Dear Christians: The So-Called “Attractional” Church Will Always Be Relevant, and Here’s Why

I read an article yesterday that several of my Christian friends posted on Facebook entitled “The Attractional Church’s Growing Irrelevance.” You can read it here. I felt deeply moved to respond.

// To give a quick context to the following post, I need to make you aware (if you’re not aware already) that when it comes to evangelistic churches, there are two primary models: Attractional (draws in attendance, think more like your typical larger church) and Missional (seeks out attendance, think more like a church plant). The big *thing* these days in the deeper parts of the Christian bubble, it seems, is a huge push for missional churches and an attack on the attractional. The way I see it, are pros and cons to both models, but, as you will read here, both serve important purposes, and neither should be discounted. //

The author of the article, Jared Wilson, is a writer who also works at Midwestern Seminary. In the article, Mr. Wilson expresses several concerns with “seeker-church[es]” that he describes as “attractional” in nature. These concerns are mostly centered around what he views as a decreased relevance to the young (as in young-adult-age, many-years-a-believer) Christian community. Trust me when I say that I understand the mentality he is likely coming from. I attend a Christian University where it sometimes seems like my peers are almost in silent competition with each other over who can dig deeper into theology or who go on the most mission trips (I’m exaggerating, but by comparison to a secular society, you get my point). It’s easy to be so wrapped in the Christian bubble that we don’t see the other side. I’ve been there. However, Mr. Wilson uses his concern to tear down this particular church model as a whole. He marks the whole structure as irrelevant over one point. Here’s why his sweeping generalizations are wrong.

  1. The church weekend exists in different forms to achieve different purposes.
    When many of us think of church, we think of weekend services. We think worship and a message. There are many churches that will offer services several hours long of deeply intellectual and profound Biblical exposition, and those churches serve a purpose to their congregation, which is most likely made up of seasoned Christians. But why do we seem to think that if a church doesn’t offer this kind of depth on a weekend, it isn’t just as purposeful and important in the Kingdom of God? I’ve become pretty well-acquainted with a megachurch that exists primarily in the midwest over the last year. I’ve witnessed firsthand the differences in their styles of teaching and outreach. I come from a very different church background and had many reservations when I first encountered this megachurch because, to be honest, I felt that by focusing primarily on the non-believer and the brand new Christian they were catering to one crowd while alienating another. I thought that this was wrong, but then I realized- that’s exactly what the deeply intellectual church type I mentioned earlier does, but in reverse. I’ve come to realize that there just isn’t a one-size-fits-all as far as the weekend goes for any particular church. I’ve watched churches try and fail to cater to everyone by offering different styles of services, but that is beating around the bush. The point is, some churches structure their weekends primarily around reaching the unchurched, and there is nothing wrong with that, just as there is nothing wrong with some churches structuring their weekends in a way that primarily serves the seasoned Christian. If you are looking for a certain level of depth from a pastor’s weekend teaching but don’t feel you are finding it at one church, there are other churches that may be a better fit. And there is nothing wrong with either church just because one suits you better than the other.
    .
  2. The Church is not limited to the weekend.
    In Mr. Wilson’s article, it seems to me that he views the weekend as the primary source of growth and spiritual “meat” for Christians. But while it is true that corporate worship and fellowship gatherings of the Church body are an important aspect of our spiritual lives as Christians, we cannot, in full awareness, expect that weekend church attendance alone be enough to sustain and develop our relationship with God. We need to actively be seeking after Him. We are responsible for our own spiritual growth, and need to dedicate ourselves to reading His word and fellowshipping in small groups and Bible studies to really unpack and digest the Word in ways that resonate and stick with us. In today’s busy, busy culture, we’re often guilty of not finding time to dedicate to these things, but this is our own fault. We cannot blame the church for not conveniently providing what we have failed to prioritize on our own.

