Dustin Smith / Here Be Lions Magnify the Lord Many have tried to teach worship as if it is an intellectual assent or something you can grasp...
Writer: Brenton Brown
Category: Modern Worship
- Modern Worship (pdf)
Read his incredible testimony and the story behind “Everlasting God.”
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa just as Apartheid was coming to its bloody end. I clearly remember the ushers at our church chaining the doors shut for our safety. I remember standing at the back of our church and watching Nelson Mandela walk into our multicultural, multicolored student gathering and worship with us. I remember when he told us that we were the future of South Africa, and that we had a responsibility to be the moral guardians of our nation. We held our law students’ prayer meeting in a room above the one where South Africa’s new bill of rights was being written. That was an astonishing place and time to be alive, and the decision I made to study politics and law was an easy one.
Within the first few weeks of college, my life changed forever. My sister asked me to drive her to a Bible study she was attending on campus. I did, and sat impatiently at the back waiting for it to finish. But, something amazing happened as I listened. The man teaching explained how God reveals Himself through creation, our conscience, the Scriptures – and most significantly through Jesus. It was as if the years of family devotions and Sunday services I had so often unwillingly attended had laid a network of power cables in my heart, and during that Bible study all the lights went on. I got it! I couldn’t believe that God had invited me into His kingdom. I felt both ridiculously unworthy and yet ecstatically happy. That night I “preached” to my sister in the car all the way home, I was so excited. When we got home, we woke our parents up to share it all again!
The next four years were a happy blur of college work, surfing, and incredible times of worship. We saw many people come to the Lord during those years, and we watched in amazement as God changed the spiritual climate of our university. So I had mixed feelings when I learned that I’d been awarded a Rhodes scholarship to study at the University of Oxford.
England was going through a spiritual drought. Less than five percent of the nation was attending church and even that figure was dropping. I struggled to adjust to more than just the cold weather. I remember indignantly asking the Lord why He had allowed me to come to England. Oxford seemed to be the perfect place to lose my faith. I went from worshiping with a crowd of 2000 boisterous and colorful students to a small church of 80 where we were lucky to have more than three people in the band and half of the people singing. I had very few friends, and even fewer friends who shared my faith. I would never have guessed that less than two years later I would be part of a worship recording that would travel around the world in a matter of months.
When I picked up the guitar at age thirteen, I realized that music was more than just a passing fad for me. I was in love! The guitar had stolen my heart, and soon I began cutting sport practices to work on it. I would sneak away during lunch breaks just to practice on scales and parts. When God grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, I was playing in a local band, writing songs, and dreaming of becoming a musician after I finished college. I couldn’t actually believe my luck when I discovered that we could play music in church to worship God. During my second year at Oxford a letter arrived saying that the Vineyard Movement (that our church belonged to) was looking for songs for a worship record they were hoping to record. I had written a song called “Lord Reign In Me” while I was still in South Africa, and submitted it along with another song called “All Who Are Thirsty.” A man called a few weeks later to say that they would like to record the songs. He asked me to lead them on the live record. I wasn’t certain what to say to him. Frankly, I was nervous about the spiritual responsibility that the task seemed to involve. I really didn’t relish the idea of becoming a “famous Christian.” But after a few days of thinking and praying, I nervously agreed.
Within five years, the songs on that record and the three records that followed were being sung in churches across the world. And although I found life in England very challenging, what the Lord was doing there was so remarkable and rewarding that I decided to stay on. After graduating from Oxford I continued to work as worship pastor at our local church and as well as coach the worship leaders in the UK.
One morning I woke up feeling extremely tired. Convinced it was just the flu, I finished the work I had to do that week and then went to bed to rest. Six months later I was still sick. Doctors eventually diagnosed it as being Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an illness that as yet has no known medical cure. I was shipped back home to South Africa to rest and hopefully to recover.
In the middle of all this upheaval and disappointment I rediscovered Isaiah 40 where the Lord spoke to Israel, who were also going through a difficult time in exile. The Lord said to them, “Don’t think that your way has been disregarded by me. Don’t think I am unaware of the struggles you’re going through and the battles you’re facing.” I found this very encouraging. Then the Scripture goes on to say, “But know this. I am the Everlasting God. I do not grow tired or weary. Young men grow tired and weary, and youths stumble and fall. But, those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up on wings like eagles. They will walk and not grow weary. They will run and not faint.”
It felt as if the Lord had written this chapter directly to me. Although life has not been straightforward and easy since then, I have known the kindness and faithfulness of the Lord. He has carried me through circumstances I thought I would never overcome. This is t