Today, it has been a year since the completion of my music ministry internship at the Fairfield Church of Christ in Fairfield, Ohio. It’s honestly hard to believe it’s been a year, because much of what I learned and experienced while I was there is still so fresh in my memory. Since this 3 ½ month experience was so vast to describe, this post is a compilation of my reflections on the experience from my writings. I hope that those of you that where a part of my experience there will appreciate these memories, and others will be able to appreciate what I learned about the ministries of the church from a different perspective.
For those that may not know what I did on my internship, this first part is a compilation of notes from the presentation I did about my internship for my home church after I returned.
I completed my ministry internship at the Fairfield Church of Christ in Fairfield, Ohio, in the Cincinnati area. My internship was focused on music ministry, since that is the focus of my college degree and a requirement for the completion of my degree. My primary duties consisting of planning and organizing worship, working with the adult praise choir (as a member and as a director), and leading worship team practices. I was especially involved in planning of the Palm Sunday and Easter services. I was considered a part of the church staff while I was there and attended weekly staff meetings.
My mentor, Mike Dainton, was a great person to work with. He was very supportive and encouraging, and truly has a heart for the people he serves. From the beginning, he wanted to invest in me and teach me what he knew about ministry. I shared his office space and shared his days off. I felt that I was more than an intern or a college student to him: I was a partner in his ministry. I learned so much because he had confidence in me to do what he needed me to do.
In addition to my music ministry duties, I was very involved in the youth ministry, mostly because the youth minster is my cousin, Aaron Hibbard. Aaron gave me the opportunity to teach for one of the high school small groups for Sunday night youth group, because of requirements I had for an online class I was taking. I also enjoyed being involved in some youth group activities while I was there, such as a high school lock-in and CIY Believe.
I also involved in our Easter production, called His Final Week. We took the audience through walk thru experience of the Passion Week through a tour of different rooms in the church building. We recreated scenes such as the cleansing of the temple, the last supper, the trial before Pilate, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and some the of the resurrection appearances. In addition to helping the production team, I played the role of Mary Magdalene in one of the four “Jesus groups” (cast groups that performed on rotation). This production was one of the best parts of my internship, both for the learning experience and the fellowship that happened behind the scenes.
Since this internship was considered a credited class to finish my degree, I had to do a few written assignments. This is a reflective essay I wrote after I completed my internship, along with the questions I was answering according to my assignment’s instructions.
What was the best part of your internship experience? What was the worst part?
For me, the best part of my internship was the people of the Fairfield Church of Christ. All the people that I became close to, my mentor, the rest of the staff, my host family, the worship team, the choir, the kids of the youth group, the college age group (those around my age), and those that befriended me in other ways, all impacted my life in those few months I was in Fairfield. I enjoyed life and community in this church in a way that I had not experienced before, and I am so grateful for that experience.
The worst part of my internship was learning how to deal with the unexpected changes that occurred often. My mentor Mike Dainton struggled with health issues related to the removal of the sciatic nerve in his right leg after a battle with cancer. Although he is now cancer free, he is still experiencing issues relating to the missing nerve which sometimes prevented him from coming into the office, which meant that a lot more responsibility fell on me and I had to trust the guidance of other staff members or other ministry volunteers. Although I learned a lot about working through unexpected changes, it was probably the most difficult part of my internship.
What are the three most valuable lessons you learned during your internship that you will use in your future ministry?
I learned many valuable lessons while I was on internship. The most significant was the importance and necessity of flexibility in ministry. Although it was something that I already knew I struggled with, I now see that in order to best serve others (one of primary goals of any ministry), we need to be willing to adapt to whatever situations may come our way. The times that I able to adapt and finish what needed to be done were some of the more fulfilling moments I had, and the most helpful to the whole of the music ministry. I hope to be able to learn more flexibility in my personal life, so that I can better serve others and it will natural overflow into my future ministry endeavors.
When we fail to be creative or think outside of the box, we are not growing, and most likely limiting the people that we can reach. Especially when it comes to the way we present or teach the Word of God, what we do should never be perceived as boring if we can do things to make it more appealing. I hope to be able to think and teach more creatively in general, so that I can apply this to my future ministries.
What impact has this internship had on your spiritual life?
This internship had changed my life in ways both big and small. I had to learn how to trust in the Lord more than had before, because in the moments that my mentor wasn’t able to help, I struggled with feeling inadequate for fulfill my duties. Through it all, I realized that Christ was able to help me in my inadequacies, and He also helped me to discover talents that I did not know I had that I have been able to use for ministry purposes. Trust in the Lord is an important lesson for anyone to learn, regardless of their situation in life.
