I’ve struggled for months as to how to compose this post. I knew there would be questions. I knew they would be tough. I know that I don’t have all the answers – only small glimpses into this unknown territory I’m walking in. I know that God has called my family and me to live lives of audacious faith. To live otherwise seems a waste.
I wear a lot of hats. I like to wear lots of hats. I like different styles and colors. I like taking risks. I like seeing the Kingdom of God grow and be healthy. I have many concerns over the true health of the Church. I’ve always seen it as my role to be as involved as possible to provoke positive change within this beautiful Bride. That’s what I’ve done, and that’s what I’ll continue to do. BUT it’s not going to look the same. It can’t.
When I became the worship arts pastor at Hope Fellowship, my life radically changed. I had stepped out of my career as a nurse in order to commit myself to full-time ministry. This was likely a surprise to no one. I have always been called to full-time vocational ministry. The first year in my position, I tried to grow tremendously. I tried to learn as much as possible. I reached out to other leaders in my community ready to glean anything I could from them. My own leadership style started to emerge from the great things I saw others doing and from the not so great things that I knew I needed to try to avoid.
I made a decision early on in ministry to pursue people, not perfection. This didn’t always sit well with some of my bandmates and production people. Some left. Others came. A few left. More came. I wanted to simply trust God to bring the right people at the right time. He never fails. I served at Hope for over 11 years. Eight of those years was as a staff pastor. About three years ago, I began to see a radical shift in the ministry. Musicians of amazing caliber came onto the scene. There was a common theme that all of these musicians desired – true, authentic community. They were tired of just being the church musicians. They wanted to belong. They wanted a family. So did I. That’s what we became. Together, we grew to understand that our value was not in our personal giftings musically. Our value, our identity is found solely in our status as sons and daughters of the most incredible Creator and Father that ever was or will be.
We began to be empowered by the Holy Spirit through this knowledge. Our rehearsals became these intense, powerful, prophetic moments of worship. I’ll never forget the day that one of my newer musicians said to me: “Hey! You guys actually worship during rehearsal. I’ve never been a part of a band that did that.” What?! Seriously?! I felt like I didn’t know any other way. It was God’s purpose for me as a leader to lead my team this way. I guess my thought was, “I have a great band. We all love Jesus. Let’s jam and worship!” And that’s just what we did! It was awesome!
The more we worshipped, the more the Holy Spirit empowered us. He began to give me visions and dreams way too big for me to handle. That’s how I knew they were from Him. The more He opened my eyes to the truth of His Word and the truth of His calling over my life, a tension began to grow. Tension is good. It keeps us from complacency. As the tension grew, my eyes became more open. He began speaking more and more into my life. He began to open doors that I’d never even dreamt of. He brought some amazing people into my life to encourage, pray for, and walk with me and my family through all of our trials and circumstances. I mean, some of these people have trudged through the muck and mud with us. I’d prayed for deep friendships and relationships like this all of my life but was always met by shallow, superficial, hollow friendships that were here today, gone tomorrow. Some of my deepest scars are because of this.
We’ve had many huge life changes over just a few years. From adopting 2 children to leaving the comfort of my position at Hope, our family has felt God’s presence in such powerful ways as we’ve simply tried to obey His call for us. We struggle and fail at things daily. But we do it together in a community of other believers who lift us up and cheer us on. We do the same for them.
The question I’m asked most often since I resigned from Hope is: What are you going to do with all of your free time now that you don’t work there? Ha! Free time. What is that? Here I’d like to share with you what God has been sharing with me.
- In January, after many conversations and tons of prayer, I decided to start my own non-profit organization with my friend, Dave Phillips. It’s called The 139 Collaborative. Within this collaborative, we hope to accomplish several things. First and foremost, we are a movement of empowered disciple-makers. We believe we need to move from a consumer-based, come and see model of church to a place where every Christ-follower knows they have a part in fulfilling the Great Commission. And, what’s most important – they are motivated and equipped to do the same. Find out more by visiting our still-under-construction website.
- I am volunteering/working for 2 amazing non-profit organizations: Healthy Growing Churches (HGC) and Healthy Growing Leaders (HGL). Under the leadership of Dr. Greg Wiens, HGC was born. He then cultivated and released Tom Planck to take the helm of that organization while Greg focused on his passion for helping leaders reach their true potential by creating HGL. I write and edit for both organizations, and most importantly, I’ve found a community of people who believe in the empowerment of people regardless of their gender, race, socio-economic status, etc., and they pour the love of God into me tremendously. They have helped me discover gifts I didn’t know I had and have empowered me to use those gifts to further the kingdom in ways that are seemingly out of the box. (Out of the box is where I THRIVE)!
- I am a yoga instructor. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with self-image and self-esteem. I started practicing yoga during a particularly dark period of deep depression and anxiety. What I found as I practiced was that I was able to develop skills to cope with some very deep issues, and I found a closer relationship with God as I learned to quiet my mind and just listen to His voice. As my practice evolved, my desire grew for others to experience what I had. This practice is a part of my ministry, and I love it. In addition, I get to use my nursing license and experience to enhance my students’ journeys even further.
In this season, God’s underlying theme to me is freedom. The time has come for my family and me to truly catch the wind. The wind is His Spirit.
“Like an eagle whose home is the sky, I’m going to catch the wind!” Melissa Helser
The time has come to walk unhindered in His true calling for my life, and as I look over my past (my experiences growing up, my nursing career, and my ministry experience), I see how He’s been preparing me for this my whole life. My heart’s desire is to move as He moves me and follow His voice all of my days.