven't figured me out enough yet to know, I m nothing if not original and unique. :)
No, this isn't about the church as a structure, it's about each of us taking a hard look at ourselves and seeing just exactly WHERE we are supposed to be. Being in the wrong place can be extremely detrimental to not only you but also to many others around you. Of course, when you look into the modern church, there are perhaps millions of folks who should be doing one thing but instead for a potential litany of reasons they are doing something else. The Kingdom of God comes when proper order of people is established. Let me say that again and let it drip down into your heart as you re-read it. The Kingdom of God comes when proper order of people is established.
I'll give you a hypothetical yet practical example that fits a lot of churches today. The budget committee approves let's say $50,000 for a brand new church sound system and they appoint the current worship leader to oversee and be in charge of the running and operation of said sound system. The system is installed and the well meaning worship leader puts a team of volunteers together that have graciously stepped forward because the church bulletin asked for volunteers. For those who don't understand the dynamics of running sound, as a musician on stage you are basically completely powerless and at the complete mercy of whomever is running your sound. If the sound person doesn't know what they are doing, forgive my bluntness but you are absolutely screwed.
So in our example here, the feedback swells, the singer who is singing doesn't get turned up so anyone can hear them, everyone hears way too much guitar and absolutely no piano and the weakest singer on the team who is consistently flat is the loudest in the mix. This goes on for weeks on end until finally a meeting is held where the worship leader is asked to explain why the church's $50,000 investment has not done what they thought it should. Perhaps the worship leader gets put on probation or in some cases even fired, after all, $50,000 is a lot of money and services sound just as bad now if not worse than they ever have.
So what is wrong with the above example? What is missing? Proper Kingdom Order is missing.
Let's assume for the sake of our example that the members of the budget committee are supposed to be there. That is rare in the churches that I have been a part of because usually budget committees are friends and family of whomever started the church instead of men and women anointed for business and money management but let's assume they are. Let's also assume the worship leader is indeed called to be and is in fact a worship leader instead of just a song leader which is much more common these days...
What got missed was that the 17 year old kid who is sitting in the back row with earbuds plugged into the iPhone in his pocket that is not even paying attention to the service because his parents threatened him to get him to church in the first place IS THE ONE that is anointed in Kingdom order to run your brand new $50,000 sound system. He would completely love the idea of the challenge and would gladly submit to the authority in place in trade for the opportunity to be in charge of running the new system. In fact, he even knows a few friends just as passionate about sound and music as he is that he could invite to come. He knows what every single little knob does, he understands the dynamics of signal path, the structure of building a proper mix, and he hates musical things that aren't arranged as they should be. After all, he's the only one unwilling to listen to the current mess coming out of the sound system you just bought opting instead for his own personal music.
Most would overlook such a young person for their youth or the fact that they appear rebellious but despite the fact that aunt Polly and Uncle Buck volunteered, they make true the old sound attage, "heart of gold, ear of tin" and it is painfully obvious they simply do not know what they are doing. So lets say for our example here that a Prophet comes in and prophesies over the 17 year old God has a call to serve on His life. Most old school church leaders assume that means once he gets into his 30s or 40s he may be mature enough to step into something and no one ever reaches out to ask for his help so he turns 18, moves out, stops coming to church and the church attendance dwindles because after all, only the most diehard faithful will come and sit thru the painful sound mixes of Aunt Polly and Uncle Buck. Eventually the church goes under and some variation of this story has played itself out in some form tens of thousands of times in the last few decades.
Obviously i have taken some liberty in our story here today and I hope everyone gets that just because I talked about sound, you could apply it across the board into any area of skill or leadership. Some things are obvious like not taking the blind woman and putting her in charge of mowing the grass. Other things however take real and true discernment from The Holy Spirit.
Is something wrong in your church? Do you have an issue in a given area that just doesn't seem to be able to be fixed or ever completely work itself out? Start to look around at your people with different eyes. Now in your case, you probably aren't looking for an actual 17 year old boy with earbuds in ignoring the service, but if you have problems that are just not able to be resolved, you likely just have people out of their proper place so begin to ask the Lord to give you His eyes and His understanding about who to put where because remember again, The Kingdom of God comes when proper order of people is established.
One last note today, in addition to my other skills and talents, I do run professional sound on a small to medium scale and I can tell you that your sound person is the second most important person in your church. After all, if you bring the best word from the Lord you have ever brought and no one hears it, did you really bring the best word you have ever brought? Remember, The Kingdom of God comes when proper order of people is established.