I also found so much inspiration from my mentor. Mike is amazing man that loves his ministry and loves the people he serves. I know personally how much he loves the people he serves because of the way that he cared about me as a person and became a good friend to me in my time at the church. He genuinely wanted to invest in me from the start and I reaped many blessings from that investment. He especially inspired me through his health issues. Mike was experiencing extremely intense pain related to his missing nerve. Despite his setbacks, he still has his thoughts and prayers with his ministry and the people he served. I hope that when I finally get to my own ministry, I will come have a heart like Mike Dainton’s heart for the people I will serve.
The biggest impact this internship had on my spiritual life was connected to my involvement in the church’s Easter drama, His Final Week…Portraying one of the first people to hear that Jesus is alive was one of the best experiences of my life. That is something that I want to spend the rest of my declaring to those that need to hear it. The impact of playing a part in this play is something that I hope to remember as I strive to serve Him with the talents He has given me for the rest of my life.
[If you want to read more about my experience during His Final Week, click here]
To give you a sense of the good, the bad, and the funny, this a selection and revision of a list I made for fun called “Things I Did Not Expect To Learn On My Internship” (This is 30 of the 48 I had originally)
13. It is entirely possible to hold a production together with primarily the following materials: hot glue, foam board, tape (of many varieties), paint, and pipe and drape
14. You can use shower curtains as light gels for florescent lights (My mind was blown)
15. If you make yourself cry for theatrical purposes, you shouldn't cry so hard that you start hyperventilating, which I came close to doing. Don’t forget to breathe!
21. When singing on worship team, don’t forget to turn on your microphone!
22. You know that people love you when you tell them your favorite flavor of ice cream (Peanut Butter and Chip from UDF) and they drop everything to go get it for you. This happened more than once!
23. I'm just as fun and crazy as the kids in the youth group. I guess that's why we get along so well.
24. Having your cousin on the same church staff is awesome. It was such a blessing to have Aaron in the office across from me.
25. On the other hand, you realize how weird you are when the first guy to ride alone with you in your car is your cousin…
26. “You’re never as good as they say you are, and you’re never as bad as they say you are. You’re usually somewhere in between.” – Dave Hargrave
27. Trial by fire is a good learning experience, even though it may be uncomfortable. I learned more through some of the unplanned parts of my internship then I did from planned parts.
28. Never take the staff of your church for granted. They are servants to the Lord and to you, and they deserve a ton more recognition than they get.
29. Community in Christ, especially in the context of a church body, should never be taken for granted. I was so warmed welcomed into the church and felt very much at home with them. If you find yourself in a church like that, consider it a blessing.
30. Do your best to be prepared for any situation that comes your way. That is when you are open for the Lord to use you, no matter where you are in your life.
Prior to this internship, I had not had the chance to really experience the finer details of music ministry. Most of my experience up to that point had been singing on worship team and some worship planning. But after spending 3 ½ months going into the church office 4 to 5 days a week and often not returning home on those days until late at night, I became more assured of a fact I already knew: pastors, ministers, and those who are on staff at a church do so much more than their congregation will ever see. They don’t just work on Sunday mornings, and they often don’t work a 9 to 5 kind of job. Being in ministry is a devotion, a calling, and a lifestyle that demands more than many people outside of ministry can really understand. Even their volunteers only get a taste of the demands and devotion required to faithfully fulfill this calling. Being a pastor’s kid, I knew this truth, but I finally had the chance to experience it while I was in Fairfield, and that is something I could never experience in the classroom.
This is just a glimpse of all the things I learned in my time at the Fairfield Church of Christ. I am still grateful for all the things I learned and all the experiences I had in Fairfield. It was by far the best experience of my education. As I reflect on what I learned, my heart overflows with gratitude toward all the people that made my experience possible. I am still ever so thankful for the Fairfield Church of Christ, my mentor Mike, my cousin Aaron, the other staff members at FCC, the members of the worship team and praise choir, the leadership team for His Final Week, my host family, and the countless other people that befriended me, made me feel at home, and gave me opportunities to serve. I still miss them and thank the Lord from them often.
I am also reminded about what ministry is really all about. It’s not just about serving with our talents when were interested. It’s about contributing to the needs of the church so the body of Christ may be strengthened. Every person is a piece of the puzzle of that ministry, and each ministry is a piece of the puzzle of the church as a whole. I hope some of these memoirs from my internship have helped you see this truth and that you will find ways to strengthen the body of Christ by contributing to the needs of ministries in your own church. I also hope this will help you respect the work of whoever ministers to your own church, because their work extends far beyond Sunday mornings.
