Music Part 7 – Take the Music

The (Christian) Music that Shaped Me – Part 7

(In this series I’ve been sharing music that has been influential to me, personally. My hope is twofold: First, that some of my younger friends will be able to appreciate “from whence we’ve come” and to be encouraged to continue to seek fresh ways to communicate their faith through music. Second, that those of my generation will enjoy looking back a bit, but more than that, I pray that we will continue to recognize and encourage the creativity of today’s Christian musicians. Here’s where you can find the Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.)

I never wanted to be in “the ministry.”

You heard me right. Working on a church ministry staff really wasn’t part of my planned career path.

I wanted to be a musician.

It’s amazing how, if you let him, God will work through a person’s life in ways he or she may never plan or anticipate. I have a philosophy about how to determine God’s will for your life. If you want, you can read about it here.

But right now, I’d like to tell you an intimate piece of my story where I learned some hard lessons about finding “God’s will” and how one song helped me find my way.

Because of some of the music I’ve already written about earlier in this series, I learned that it was possible to combine a love for music that was creative and artistically satisfying, with a life of faith and service to God. What I didn’t see was how the church fit into that. Don’t get me wrong, I believed in the church and knew that being a part of a body of believers was crucial to my faith and growth as a Christian. But there were simply no role models for me. There were no “worship ministers.” Some of the larger churches in the country had “music ministers,” but, to be perfectly honest with you, I had no desire to be like any of them. I know it sounds shallow, and I hate to admit it now, but they simply weren’t “cool” enough for me. And the music was kind of boring.

The music I wanted to be a part of was happening elsewhere.

So, here I was with a Bible College degree and zero desire to enter the ministry.

I truly loved singing in the group I was a part of, but after almost 5 years the constant traveling was wearing me down. Plus, I saw no real future for a career and a family where I was. So, in 1978, with Kathie’s support (always!), and with no jobs or money, and after being out of college for almost three years, we moved from Tulsa to Cincinnati where I had auditioned and planned to be a student at UC’s College Conservatory of Music. The thinking was that, I would get some good formal education in music and in the process build relationships with some people who could help me move into a career of producing and arranging. I saw myself as a producer of Christian records in the future.

God would want this for me, right? He gave me some talent and some desire. Surely he expects me to use it in his service.


Long story short: CCM was going to be out of the question for financial reasons.

I had to get a job.

The church we were attending at the time was in a building project and the construction company was looking to hire laborers so I applied. Did you know that being a laborer on a construction site is very hard work? Trust me, it is.

God, what do you want me to do?

Kathie and I were involved in our church, and volunteered as high school youth sponsors. I also sang in the choir and led the hymns at church from time to time. Notice that I didn’t say “led worship.” That wasn’t really a term that was used back then. This was a good time in our lives because we’re still friends with some of the people we met and worked with there. It was also a very difficult time in my life because I wasn’t doing what I thought I should be doing. Or, was it really just what I wanted to do?

Over the next couple of years I moved from being a laborer, to becoming a carpenter, to eventually running a few of the smaller jobs for the construction company I worked for. I actually found construction work to be quite satisfying. I went through a time where I considered the possibility of a career in construction.

A turning point came when the youth minister at our church resigned. I seemed to have a good relationship with the kids. I have a Bible College degree. Maybe I should apply for the position. Maybe this is what God had been preparing me for.

That’s right, ministry.

It’s amazing how, if you let him, God will work through a person’s life in ways he or she may never plan or anticipate.

I applied, but I didn’t get the job.

Turns out the leadership saw this as an opportunity to save some money by not hiring another full-time staff member.

God, what do you want me to do?

I had made the decision to enter ministry. This was big. I couldn’t see myself as the preaching minister. I had no role models for music minister, other than people I didn’t want to be like. Sounds harsh, but that’s where I was at the time. However, with my Bible College education, the experience I had with Christ in Youth for 5 years, and serving as a volunteer youth sponsor at my current church, youth ministry seemed like a viable option.

I compiled a list of churches who were searching for a youth minister. The list had something like 25 churches on it. I sent resumes to them all.

I got replies from four. None were positive.

God, what do you want me to do?

The preacher from one of these churches happened to be on vacation and attended another area church one Sunday morning. The church he visited just “happened to be” the church where my parents were active members. My dad (bless him) mentioned to the preacher that I had sent a resume and that I was wondering why I hadn’t heard from him. He said their policy was to reply to ALL applications, so he felt bad that I didn’t receive a reply.

He called me in for an interview the next week.

This became my first church ministry.