I shared this earlier this morning on Rich's Facebook page and wanted to share it here as well.
I've blogged and wrote about Rich's passing but something I wanted to add here on his page for those reading was what was brought out at the memorial service about how everyone felt like Rich was their best friend. I believe this is how Jesus was with those who followed Him. Everyone felt such an intimate personal call from Jesus to leave what they knew and follow Him, so they did, yet there was some confusion about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom. I know the usual take away from that verse is about serving others (greatest among you is the servant of all) but what stood out to me was the point that there was confusion about it in the first place. Its as if they all felt so personally favored by Jesus that the idea of any one of them being more important to Him than another confused them a bit. Rich was the same way. There was a strong mantle upon him that made whomever he was talking to feel very special.
I hung around Rich a lot, especially in my 20s and 30s. I saw this play out dozens if not hundreds of times. Complete strangers would spark up conversations and within minutes be spilling intimate details of their life to him. Despite his size back then, Rich had a gentleness that elicited trust out of people in a very real way that to this day continues to be very rare, and very Christ like.
I was raised in the denominational church and I remember the first day I came to Heartsong when I was all of 16 years old when based on someone else's conversation with Rich at the counter I put 2 and 2 together that Rich moved in the gifts of the spirit. I was raised to fear anyone involved in that of course so I mustered up the courage to ask him... "So are you one of those charismatic people?" He just got that signature gentle smile that let me know asking the question was ok and said to me "Ya know, Mark, all these labels we use in the body of Christ today and really isn't it all about Jesus anyway?". Looking back on it, that is exactly how Jesus would have answered the question. Less than one year later I was filled with the Spirit myself and a hunger for more of Jesus was ignited in me.
Something else I feel strongly impressed to share here. As I was driving around last night just trying to process the last week here, I felt the Lord show me that certain powerful things can happen that usually only happen at a person's natural death. I remembered Hebrews 7,8 and 9 about how the death of the testor (Jesus) was required for the new will (covenant) to be enforced. Then I heard the Lord say that from RIch's death will form several brand new alliances and fresh relationships. I was reminded about how John and Mary were at the foot of the cross when Jesus said Mother behold your son, and son behold your mother. John and Mary were perceiving loss but thru that loss they were both gaining brand new intimate family based relationships.
Those of us here that remain have witnessed the passing of Rich and we all certainly perceive that loss. We should also hear the Spirit of the Lord say to us to behold each other in new ways as the loss of Rich will birth forth several new partnerships, alliances and closer personal relationships than have perhaps never existed before.
Let me be the first to issue a public apology to anyone and everyone if I have ever done anything to offend or irritate any of you. I am very open to anyone adding me on here who perhaps has felt for whatever reason they couldn't or shouldn't. I would love to hear from anyone by phone or personal message here who has any issue or problem with me so we can put it under the blood of Jesus once and for all. I believe this is an unusual season of restructuring and for we as a collective body to discern it and get it right, we will need to let go of preconceived ideas and notions, many of which are very dated in the past anyway.
With Rich's seeds of relationship sown so carefully and deeply into each of us who knew him, let us all water those seeds and begin to see brand new life begin to emerge as Jesus does what he always does... making all things new.
It was 1986 and I was still in my teens. I knew everything about everything so naturally I didn't feel I needed much help in too many areas of life. I grew up in a religious town in a church where looking the part mattered far more than the condition of your heart. It was the 80s as my casual dress and mullet would attest to.
In our youth group some of us guys had big secular music stashes and on Friday nights we would spend the night at each other's houses to party a bit and watch Friday Night Videos on NBC (for those old enough to remember that). Our youth pastor had the presence of mind to turn us on to some Christian Rock show that the local Christian station in town had on, that show was called Final Flight and was hosted by several people but the main host and the guy who did most of the talking was none other than Rich Fout.
There was something about this guy, the casual way he just talked to you unlike DJs of that time who talked "at" you instead of to you. He just had an undeniable relatability as someone who had been there and done that. He spoke from the perspective of one who had failed himself from time to time and knew what it was like to feel like a failure but also to be forgiven by God and have fresh courage to pick up and try again. This was a sharp contrast to the normal church rhetoric I was used to where everyone and everything had to be picture perfect and failure of god's perfection was not an option.
On his radio show Rich often spoke of Heartsong Records, his record shop in downtown Columbus, Ohio where they would not only sell albums and such but they would hold regular prayer meetings, regular worship sessions where they would put on sets of worship music for hours at a time and just lay on the floor before God in His presence.
