This is my story. No, not from the beginning, when I popped out of my mother’s womb. No, not sharing some intense secret that no one knows. This is my ministry story. A snapshot of how God called me and how I got to where I am today. I have been many places and done many things that will not be mentioned here, but, alas, it will still be long. So grab a cup of coffee or whatever else you prefer and prepare to spend a little time reading. You may already have decided not to read any further, so to you I say, “Adieu.” For everyone else, the cool people, let’s dive in.
My ministry story really kicks into gear when my family moved from Albemarle, NC (pronounced AL-(UH)-MAR-UL if you are from there) to Greensboro, NC in summer of ’97. We went from a small town to a “big” city when my dad got transferred with his job. I had been in church my whole life to this point and when we moved it wasn’t going to be any different. My parent’s set out to find a church and we landed at Grace Church.
Grace is an amazing place. There is such an incredible spirit of praise and worship there. There is just something different about that place and I have yet to find anywhere even close to what it was like. Not that it’s better or worse, but just different. Of course, I didn’t know this when we started attending. In fact, I had only seen drums used in music a couple of times at this point. But this place had them every week. It was amazing! One of my earliest memories of Grace was being at some kind of conference my parents had dropped me and my brother off at (Or maybe they were there, I can’t really remember).
I’m not sure exactly what happened but I remember I danced the entire worship set. Yeah, I know, awkward right? It was like some weird kicking charismatic thing (Being a 6th grader at the time I think my innocence helped me get lenience for my awkwardness; especially during slow songs). Anyway, at the end of worship, this guy I didn’t even know at the time, Graham Cooke, begin to speak words over people. I had never seen this before but it seemed important. He looked over at me (um, what?) and asked me to come up to him on the lower part of the beautifully maroon, carpeted stage. I remember him asking me to hold my hands out and I remember him speaking a word over me. I only realized years later it was a word of prophecy. Because I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, I don’t remember the word which is kind of sad. However, given how my life has turned out it probably had something to do with the ministry God was going to call me to.
Fast forward some time from that moment, and I am on fire for God. I am understanding more and more spiritual things as I learn them from Randy Thompson and others at Grace. Even early on before high school, I was developing spiritually. Then, it happened. I was in my awkward 8th grade phase and put into the high school ministry for a night. And there he was: Shane Key. He played a guitar and lead worship for the group that night. It hit me in that moment. That’s what I want to do. After that, I began to ask for a guitar and had a desire to learn to play and sing like he did. More than that, there was something about leading worship that I felt particularly drawn to. So it began.
My parents told me to borrow a guitar from someone. That lasted until my parents realized it wasn’t going away, and then they bought me one. I was terrible. Like, so bad. Like, ew. But that didn’t stop me from writing songs to God that no one ever heard or that I would even want someone to hear.
As this passion began to fester, a guy started to come and lead worship here and there at Grace. He would swoop in with a team and lead amazing times of prophetic worship on Sunday mornings or for conferences. His name? Jonathan David Helser. Oh, you’ve heard of him? Yeah. We knew even back then he would make it. There was just something about the songs he wrote and how he lead worship that transformed a room and everyone in it into the presence of God. It’s amazing to see where God has taken him and his wife, Melissa.
There is one conversation I had with Jonathan (ok, the only one I ever had with him) that I will never forget. I had an opportunity to talk to him and I asked him about songwriting. He was so encouraging and seemed so wise to this unassuming 9th grader. He spoke about just worshiping the Lord first and taking the Psalms and literally just making up a song with those words. It is something that has helped me greatly with writing through the years. Jonathan is one of my biggest idols. I look up to him greatly and see how his faithfulness has yielded such amazing rewards in the kingdom.
As I began to develop the ability to play guitar, I began to yearn for a place to utilize the gift I was honing. At the time, I was running sound for our kid’s praise team, when my mentor in the faith, Randy Thompson, finally gave me a chance to join the band. I was so excited. There is a story Randy tells about my first time playing with them. I don’t fully remember it, so I will let him tell it.
We had a “kids band” in our children’s church consisting of students ages 9-14. Philip really wanted to play in the band but every time I allowed it, he became pretty bossy and tried to tell everyone what to do (and He wasn’t really in charge of the band). One day I became really frustrated with Him and suspended Him from the band until further notice. Each Sunday he brought his guitar to church in the hopes that I wold allow him to play. After I thought he had learned his lesson, i went up to him and said “Philip, I think you’ve learned your lesson. You can play in the band today, however, if Ben (the leader) tells me that you are trying to take over, I will sit you back down.
I came back in about 15 minutes later to check on Philip and see what damage might had already taken place. As expected, He was sitting on the back row with his head in hands looking down. I went over to Him, sat down and asked him what had happened. He looked up at me, and said, “I was up there tuning my guitar and all excited about playing. All of a sudden the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said I was full of pride and I needed to sit this one out”. I was totally shocked at His response. Right then, God spoke to me and said, “Now He’s ready to become a worship leader.”
– Randy Thompson
This was the beginning for me. I had no idea what would become of it. But I knew leading worship was something that had been put into me. I remember my first time actually leading a song. It was for the offering during one of our ministry trips with the “Rev Zone Ministry Team” (the kid’s praise team I mentioned above) at Christian Life Center in Charlotte, NC. I sang a Jonathan David Helser song, “Likeness of Jesus”. It was amazing (well, the experience for me was, at least, I’m not sure about the attendees’ experience). Following that service, a man came up to me (no idea who this guy was) and spoke a word about a vision the Lord had given him while I led the song. He spoke that he saw me leading worship for thousands of people. I was shocked. I was encouraged. And I began to dream.