It’s crazy to think that a man from Indiana that usually walked around in white t-shirts, jeans, and no shoes became one of the greatest contemporary Christian artist of all time. It’s also incredible that his legacy has left such a huge impression on Christian music as we know it today, even 18 years after his death. Rich Mullins was a unique man with honest music and a reckless faith. He wrote several songs that are still all-time Christian hits, including Awesome God and Sometimes by Step. His life inspired the 2014 film, Ragamuffin.
This movie is not your typical “Christian movie.” In fact, the filmmakers avoided using this term about the film. They explained that a movie can’t “be baptized and follow Christ,” but you can make movies about Christians. This movie is just that. It’s a movie about a Christian, a Christian that has struggles that many of us have. Here are a few things that I observed from this portrayal of Rich Mullins’ life.
Having An Estranged Father, Brokenness, and Loneliness Had Lifelong Consequences
Mullins had a difficult childhood. His father was a farmer, and although he was the oldest boy, Rich (who went by his middle name Wayne as a child) was not suited for life on the farm. He was constantly making mistakes while working on the farm that drove his father crazy and drove a wedge further between them. His father was incapable of expressing his love toward Rich because he couldn't understand his musical proficiency and lack of ability in farming. This resulted in tension in their relationship that never healed in his father’s lifetime and had repercussions throughout the rest of Rich’s life. Rich struggled with being different and feeling inadequate. He had a lot of anger and bitterness, not just toward his father, but toward those in authority, especially when he didn't agree with them. He struggled with feeling alone, which sometimes drove those who were close to him away. When Rich finally found a man to be a fatherly mentor to him (Morris Howard), he passed away not very long after Rich moved to be close to him, which left Rich even more hurt and confused.
Because of the bad relationship he had with his father, Rich had so much personal brokenness, he didn't know what to do with it. It wasn't until the end of film when he goes on a personal retreat with his mentor Brennan Manning that Rich really has the opportunity to forgive his father and to start the healing process, and that healing process was inevitably cut short when his life ended not long after. Before this retreat, he repressed a lot of his hurt and it had major consequences. It’s an important reminder that when we as Christian recognize those kind of problems in our lives, we should do what we can to deal with them, not bottle them up.
No One’s Perfect, Especially Christians
Because of his personal struggles, Rich struggle his whole life with loneliness. He never felt like he fit it, as much as he desperately wanted to fit it, which isolated him even when he was around people. As a result, he tried to fill that loneliness with earthly solutions that didn't work. He struggled with alcoholism and smoking, which is portrayed honestly in the film. He tried to fill that void with relationships, first with dating relationships, then with friendships. All of them failed to fill the void in his life. It was not until the previous mentioned retreat that Rich began to understand that God was the only one that could fill that loneliness. This is a powerful reminder for all of us that worldly pursuits cannot fill our loneliness. Only the love of the Lord can do that.
Probably the most powerful lesson portrayed in the film Ragamuffin is the reminder that no one is perfect. Rich Mullins was definitely not a picture perfect Christian. There are half a dozen scenes of him drinking and about nine scenes of him smoking. Because his father cursed, he also sometimes struggled with cussing. (Between him and his father, the word d---n is used about a dozen times, p--s is used once, and hell is used twice in a swearing context) When Rich finds out the girl he was in love with is engaged to someone else, he smashes the glass of the phone booth where he called her. When he shows up drunk to Morris’ funeral, Sam (Morris' son and Rich's friend) gets so frustrated with Rich that when he tried to confront Rich outside about it, Sam pushes him against the wall. Rich often disrespected authority. He would get mad when he didn't like the way things were going. He had a very difficult time coping with change.
Some have been shocked that this content is portrayed in a “Christian film,” but as I said earlier, this is not a traditional movie in this category. The filmmakers painted the struggles of Rich’s life in an honest way on purpose and to great effect. This also is a reminder of what the concept of being a ragamuffin is all about. When Rich meets Brennan Manning, Brennan tells Rich that a ragamuffin is a beggar at the door of God’s mercy, and one that fully acknowledges their brokenness before God. That's an important lesson for all of us. We need to be aware of our own inefficiencies before God so that we can acknowledge that we are not capable of getting into heaven by our works. It was important for them to show the imperfections of Rich’s life in order for this truth to shine through. It really challenged me to think about what it means to live out my faith in the knowledge of God’s grace, not my own works.