  3. Missions are not the only way – nor are they always the best way – to reach the unchurched.
    Another thing that struck me while reading Mr. Wilson’s article was his frequent mention of missions. If you’ve been in the church a while, you’ll recognize the term “missions” as Christian-ese for local/national/global evangelism. The Great Commission that Jesus left with his disciples as he ascended to Heaven was to go and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I [Jesus] have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV). Evangelism is obviously very important. Mr. Wilson seems to imply, however, that churches must send out missionaries globally in order to be valid in their evangelistic work. This may be a slight exaggeration on my part, but even if his concern is with local missions, let me offer the following thoughts. My issue with the notion that a church that doesn’t send out teams of people to scour neighborhoods or knock on doors isn’t evangelizing is this: today’s non-Christian culture in America will not respond favorably to that kind of treatment. Sure, there can be some success with such tactics, but when I think of how I would respond to someone knocking on my door or sending me mailers or using other typical evangelistic methods to tell me about Jesus if I were a unchurched, unsaved person, I know whole-heartedly that I’d be annoyed, primarily, and then I’d think, “who do these people think they are?” This is a mentality that the “attractional” megachurch model has a unique ability to access. By creating a comfortable, crowded-but-not-cramped atmosphere and incorporating secular elements such as cover songs or movie-themed special events, the so-called “attractional” church creates an inviting atmosphere and establishes a common ground with someone who has not had previous experience in a church. Then, by preaching messages based on biblical truth in an easily digestible form, the unchurched person or new Christian is more readily able to access the Gospel in a way that makes sense to them. As I talked about in point number 1, the church exists in many forms for many different purposes. Some evangelize globally. Others focus on evangelizing locally in ways that the culture will respond to. Neither way is wrong or less valid than the other. Both achieve the same goal: going and making disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe God’s commandments.

  4. Numbers themselves are not the goal, but the numbers also don’t lie.
    We all know that what puts the “mega” in “megachurch” is the number of members that church has. (Somewhere along the way, it was decided that if a church is big, it must have flawed theology. It surely couldn’t be serving up the truth, because people don’t like truth. Right? If you are a Christian and this is what you think, let me offer these thoughts: What makes us any different from them? We’re just humans. The truth hurts us, too. But Christ reached us through it all. So why doubt he’d do the same to them? But I digress, as this isn’t the point I’m trying to make here.)
    In his article, Mr. Wilson makes references to the large size of the “attractional” church, stating “Yes, it’s grown big. But growing big and growing up aren’t the same thing.” He’s right, in a way. But when growing up by his definition means offering more theological depth spiritual “meat,” let me refer you to all my prior points, as this has already been addressed.
    So why does a megachurch grow? It grows due to a combination of the things I’ve already mentioned. Unchurched or hardly-churched people come into a comfortable, familiar-feeling environment. They begin to grow spiritually. They like it, they bring their friends. They stay and grow in community through small groups. More friends join. More people hear about the church and try it out. The cycle repeats, and the church grows quickly. Now as far as baptisms and conversions go, Mr. Wilson claims that it’s traditional churches and new church plants that are primarily seeing new professions of faith and baptizing believers. I’m sure there are numbers of such events in these churches. But remember the megachurch I mentioned in the midwest? They’ve seen thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people come to Christ and be baptized just in the past few years. I don’t think anyone can discount those numbers. They don’t lie. And I’m so excited to meet all of those brothers and sisters before the Throne someday.

Mr. Wilson’s article includes several snarky comments about music style, generational nostalgia and other such irrelevant things that I don’t care to comment on, as I’ve already addressed what I believe are the primary issues behind his argument.

Ultimately, what I want you, my fellow Christians, to take away from all this is that in this complex world we live in, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to the little-c church establishment. The capital-C Church serves one purpose, to reach the world for Christ, and there are several different approaches the little-c church must take to fulfill that purpose. Every one of those approaches is relevant. Every one of those churches matters. And it doesn’t serve the Kingdom to tear down our own.

-Cassidy

 

I Laugh.

I frequently remember a time when this blog was a means of sharing my world with people that I couldn’t be with any longer. Occasionally, I glance back at older posts and grimace as I read the posts I made over a year ago, in which I promised to write blogs on a weekly basis. How optimistic, how naïve- I laugh.

