If you could highlight one thing about your worship team to the entire Metro community, what would it be?
It’s tough to highlight just one thing about the team that I get to work with each week, but I’d say that we are resilient to the vision and values of this community. If you’ve been with us from the start, you’d understand that sentiment a little more. We’ve learned and continue to learn from our failures and weaknesses. Every individual on this team has or is going through a lot. I could probably tell a story about each of them and how they’ve struggled or suffered through something recently, battled with God in their heart, and yet remained faithful, trusting, and sacrificial. One of the biggest concerns I have as a pastor is about making sure that our team is not suffering through ministerial burn-out. So often, we see in our churches and ministries people that serve and serve and serve, yet many end up becoming bitter, frustrated, and tired. It’d be naïve to say that our team is not prone to that. However, I am consistently astounded at how dedicated and passionate our team is to the vision and values of our church. It is certainly not by my doing. But even more, we are plugging into the life of the church. Lives are being transformed, sins are being challenged, and faith is being restored. Music is just something we get to do on the side together—loving Jesus, as a community working together towards the vision, by the values, is what is helping keep us from getting burnt-out, building our resilience and character. I hope that is what continues to carry us forward.
How has God been advancing the Gospel through your own personal weakness and struggles?
Weakness scares me to death. It tells me that I am not living in line with how I ought. In my mind, it exposes and destroys the pristine, reliable, faithful, focused, humble, and loving aesthetic I’ve built for myself to others—one that brings me love, respect, trust, and clout. I’ve used this false aesthetic to deem what I think is good character. How cowardly. At some point in my life, I’ve made the lie—“weakness leads to destruction”—a foundational truth. I say it is a foundational truth because when I look at how I think and act, it seems to make its way into every aspect of my life. The things that I love, the things that I hate, the people I surround myself with, and the ones that I keep distant. As our pastor likes to say, the strengths that I think will increase my potential and freedom actually decrease my potential and freedom.
In our last series, “The Gospel According to David,” we heard about a story in which Samuel goes to anoint the next King of Israel. In 1 Samuel 16 we see Jesse present the strong and worthy sons to Samuel. In his mind, they are the only ones that would even be considered. When Samuel asks in verse 11 if there is another, Jesse replies, “There is still the youngest. He is tending the sheep.” In Jesse’s mind he is probably thinking, “Oh… him?” I fear that. I fear being the “oh… him.” I fear being the weak one, being left out, unworthy, forgotten. In essence, I am a David, trying to be like one of the older sons. I want to be in that line, presented before Samuel—worthy because of my aesthetic. I want it bad.
One area of great weakness and struggle is my thirst for approval. It is full of hierarchies. It depends on who is present. It drives how I love, how I work, and how I rest. To the best of my knowledge, I can trace it all the way back to when I was middle school where it began to make its roots. I was the overweight, nerdy Asian kid who wore glasses, went to church three times a week, and didn’t know anything about secular culture—if you play any pop culture hit from the 80s or 90s I’ll usually give you a puzzled look as to why it should be nostalgic. In short, I wasn’t cool or handsome like some of my friends and I really wanted to be. I wasn’t treated and doted on like they were by the older high schoolers in my youth group. My heart longed, “How do I get that?” So I emphasized my strengths. I was good at church (whatever that means). I got good grades. I was surprisingly (and mysteriously) athletic. “Ah! This is how I’ll get that.” And to make a long story short—I’ve been in chaos ever since.
All this time I thought I loved Jesus, when in reality I really just loved myself. All this time I believed that Christ was my salvation and righteousness, when in reality it was tied up in other people. I’ve had a carnival mirror-like view of my spiritual maturity. You know those mirrors that make your torso look like a Barbie doll and your head look like a bobblehead. One scholarly pastor likened them to “delusions of spiritual grandeur”. My mind may have known the truths of scripture, but the rest of the body was spiritually languishing. I’d wander back and forth between legalism and hedonism—whichever one satisfied my need of approval from others. I worked so hard. My mind still races at 100 miles-per-hour when I feel like I am not being approved—trying to figure out a way to restore my standing. It’s tiring. It’s downright frustrating. And yet, there is hope.
