In a few weeks I will be returning to Murphy, NC to do a benefit concert to support an addiction treatment center as part of a thank you to something that God did in my life in one of the most unassuming places I could have imagined. In town to do a concert with a radio friend of mine, I was blown away at what the final outcome was and what it has meant for me in ministry and in life. Sometimes the biggest disappointments are the most fertile ground for God to plant the best desires. This is part of my story. - Mike
I’ve been working on a song called “Eyes on You”, likely to be the title track of the next CD project and it sparked a memory of a concert that I performed 3 years ago in North Carolina. Longing to grow as a musician I wanted to do music ministry well, with excellence, with purpose and passion. I had gone through Tom Jackson’s training and theories on live music and the purpose for Christian artists on stage. I had been blessed with some pretty good experiences with live music ministry up until then, and now we had an opportunity to perform for a good friend of mine named Tim Radford who owned the local radio station in Murphy, NC (WKRK radio.)
Tim and I were able to get the concert on the calendar– had good friend David Michael Carrillo opening for us with another friend, bagpiper Scott Mueller making the trip with me. We advertised on the local cable station, did interviews for the radio station where I had been a meteorologist for 3 years and felt pretty good about seeing 100-150 people showing up for the concert. Even the people at the barber shop knew who I was. It was going to be great night! I had the right setlist, the right musicians, a great venue perfect.
My prayer before arriving at our concert was that I wanted to hear from the Lord through the experiences and since I’m sometimes hard of hearing in my faith, I asked God to speak loudly.
After all the hype, promo, preparation and expectations we had 7… SEVEN people come for the concert. We had driven 1,000 miles… for 7 people. Sure in our words we say “Lord even if it impacts just one person, it is worth the sacrifice”… but we don’t mean driving 1,000 miles for just ONE person to show up!… In that moment my heart was laid bare, I saw the cut, it wasn’t pretty and for the first time in my music ministry, I didn’t run for the bandaid, I watched it bleed… and then I watched God start to heal it.
That night, God began a healing process that changed my heart for people, service and true ministry. Confessing to God before I went out on stage I told God “You need to break me of this. I can’t do ministry with the heart I’ve brought… forgive me, change me, help me to see what real ministry looks like then give me the courage to do it”. I went out, took the stage and with tears, shared my heart with the 7 people who had come. I apologized for my lack of true ministry and the transformation was on.
An older gentleman named Bruce Wiley and his wife were in the audience. Bruce seemed to be enjoying the concert, but every once in a while he would share a face of pain and stand up, then sit back down. We had two songs left in our set, and Bruce stood up, stopped the concert, called the band to him and shared with us one of the best ministry encouragements I have ever received. He said “You boys have no idea how much this night has meant to me… you have no idea. I have two inoperable tumors in my back and the pain is just killing me. I’m sorry that I can’t stay, but thank you” With that he shook hands with my band and gave me a hug. With a twinkle in his blue eyes, he said “You have a Great life”. With that he and his wife slowly walked out of the church as Scott started to play Amazing Grace on the Bagpipes. The prayer of thanks we received from the people that remained was a great way to cap off an extraordinary night of brokenness and healing.
I learned that my ministry fails when I take MY eyes… off Jesus.
When my focus becomes the show and not the message.
When my focus is on my talents instead of God speaking through brokenness.
When my focus is on me and what I can do… Things do not go smoothly.
Sure good things happen because God continues to work through sinful people, but it is never what He fully intends to do through us when we keep our focus on ourselves. When we have our Eyes on Christ, follow his example of serving others for Jesus’ sake and God’s glory and fame, when we are willing to share our brokenness and God’s healing, when we’re willing to be satisfied for serving EVEN ONE… God delights, His name is praised and the mystery of God’s grace is made plain.
If you have a heart to serve God, be ready to get cut, many of your injuries will be self inflicted. But if you are willing to learn, willing to wait on God’s grace and watch him heal your heart, you will learn what it means to Share the Hope for Jesus Sake.
Go figure that an old man would have showed up and turned this ministry event from a disaster to a total blessing, giving me a new perspective, a new vision… and a new mountain to climb!
The following week, I had a concert back in my home state of Wisconsin, only this time I had a different mindset, a bruised but healing heart and a focus on being a minister to the people that came. Before the concert started, I took a moment to tell this story to the audience and with my band in the crowd, I asked everyone to welcome each other. I don’t know why God brought each of them there, but they were there and we had some songs and some encouragements to share.
God blessed us with about 150 people that night and to this day was one of the best concerts that we’ve done.
Mike Westendorf - Special thanks to Transparent Christian Magazine - originally printed in 2010