I laugh at the thought of how grown up I believed myself to be, even just a year ago.

I laugh, remembering when I thought I could control my schedule enough to lend my mind to creative writing, blogging, or composing.

I laugh in pity at the college freshman who thought that the world was easy, and that surely with all of the friends and ‘important’ connections she had made, she would be secure for life.

I laugh.

Because none of it was true.

Dearest reader, whoever you are, please know this: You are never secure in this world. Life changes so quickly. People leave – People you love leave – and sometimes, if you aren’t rooted well, You leave too.

I speak from experience.

I’m in the second semester of my second year of college, now. I began the year fresh off of a 10-week summer internship in the worship ministry at a great church in the midwest. I was three months into a new and wonderful relationship. I was tired from the summer, but full of optimism; memories of freshman year, still vivid and bright in my mind. I had been placed on a new ministry team with some incredible people, I had opted to rent a townhouse off campus with some friends, and I brought up my car from Florida. I was excited for the year to come.

Quickly, I realized that things were very different. Many of my friends from last year did not return to my university, for financial reasons. In addition, living off-campus put an unintended obstacle between myself and my on-campus friends. As an extrovert who began to find herself alone more and more, this started to eat away at me.

As fall semester progressed and the usual music major busyness came to a boil, I found myself more and more unhappy. Not only was I increasingly alone, I was too busy to find time to vent my emotions through music or writing (my cathartic outlets of choice). To top it off, my new ministry team was not gelling, musically or relationally (especially by comparison to my team from freshman year).

I began to have anxiety attacks on a regular, almost-weekly basis. I started to sink into depression. I couldn’t find the energy to wake up for classes, some days. I frequently overslept. It was never intentional. I was always so drained that even with two separate alarms clocks set, sometimes I wouldn’t wake up. When I would finally wake up and realize I was late, I’d have a breakdown. I hated myself for not being able to function. Friends were life-savers, letting me copy notes from those days, but they knew something was wrong.

I would come home after classes and sleep. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat, or sometimes I’d eat a lot all at once. Every weekend, with only two exceptions my ministry team would leave and be gone for the entire Friday-Sunday weekend. I began to dread each weekend, knowing we wouldn’t achieve the level of excellence we had the potential to; feeling like I wasn’t even valued as a part of the team. I’d sleep every van ride away.

I began to lose the motivation to even try to look good for class. I’d throw a hat on my head and maybe some mascara, hopefully remember deodorant and leave. (This may be the norm for some people, and if so, that’s great! I’m not bashing it. But it’s not characteristic of me, at all. At all.)

I got sick four times over the course of the semester, each time knocking me down for at least a week, hindering my studies and keeping me from social life. The fourth time, I was sick for two and a half weeks with strep throat and bronchitis, simultaneously. I felt like I couldn’t catch a break.

The culmination of emotions and feeling alone and unvalued brought me to a deep depression that I had never known before. There were days and nights that I actually felt darkness. I never knew darkness could be tangibly felt. I was cold and numb. Always numb. Like I couldn’t even feel. Like it didn’t matter if I ever would.

(Before I continue, let me take pause here to tell you that I have never been diagnosed with depression or anxiety. I do not claim to have any sort of continuing disorder or understand the struggles of those who do. I have had panic attacks during stressful times in my life, yes. Those began in high school. I remember depressed feelings in my childhood, but they were all centered around times of drastic change.)

My boyfriend was a constant source of encouragement. He has a gift for making the best out of situations. It’s one of the many things I love about him. My mom sent me self-help books in attempt to get me to be happy again. I knew the place she was coming from, and she just wanted to help. The concern that my parents and closest friends showed was what I clung to. But it didn’t make me better.

I hated myself. I hated that I was feeling the way I was and couldn’t pick myself up out of it.

That’s when I finally opened up my crushingly naïve eyes and realized that that was my problem. Of course I couldn’t pick myself up. I was never, ever meant to.

