‘…I think we all believe the gospel. We all want it, we’re just not sure what we’re supposed to do next. We’ve got this idea of an awesome walk with Jesus out there somewhere, and we’re looking for the bridge to get over to it. Serving God isn’t this giant dream a year from now. It’s not this thing He’s going to have you do in a month. It’s right now. Following God is the next word of love that I need to speak to somebody, the very next heart that needs to be encouraged. Ministry isn’t on Sunday; it’s not on a stage. It’s you, where you are, doing the next thing God tells you to do…’ Casting Crowns, call it what you like or not, are arguably one of the most talked about CCM artists, maybe even of all time. Shooting to fame with their hit song “Who Am I?”, they have had hit after hit, with songs like “Does Anybody Hear Her”, “Lifesong”, “Praise You in the Storm”, “Voice of Truth”, “Courageous”, “Thrive”, “Until the Whole World Hears” and “Slow Fade” some of the songs that have impacted listeners around the world. Now they have a new album releasing this month, titled The Very Next Thing. While this is not an album review per se, this is nevertheless an expose, a space where I jot down thoughts about what I reckon is one of the most under-discussed themes that I believe this album tackles as a whole.
Til now, 3 songs from the album have released, “One Step Away”, “Oh My Soul”, and the title track. Each song has an underlying theme to it- that the Christian walk is right now- not five minutes from now, or down the track when we have our life in order. I look at the quote from Mark Hall at the beginning of this post, and I marvel in wonder. Mark is totally right. Where we are in the marketplace, is where church ought to be. Sadly, and I reckon it goes for most of the Christian population, we believe, maybe even unintentionally, that the work of a pastor, a prayer, an intercessor, an evangelist, even a church planter or a missionary, is somewhat more of a higher calling than any other profession. Because, after all, isn’t all these professions that I mentioned before, all about actively doing the Lord’s work, while jobs like being a builder, a labourer, a café worker, are, whether we like it or not, shunned and frowned upon, especially by the Christian community?
Call me a heretic, but sometimes I ponder. That is exactly what I reckon we Christians often think. When we decide to ‘change’ the world, we often have these grand ideas- travel to another country to part with a missionary and see what God is doing in the outer parts of the globe. Or we may decide to go to bible college, because being a pastor will have so much influence right? But to stay where we currently are, believing that God has called us to where we currently are at the moment, even if we believe to be elsewhere? That seems out of this world. Because frankly, how can God use little old me, in a café, or studying at university, or even in an office 9-5 job? That’s our mentality, sad to say. We think that we have to give everything up, lay everything down, and commit to a role that is indeed more ‘spiritual’ than we may like. And then and only then we can do great things for God. But more often than not, God is not looking for the people who pack everything up and move to a new country. Sure, God can use those people who believe that their calling is to be a minister, a pastor or an evangelist abroad, and God has; but God can use the everyday folk as well. We ought not to be ashamed or believe that what we are doing right now doesn’t have any significance to God and the furthering of His kingdom here on earth. Because even the littlest things that we undertake at this moment will have profound impacts on those we are in contact with on a daily basis.
Serving God is here and now, where we are. Even if where we are, is in a desert. Or in a daily grind. Or in a place where we don’t want to be. It is not somewhere off in the distance, when we have our lives all together. In fact, sometimes, and maybe even most times, God uses the broken people to heal other broken people, and in turn, heal themselves as well in the process. It is only when we travel through trials and tribulations that we can look someone else in the eye who is going through what we have gone through and say ‘Yes, I’ve been there’. Jesus did that for us, and often, we travel through these difficulties so that we can be Jesus to other people.
Often it’s hard to believe into the fact that each and every day is an opportunity for us to encourage those around us, because honestly, we’re just going through our day, now we have to actively seek out and encourage someone? Isn’t that normally done on Sundays? No seriously, some people think like that. But, if our heart is in the right spot, we can’t help but have joy spill out of us as we speak to others, encourage their hearts, and just be there for our friends and people we meet, even if it may mean for us to walk from the comfortable into the uncomfortable, from the safe into the uncertain. Because it is when we obey God’s calling on an everyday basis, even if we may not know where He will lead us, that we can truly embrace the freedom that comes from just following, sometimes not even knowing where God may take us on this journey called life. Don’t get me wrong, even if we don’t obey God’s prompting and don’t share that encouraging word, He will still use us. Yet often, to follow God and His promptings requires us to step out boldly, often laying down our own fears and insecurities, and asking the questions of whether we trust the circumstance or we trust the Lord over the circumstance.
“The Very Next Thing”, the title track off Casting Crowns’ new album, speaks to me quite a lot recently, even from the first verse.
I spend all my time dreaming what the future’s gonna bring
When all of this time, there’s a world passing by right in front of me
Set my sights on tomorrow while I’m tripping over today
Who says big things are somewhere off in the distance?
I don’t want to look back just to see all the times that I’ve missed it
I want to be here and now starting right here, right now
With the very next words of love to be spoken
To the very next heart that’s shattered and broken
To the very next way, You’re gonna use me, show me the next thing
Extract of 1st verse and chorus of ‘The Very Next Thing’ from Casting Crowns’ album The Very Next Thing.
Encouraging right? Or is it daunting? To be showed up as being one of the people looking forward til tomorrow when we can be someone great, when we’re missing out on the great things God has in store for us today? As I finish this post, not necessarily with all the answers but maybe even with more questions; let me encourage. Let us not worry about the future, or believe that God’s plan for us is in the future rather than right now. Let us not believe that it is only the pastors, the evangelists and the missionaries that make all the difference. We ought to believe that God is working through the mundane, even such jobs like in retail. For we are where we are for a reason, even if we don’t believe it to be true at that moment. God calls us to be in certain situations for a season. It is our role to show Christ’s love to others, encouraging them, never asking the question, ‘why’ or whether they deserve God’s love or not. As we love like Jesus loved, without condition, I’m sure people will start a much needed discussion. Even if we don’t get the response we want from others in regards to God’s love, we will know we’ve been faithful to God’s calling.
Are we still waiting for God’s grand plan for us, a year from now, or are we ready to step out of our comfortableness into a realm of uncertainty, but ultimately fulfilment, wonder, beauty, encouragement and an experience like no other? Let us hear “The Very Next Thing”, and be encouraged by the fact that it is now that we can start changing the world, instead of when we believe we are equipped enough. Listen, enjoy and anticipate the new Casting Crowns album come September 16th. Till next time!