I remember going to the first few and being bored out of my mind. Then slowly over time I began to actually press in a bit and focus on this Jesus that everyone else seemed to have such a close walk with. The more I pressed in, the more of Jesus I began to see, feel and understand. These worship meetings, as informal as they were, became precious times of fellowship with who I would later learn to be the incredible Holy Spirit of God Himself.
I had began to learn about radio and that led to my first few radio jobs including doing some DJ service stuff. I began to volunteer at the Christian radio station on Friday nights where Rich and the Final Flight show broadcasted from. That led to me sitting behind the control board and playing the records many times when other hosts couldn't be there.
New Years Eve of 1990 I had the honor of DJing at Heartsong and creating a worship set of my own for the crowd that gathered there that night. I remember it was so effortless as a flow just poured thru me in a way I had never experienced before. It was the way I had watched Rich do it dozens of times before but this time it was God using me. As the Lord would nudge me toward the next selection, His presence just got thicker and heavier. Before long the entire place was face down in worship. It was becoming clear to me that the Lord was laying a mantle upon me to create atmosphere with a flow designed by Him if I would yield to His leading, He would bring people into His Presence. That is a gifting that serves me well to this very day.
Rich mentored me in many areas and we worked together on several projects over the years. in the late 80s I brought the idea of Hellstop to Rich based on an idea I had experienced from a youth group in my teens. We drew it all out a couple of hours including all five original stations, a tie in with drunk driving, the whole deal... Rich took it to Dave Diyanni who agreed to fund it and as a result tens of thousands over decades were impacted with the gospel. Dave would later claim it to be his own idea in a national media interview. I sleep very peacefully at night knowing what really happened there. Rich and I both joked often over the years that we should have patented the Hellstop idea because Dave's church and all of the churches that ran with it afterwards sure raked in the cash from it but for Rich and I it wasn't about the money, it was about people's hearts.
We also put together the idea for "Jam for the Lamb", a multi hour worship blowout featuring all sorts of various musicians and leaders. Basically about anything that led people to either making a decision for Jesus or bringing them deeper into His presence, Rich was always on the cutting edge of.
In 2002 Lori and I had a miraculous healing in our lives, our marriage and our individual walks with Jesus personally but we just couldn't find the handle with Rich again. Satan got in for many years and divided Rich and I. We both felt we were "right" and that the other had somehow done the other one wrong. Truth be told, we were really cut from the same cloth with just enough pride to give the devil a foothold.
After years of avoiding each other, my phone rang in October of 2013 and Rich left a voicemail letting me know that Lori and I were welcome to come to their annual Heartsong/ ministry reunion. I wept like a baby at hearing his voice. I remember having to pull off the road and I just cried. Clearly I had a lot of resentment that had laid in me undiscovered and undealt with. This wasn't about Rich Fout, this was about God doing what He had done so many times over the years..using something so seemingly insignificant to reveal Himself to me and in this case an area where I needed to be healed.
I went to the ministry reunion, saw lots of old faces. most were nice to Lori and I and while a few still kept their distance, I know full well I am not their judge. After all, I harbored bitterness for decades. I walked around, took some pictures and in a moment of worship I saw Rich's familiar eyes slowly close and his now aged hand raise itself toward Heaven in worship of the same Jesus he had decades ago helped me discern and I swear in that moment for me time stood still. The eternal Spirit of God that had always tied Rich and I together had once again done His beautiful work and as God as my witness nothing else that had happened between us over the years before that moment mattered any more.
Earlier this year (2014) Lori and I had dinner with Rich and Karen. It was a special time I will always cherish as we helped each other fill in some blanks from the previous years.
Some weeks later I was able to give Rich a ride home from the Gahanna Longhorn and I felt the familiar honor.. not of being with an Apostle, not of being with an incredible mentor or special general of the Faith... just the honor of being with one who simply loved Jesus more than anything else. His wonderful candor and honesty with me on that ride to his house will be a wonderful memory I will carry with me until I once again go to see my friend.
There is coming a day when Rich and I will worship together again in the presence of Jesus. For those in my family and care I pray that day is a long way off, but I know that day will come. I will see my friend again and we will have our renewed bodies, his nervous system will be completely healed just as mine will be...and the Jesus He now sees face to face... I will too.
Until then as I will always miss my friend and mentor, I take great peace and comfort in knowing that God has a bigger plan here. An "Upper Story" as Max Lucado would call it. I will carry the torch so long as I have the ability to do so... and I will use the giftings and talents that I have to build and advance this Kingdom that cannot be shaken.
For the saints and unto the lamb... more so today than ever before!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.