I realized what I hadn’t been seeing: I was trusting in myself. After years of leading worship in churches and focusing so hard on keeping myself humble, I realized that somewhere along the way, I started to put my trust back into myself, instead of in Christ, where it belongs. This was the result. This was my self-made pit of darkness.

Fast forward to today. I am no longer a Songwriting major- I am now pursuing a combined degree in Music and English. This allows me the margin of time necessary to rest and be creative. Being immersed in English and literature studies also helps me to maintain a “composition” state of mind, which allows me to write more fluidly when I sit down to pen a song or poem.

The Lord is teaching me to healthily cope with the things I cannot control in life, including school deadlines, team dynamics, illnesses, and so on. And though it is not a quick or easy process, I’m better for it. These lessons need to be learned.

And so I laugh.

I laugh at the freshman version of myself who thought she had things figured out.

I laugh, because I thought that having dealt with all these problems before meant that they wouldn’t return.

I laugh at the moment I thought I was secure and humble.

I laugh that I could ever envision a life in which I didn’t struggle.

I laugh because I didn’t even know what I was setting myself up for.

But now, I laugh because I am becoming stronger in Him for it all.

I laugh because I know better; I know Better.

Friends, if you think you know that your trust is in Jesus, but everything in your life is going right, you will eventually be tested in this trust when everything is going wrong. It is then that the depth of your trust will come to light. Be prepared.

In Christ,
-Cassidy

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.”
-Psalm 139:12-13

And Beyond

If we can take from the time of our universe to dwell in the peace of our True Home, it doesn’t take long to see that we must persevere in every little step of our journey on this earth to become who we must become to spread this peace to this fallen world before we are unchained from it, freed to dwell wholly and eternally in the warm, calm, glorious presence of God.


It was more than a week ago that I promised to blog once a week. But as the chaos of the first week of school has come to a close and my schedule and routine has been learned, it is apparent that Sundays will be the days I write from here on out.

This week has been a wild one. I have ten classes this semester, for a total of 17 credit hours. But, unlike last semester, I’ve made it my mission to get decent amounts of sleep instead of staying up until 4am for social purposes. Oh my soul, that makes a difference. It’s crazy to think that I’m in my second semester of college already. So much has changed in the past few months that I have yet to fully grasp. The greatest changes, though, have been in my views of the world. As I sit here in the library on this cool Sunday night, eyes exhausted from staring at notes on a staff for the past two hours, I am reminded of the journey that has brought me right up to this moment.

I remember playing my toy piano as a kid. I remember the joy it brought me. I remember my first piano lesson. The first recital. The first competition. I also remember the hymns my parents would sing with me before bed each night. I remember the books we would read. I remember the little poems I would write for my stuffed animals. Everything I am today started in those little things, those small moments. My music, my love for listening and learning, my knowledge of God; all were sparked by the tiniest little flames lit within me as a child.

I also remember all of the tedious hours of piano practice, phonics lessons, hours of studying for spelling bees, and years of elementary school drudgery. I remember my impatience well.

Why am I thinking about this? Honestly, I don’t know what sparked the original thought. But it reminds me that every journey begins with a tiny moment; a small step in one direction or another, yet in the present tense, those steps are so often undervalued.

It’s funny how age changes a person’s way of thinking. I’ve been told many times over the years that the little things in life make all the difference. It’s a pretty little saying, but it’s taken me until these past few months to realize what that really means.

It’s easy to look at life as fragmented; a scattering of vaguely or completely un-connected events, and I’ve done so for years. But I’m starting to see the connections between the scatters. There are webs in every single life on this planet connecting it to everything else since the dawn of creation, and that blows my mind. The world isn’t really as big and the past isn’t really as distant as we often believe.

What really set this thinking in motion was a term-paper I did in my honors Old Testament class last semester. The assignment was to research and explore five Old Testament themes and interpret them in relation to each other. It was a 15-page paper, there was a ton of reading involved, and it might have been the most challenging assignment I’ve ever been given. But it was eye-opening. When you read the Old Testament and research not just the text itself but its surrounding history, you see the repeated theme of God redeeming His relationship with man, though we have always been so undeserving.