As David appeared before Samuel, the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” This literally goes against my core worldview. David tends sheep. He is small. Not even his father gave him a look. And yet, he is chosen. It’s one thing to appreciate this “underdog” story; it’s another to see what it means for my life. What is the Gospel? Jesus was perfect, holy, and without fault—yet he is rejected. If there was someone to be proud of it was Jesus. The Father separates and distances himself from him. Why? So that I could be accepted and chosen. Me—a David. It means that I can embrace weakness and be open with my struggles. I can begin to learn what it means to genuinely love Christ and His people. I can trust fully in salvation and the righteousness of Christ. I can repent of things I had not discerned before. It also means that I can act and speak with more courage—less worried about my standing (self-love) and more concerned for others by speaking truth in love. This foundational truth advances the Gospel much further than any approval seeking motive could. It requires suffering, dying to self which will be painful, but at a cost that has already been paid. In my daily struggle to battle my thirst for approval, the Gospel has amazing power to overcome. I believe that. The more I embrace my weakness, the more I can identify it, struggle with it, and be transformed by it—cherishing Christ more and in turn benefiting from what true rest, peace, and hope look like. I’ll end with an old hymn called “Nothing Quite So Precious” as my prayer:
Nothing’s quite so precious as Jesus in my spirit.
He takes away the care and fills me with His peace.
He never leaves me, e’en as the days grow weary.
His presence goes with me. My soul delights to hide in His arms.
I call His name, “Lord Jesus, help me in my weakness.”
So faithfully each day in me he proves His life is so sufficient.
How important is worship to the life of our community at Metro Presbyterian Church?
It is often said that we become what we worship. The things that we adore, treasure, and deeply desire—the things that we worship, drive how we live everyday. They define us. They measure us. They satisfy us. It is a common misconception then that worship is something that we only do with God on Sundays or something that only Christians do. Everyone worships, all the time. The problem is—we are usually worshipping something or someone other than God. A famous theologian once described the human heart as a “perpetual factory of idols”.
At Metro, we believe that the Gospel is the source of power and truth to battle and overcome idol worship (i.e. Gospel-Centered worship). We also believe that the Gospel is lived out in the context of community (i.e. Gospel-Centered community). When we meet to worship together each Sunday, we are reminding one another to return to the Gospel—to trust and treasure it more than any worldly desire. The same goes for when we meet in our community groups, invite people to our homes, and break bread together. Worship and the life of our community truly depend on each other. Without a community that is moving towards the Gospel, individually our worship will suffer. And yet, without people that are battling and overcoming idol worship, our community will suffer. When these two components work in harmony, genuine relationships are formed that humbly, lovingly, and boldly direct us to love and cherish Christ more each day.
Metro welcomes people from many walks of life, ranging from those with no formal spiritual backgrounds to those who grew up in various religious traditions. As worship leader, what is your hope for our diverse community as we experience the Gospel of Christ together through worship?
It’s amazing to see how God has been growing and gathering the community at Metro. I believe that a healthy church consists of a diverse group of believers and non-believers—not only reminding us of our call and mission to make disciples, but that the church is a hospital for sinners. No matter how knowledgeable or “mature” you may be as a Christian, just coming back to the church, or even coming for the first time, the Gospel levels the playing field in one fell swoop. That’s what makes gathering together for worship so amazing. All these people, from all different walks of life, experiences, and faith, gather together as one body, putting their hope, trust, peace, rest, and joy in something greater than this world can offer. It is the ultimate common denominator—that we are all sinners in need of a great Savior.
Although we may be diverse, worship will and should always point us to one scriptural truth, that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This foundational truth means we don’t ever go beyond our need of grace. It’s not as if God saves us, then leads us to something more than grace. The reality is that we delve further into it, plunging ourselves further into its rest, peace, and joy. We are directional people and moment-by-moment we are either moving towards Christ and away from Him. As a worship leader, my hope would be that the words we sing, hear preached, and confess together would not only resonate with and challenge us, but really transform how we live, think, and act each day. If I could point to a passage in scripture, it would be all of Romans 12, but verses 1-2 sum it up pretty well:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
What are key Scripture passages that shape your understanding, experience, and leading of worship at Metro?
Coming in line with the previous question, our aim each Sunday is to remind ourselves and each other of the great Gospel story. We like to call that Gospel-reenactment where-in we plug our lives—our fears, anxieties, successes, failures, joys—into the Gospel paradigm. The more we are able to do this each day, the more we can come to genuine repentance, faith, and love for Christ.
Here are a few scripture passages that serve as a reminder of this:
Exodus 20:2-6 – Idolatry
1 Chronicles 16:23-31 – Adoration
John 4:21-24 – True Worshippers
Psalm 95 – Gospel Worship
Psalm 100 – Joyful Worship
Luke 5:31-32 – Repentance
2 Corinthians 5:21 – Gospel Worship
1 Corinthians 14:15 – Singing the Gospel