The Church Of Rich’s Generation Struggled With Legalism Over God’s Grace
One of significant points of the film that was somewhat disappointing to me was the way that churches and evangelical preachers of the time were portrayed. They all focused way too much on the rules and legalism of the Bible and not enough on God’s grace and forgiveness. The preachers in the film (except Brennan Manning) are all portrayed as “Bible thumpers” who didn't really understand the power of God’s grace as demonstrated through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. They instead focused way too much on the rules of the Bible, and not enough on demonstrating grace or helping the poor.
Now I was not alive for most of the time period of the film (I was born in 1990) and I was too little to really remember the rest of it, but I don’t think that all the churches and preachers of that time were like that. That was definitely Rich’s perception of them, but I don’t think they were all that ignorant of the truth of God’s grace and hardened by legalism and hypocrisy. It’s really rather narrow-minded to assume that there were, but I guess that was part of Rich’s personal struggle.
I believe that we need to be careful when we get harshly critical of our brothers and sisters in Christ in front of the unbelieving world (like in a film), because it’s that kind of judgment that non-Christians are afraid you will pass on them and turns them off to our faith. We are supposed to use judgment in accountability within the context of the body of Christ, but we must use this privilege with caution and for the purpose of edification. I think that is the spirit with which it is done in the film, but it is still wise to use caution when using this method to illustrate a point.
Rich’s Life Was Whirlwind
This film attempts to cover most of Rich’s life, focusing primarily on the 14 year timeframe of his music career. His life took him from Indiana where he grew up, to Cincinnati for college, then Nashville to start his career, Wichita for a time, and eventually he ended up moving onto an Indian reservation in Arizona to teach the children music. There was so much that happened in the 41 years of his life. However, because of the limitations of time, there were many parts of Rich’s life that were condensed or even omitted.
The girl he dates in the movie (named Jess) represents one of three women Rich dated in his young adult life, one to which he was engaged, but she called it off (The film only mentions Jess’ engagement to someone else). The character of Sam Howard was exaggerated for the film, so that people would have a better connection with his father when he died (Sam was never Rich’s roommate). The character of Justin (Rich’s touring friend) is a representation of several guys that toured with Rich. One of the most obvious omissions from Rich’s life was his friend David Strasser, also known as Beaker. Beaker was one of Rich’s best friends and collaborated with him often in the later part of Rich’s career. Because of Beaker's absence, there were also several of the songs they collaborated on that did not make it into the film (like Sometimes by Step). There is also only one passing reference to his Ragamuffin Band on a sign.
This film does a great job of portraying the life and legacy of Rich Mullins. His brother Dave Mullins was one of the producers on the film, and I think it really shows. However, because of the language, drinking, and the PG-13 rating, I would only recommend the movie for children about 12 and up. For children younger than 12, use parental discretion about viewing it.
Although I did know some about Rich Mullins prior to seeing this film, I learned so much in this portrayal that really opened my eyes to not only the points I mentioned here, but also the way that his story has impacted the next generation of Christians and Christian artists as they pursue a faith that’s as genuine and reckless as his. I encourage all of you to watch this movie if you haven’t (available on Netflix and many video retails) and to remember God’s grace as you shape your life in response it.
[If you want to read more about Rich's life and how he personally inspired me, click here]
Jesus Had to Give Up His Control
Jesus Actually Died
I have always known that Jesus died on the cross for my sin. I could have told you this from a very young age. I had seen many cinematic and dramatic portrayals of the crucifixion, but it never really sunk in. It wasn't until I was cast in this drama that I was faced with the reality of what my Savior endured for me on the cross.
His Final Week Wasn't Really His Final Week
Because He knew that the testimony of those would bear witness to His resurrection would be His most powerful asset in building His church, and it would debunk the rumors that were spreading around about what really happened to Him. His appearance is the only explanation for what could have made His disciples change from men who were cowering in fear behind locked doors to courageous men willing to give up their lives to declare their message of truth and hope the world.
This truth was so powerful to me, that this year for Easter, I wrote a drama that specifically focused on Jesus’ resurrection appearances for my home church called “The Door.” I think it’s important for us to remember how incredible it is that these men became emboldened by Jesus' resurrection to declare to the world that Jesus is alive. It’s still true today. Without them, we would not know the truth either.
His Final Week was such an incredible part of my internship experience, and I am still so grateful to have had the chance to be a part of it. I hope I never forget that the hope we have in the resurrection of Jesus Christ does not end on Easter Sunday, and I hope you won't forget either. It continues through every day of our lives. It compels us to continue to declare to the world that Jesus is alive.