I served this church for almost 6 years. It was a formative time for me in many ways. God did some amazing things there. Our children were both born while we were there. Kids who were in the youth program there are now serving God in significant ways and in a variety of places. This gives me more joy than you can possibly imagine.

It’s amazing how, if you let him, God will work through a person’s life in ways he or she may never plan or anticipate.

However, the people who know me best know that this was also a very difficult time for me. It was during these years, from about 1980 to 1986 that I struggled with the whole idea of giving up my dream of a career in Christian music.

My musical activity consisted of playing the piano and leading songs for Children’s Church, Y.A.C. (Remember that?) and singing in church from time to time. I was happy to do it, but it wasn’t what I had in mind.

In 1982 I was in Joplin, MO for some reason. It was probably a Youth Leaders Conference. One evening there was a concert by a singer/songwriter named Tim Sheppard. These days Tim is part of the worship team of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas and is still writing music which you can find at his web site.

His concert in 1982 was where I first heard his song Take the Music.

It hit me hard. Real hard.

I knew this song had to be the prayer of my life.

I had to give the music to God.

I did, and I do.

Eventually the time came to leave youth ministry. In 1986 I finally became one of those “Music Ministers.” I’ve served a church in that capacity ever since. One church from 1986-1992 and another from 1992 until I retired in the fall of 2015. The title “Music Minister” gave way to “Worship Minister.”

The prayer of this song has been, and continues to be, a sustaining theme for me.

It’s amazing to me how, if you let him, God will work through a person’s life in ways he or she may never plan or anticipate.

Just to be clear: I have no regrets. I do not mourn the loss of a career producing Christian music. On the contrary. I believe with all my heart that I have been squarely where God wanted me to be. He has been able to use my unique combination of strengths and weaknesses; of talents, abilities and personality, in ways that will be far more lasting than I could ever have imagined.

I believe this is what can happen when you are willing to give to God the thing you love most, and let him do with it as he sees fit.

It’s amazing how, if you let him, God will work through a person’s life in ways he or she may never plan or anticipate.


Take the Music
Tim Sheppard – 1981

I’ve stepped out on the stage in a thousand places.
They say, “Knock ’em dead. Bring a smile to their faces.”
Tell me, when will they see I’m not the one who sets them free?
And I’ll never be anything more than what You make me.

Lord, I feel just like a child after years of living.
And I don’t know if I have anything worth giving.
Just let me hold to Your hand,
and Lord, please help them understand
I’ll never go anywhere unless You take me,
Unless You take me.

And if You take away the music,
if You take away the songs
I’ll find another way to tell You that I love You.
“Cause it wasn’t the music in me that hung upon the tree.
Take the music, Lord, but don’t take Your love from me.

When I write the last few lines on the closing pages.
No more curtains, no more lights, no more stages.
I will fall to my knees, lay all the crowns at Your feet,
And praise You for the love You gave to save me,
You gave to save me.

And if You take away the music,
if You take away the songs
I’ll find another way to tell You that I love You.
“Cause it wasn’t the music in me that hung upon the tree.
Take the music, Lord, but don’t take Your love from me.



4 thoughts on “Music Part 7 – Take the Music”

  1. We are very grateful that you”were exactly where God wanted you to be”. The gift God blessed you with enabled you to lead others into His presence in worship for several decades and I am one of many who have been blessed by your obedience to following His lead

    I fully understand that many of us don’t necessarily end up serving God in the manner we had initially thought we would. But looking back it is obvious that God was able to use us better where He led us than where we would have placed on ourselves .

    Thank you for listening to the music. Thank you for listening to God’s direction for you through the music

  2. I was remembering that I was there in ’82, but I don’t remember Tim Sheppard. I remember the Archers and Michelle Pilar, from different years, I reckon. one of them was the Campolo year, and one of them was the year that Marvin Phillips spoke (from Garnett Road CoC). While he was speaking, half of the big sign hanging over the stage came loose and fell to the stage close behind him. H said something like, “My mother told me that if I ever went to a church where they used instruments, the ceiling would fall in on me, but . . .”

    While I was at ST. Louis Christian College, a friend and I wrote a song together. We thought it was pretty good, and I actually wanted Tim Sheppard to sing it. Until another guy (a professional musician and recording producer) pointed out that we had essentially rewritten “One More Song For You” with different lyrics.

    Ah, the shattered dreams of youth . . .

    1. I might be wrong on the year. It could’ve been ’83,but I doubt it was any later than that. Also, It might not even have been Youth Leaders. Although I can think of no other reason for me to be in Joplin during that time. Also, I do remember the concert was in an auditorium at Missouri Southern, not OBC.

      Thanks, for reading Sam!

      BTW – I really like One More Song for You…so, good job! 😉

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