Ok, so we are about halfway through. If you’ve made it this far, you are either bored enough to have nothing else to do, had too much coffee and are now using this to fall asleep, you really love me, OR maybe you have been captured by my story. Maybe it is somewhat like your own. Either way, let’s keep going. This might be a good time for some more coffee or a potty break (unless this is your potty break reading material #nojudgement).
Up until college, I continued to lead worship for KidzAblaze Ministries up and down the east coast and further west even into Ohio and Missouri. This was my training field. I spent countless hours loading and unloading trailers, running music practice, among other things. Then I went off to college. During college, I continued to travel with KidzAblaze Ministries as I started classes at North Carolina State University. I was also beginning to dabble in graphic design even to the point of becoming somewhat proficient. I have been mostly self taught when it comes to my acquired skills.
For me, college was simply a formality on my way to fill time ministry. I knew I wanted to go into full time ministry but this was my route for various reasons. One of them being that I had no clue at the time that there were Christian universities (hard to believe but it is true). It turns out that being at NCSU would be one of the most valuable experiences I would ever have. I learned a lot more than Electrical Engineering while I was there (in fact, I’m not sure how much Electrical Engineering I learned, haha).
After getting settled in during freshman move-in weekend, my roommate and I got invited to attend a Thursday night event, Campus Crusade for Christ. I still remember the first time being there. It was unbelievable. It was this huge event happening every week where 1500 students would come out to the outdoor track and worship together in the open air with a full band followed by a local pastor, who would share an amazing word. I fell in love with it immediately, and so when they announced there would be auditions for the worship team, I knew I needed to give it a shot. I just wanted to be a part of this movement.
After auditions, they contacted people about who had made the team and who had not. I had auditioned on acoustic and vocals and was eager to find out if I would make the team. Then, one Sunday, over AIM messenger (AIM was where it was at back then), I was told that I had made the team! I was super excited and ready to jump in. I started coming to practices and waiting for my chance to contribute. I was asked to play guitar fairly often but I was never scheduled to lead worship. I found this somewhat odd, but I would discover a few months later that they, in fact, had only brought me on as a guitar player but no one ever actually told me this. It didn’t change my involvement or even my passion for it though, I was honestly just excited that I could contribute.
After a couple of years, the band leader was graduating and it came time to name a replacement. This is when the story gets interesting. They asked me to co-lead the team with one of the female vocalists on the team. Of course, I said, “Yes!” And so began two years of coordinating the worship team as well as helping plan the services themselves. All of this experience was incredibly invaluable.
In case you are wondering, as the years progressed, I did end up becoming one of the main worship leaders. It wasn’t me, setting myself into a position, but rather how God orchestrated peoples’ availability that kind of forced me into it. But in the best way. And in the only way He could.
And so it went on until I graduated. Also during college I began to work for a church in Sanford, NC. I was basically a maintenance man but it was fun and I got to work with an amazing Pastor that really demonstrated to me how to pastor people.
After I graduated in December of 2008, I felt God calling me away from Raleigh. An opportunity arose to live with my mentor in ministry, Randy Thompson, while being able to volunteer at an amazing church in Concord, NC. I took it. And in January of 2009, I moved to Concord, NC and began to serve at Concord First Assembly.
When I started attending cfa church, I decided that I wanted to take a step back from leading worship each week. So, instead of announcing that I was a worship leader or anything, I volunteered to run sound which is another passion of mine. It was also quite thrilling because it was my first time mixing on a digital board. I got a little bit of training but it came natural to me with all of the different experiences I had accumulated up to this point. During this same time frame I also got a job at Staples as a copy center associate. The hours were few and it didn’t pay well, but I was willing to do whatever I needed to be involved in ministry. So, there I was, running sound for a number of months whenever I wasn’t out of town traveling with Randy Thompson.
Then it happened. I got a call on a Monday morning from Tom Clark, the worship co-ordinator for the youth worship team as well as one of cfa church’s Sunday morning satellite campuses. Tom was calling because he heard that I led worship and he was looking for someone to lead THAT night for an urban enrichment night. I had tried to stay in the background up until this point but I knew he needed help so I decided to agree to it. Come to find out, the main worship leader he was using at the time was going through some family things that kept him from being available. I ended up leading again that following Wednesday. Long story short, the main worship leader ended up with a job at another church not long after that and I was asked to step in to more of a long term role. So, I was basically leading worship on Wednesdays and Sundays when I was in town.
This continued for a while. I was happy doing what I was doing. I met my wife during this time frame, I was making enough money to break even all around, and I was getting to do the things I loved. At this time I was still looking for a full time ministry position. It seemed at the time that cfa church would end up being that route for me. I was getting very connected and enjoying it greatly. However, that is not what God had in mind… yet. In the summer of 2010 I got a call from a pastor in High Point, NC (near where I lived before college) and ended up accepting a position at his church.
The next seven years were spent at Hope Church. There is really no way to measure the growth that happened in me during that time. Randall was the first pastor to take a risk on me. I had no formal ministry training and really was under-developed in my leadership abilities. But he took a risk and we went through it all for 7 years together. There is really too much to tell about these 7 years so maybe another time, but it was an incredible experience.
Fast forward to not too long ago, I got a call from Pastor Jon at cfa church. He was the youth pastor at the time when I was there but was now over all the Family Life Ministries there. He had a position opening in graphics and wanted to me to come down and be a part of cfa church. At first, I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure it was right for me. My heart was truly in worship but I love graphics so much it did seem to be a good fit. Well, within a couple days of that, I found out that the job they were offering was graphics but now was also to be a worship pastor at their new location this fall. Well, everything seemed to line up and after just a couple weeks of that phone call, I accepted the job. And that’s where I am today. I am only a week in but I can already tell that this is what God wanted for my family.
I am so excited about the future and I can’t wait to one day have another post describing all the amazing things God has done here at cfa church.