[If you want to read more about my internship experience, click here]
It’s hard to believe that it has been two years since I had the chance to visit New York City. It was the experience of a lifetime. Aside from all the fun I had as a tourist, I learned so many incredible things, because I went for a seminar class called “Exegeting the City.” For those of you that many not know the word exegete, I will try to simply the definition as much as possible: to find the original meaning or intended purpose. For Scripture or even other literature, we find what the author meant to say to the original audience. In this class, we were trained to find and understand the “cultural texts” that gave us insight into urban life and trends. If that explanation confused you, I hope you will understand by the end of this post.
This class was structured differently from any other class I had while I was in school. It was much more experiential that most other classes have the opportunity to be. Some of these experiences were organized activities we did together as a group. Others, we had on our free time in the evenings. I hope that by sharing about my experiences, you will see the difference of the culture of city life, and hopefully come to better understand the major cities in our world that so desperately needs Jesus. There were three main experiences that stood out from the rest, and gave a new way to relate to different types of people, especially the people of the city.
Theology of Traveling Culture – Airports and Subways
But it was exceptionally weird when we got to the subway, and we were trying to swipe our Metro Cards properly and get through the turn stiles with all of our luggage. And even when we finally got out into the city, it was weird to drag my suitcase behind me for several blocks. But the locals, both in the subway and on the street, didn’t give our suitcase caravan a second thought. Throughout the rest of my time there, I encountered many people on the subway and in the street alike hauling their luggage all over town. It was just a natural part of life in this city.
Theology of Fashion – Berdorf Goodman’s
This part of our class was one of our first activities we did together on our first full day of class. Together we traveled to Berdorf Goodman’s, a VERY high end department store. The men went into the men’s store on one side of the street, and we went to the women’s store on the other side of the street. We were given instructions to go to the formal wear department and try on the expensive evening gowns they had there. The men were told to do the same with the suits and tuxes. Needless to say, we were all a little hesitant! We all had fears of getting in trouble because we were not rich. For a while, we (the girls in my class) were all afraid to ask to try the dresses on, but I knew I would have to ask sooner or later, so I asked first (which if you know me, is totally not me! lol). After I asked, the other girls found the courage to do the same. I definitely felt out of my element in that fancy dressing room, but I was so glad that I found the courage to try it on!
Four grand for a dress? That’s worth more than my car! I though my dress was priced high, but I was floored when the next day, one of the other girls told us that she found a dress that was the most expensive clothing item that has even been tried on for this assignment. And the totally was:
Almost 27 grand!!! That's so crazy to think someone would pay that for a dress!
But doing this was a powerful reminder for all of us that the wealthy are people just like us. There is definitely a significant cultural gap, one that our professor attempted to help us bridge with this assignment, but they are still just people. Unfortunately, bridging this gap is easier said than done. Even Jesus acknowledged the difficulties of a rich man coming to salvation. Although they are harder to reach, they need Jesus just as much as anyone else. I will never forget what it was like to wear that dress, and the powerful reminder that we are all still just people.
Theology of Worship – Different Worship Services
The other experience our class had together that stood out from the rest was experiencing worship at two churches of contacting styles and demographics. In recent years, I have found great value in being able to observe the way other churches worship. It was even more valuable to see their services on this trip, because we happened to be in New York on Easter Sunday (March 30, 2013). Churches in the city are drastically different than many of us in rural settings are familiar with, and getting to witness this difference was incredible.
- Aside from all the fun, we also had a great class with challenging lectures. We received great hospitality from the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA for short), the hostel where we were housed. We also were welcomed warmly by the Orchard Group, a church planting organization that facilities the class. We had our class lectures in a meeting room in their office space.
- One of the awesome parts about the class was that not only was there seven other students from Ozark Christian College, but there were also eight others from Lincoln Christian University! It was great to not only experience the city together, but also make new friends along the way.
A City in Need of Jesus
New York City is a culture in and of itself. It is so different than what I am used to in the Midwest. Before my trip, I stereotyped New York as a city of violence, crime, and sin. I was reminded that there are some Christians in New York City. They are a minority, but there are there. And while there is a high crime rate in the city, not everyone is a criminal. And although it is true that certain types of sin are prevalent in urban settings, they were still just broken people in need of a Savior. It made me so grateful to know that organization like the Orchard Group are investing their efforts into reaching these people through church planting.
My biggest takeaway from this trip is that I learned how to find “cultural texts” that taught me how to better relate to those who live in urban settings. Our professor urged us to learn how to have a situational awareness and cultural agility in all areas of our lives, and that is something for which we all should be striving. I hope that these memoirs from my trip will encourage you to pursue the same.
(Enjoy a few more pictures from my time in New York!)