Throughout the ages, God’s character and intent have remained entirely the same. When I think about that, I get this visual in my mind of the throne room of Heaven, and it is utterly still and there is so much peace; the kind of peace in which you could sit for hours and feel as if only seconds have passed. In this mental picture I see myself sitting in the stillness and the time of our world races on from the time of Adam and Eve to the time that the world ends, but removed from it, it’s as if no time has passed at all. I’m still working out the details in my head, but somehow or another I think that this idea represents God’s love, in a way. It’s continual and outside the bounds of time.

But this is the world we live in, and there is “time” to which our bodies are subject. So what does all of this theoretical stuff have to do with small steps in our earthly lives? There’s a correlation between the continuity of God’s character and every step we take in this life. There’s a reason we need to be patient and faithful in the small things. Time is illusory. Our souls dwell in that peace and stillness, but we allow our minds to yield to this matrix of sorts that we temporarily exist in. This is why we grow impatient. This is why we often neglect or denigrate the small steps.

If we can take from the time of our universe to dwell in the peace of our True Home, it doesn’t take long to see that we must persevere in every little step of our journey on this earth to become who we must become to spread this peace to this fallen world before we are unchained from it, freed to dwell wholly and eternally in the warm, calm, glorious presence of God.

I’m not really sure where to conclude this little talk, because there’s still a lot I have to think about with regards to it. But for now, I’ll leave you with this: take time to stop and be still in the Spirit. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it will change you.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Talk to you soon,
-Cassidy

A Letter Home

Christ is my foundation, but you all are my walls and windows. And I don’t want to let you go if you don’t want to be let go.


Dear Home,

The ironic part about this letter is that as I am writing it, I’m sitting on my couch at “home.” This is where I was raised. I’m not sure it’s home anymore, in fact I’m not sure where my home is. I’m welcomed here, and I’m welcomed at school, and I’m welcomed in different cities almost every weekend during school, but I’m not sure what to call “home” these days. So disregarding “home” as a set place, for the purposes of this post, “home” refers to the friends and family I left behind when I went off to college. This letter is for all of you.

When I left for Liberty back in August, I didn’t expect to be missed. I mean, I hoped to be held fondly in memory, but I expected that as time went on my footprints would be covered by the settling dust of change. I’m still not convinced that this is false. But after returning home four months later for winter break I realized that dust doesn’t settle quite as quickly as I had expected.

Upon my return, you all greeted me so warmly, as if I had never left. One thing I heard repeatedly from you was along the lines of, “You must be having so much fun! I’ve been keeping up with you through facebook and instagram!” And I realized something: I never considered that any of you would really want to keep up with my life beyond what I do with music. Maybe you don’t, and I’m reading it all wrong. But if you do, then here’s what else I know: I want to take you all with me. I never wanted any of you to become a part of my past, I just assumed that would occur naturally when I left home.

I’ve realized that it doesn’t have to work that way.

I didn’t want to annoy the world of my past by clinging, but I now see that being miles away and no longer holding the same position in your lives does not resign me to separation. And so I apologize for not reaching out to you more. I want to remain connected with and further connect with each of you, because you have never ceased to show me love and support.

In this day and age, there’s no excuse for me to only allow you small glimpses of the good bits of my life in pictures and 140-characters-or-less. I can do better. I’m going to make use of this blog as I should have been all along to share my thoughts and my cares and my life with you. I also want to know what is going on in each of your lives and thoughts and how I can be praying for you, so please know that I’m always available to you via social media. I love you all so much. You helped to build me. Christ is my foundation, but you all are my walls and windows. And I don’t want to let you go if you don’t want to be let go.

Thank you, dear friends and family, for all of your continued love and support. You all mean the world to me!

Talk to you soon,
-Cassidy

Goodbyes, Hellos, and Embracing Surrender

Well, ladies and gents.. it’s real. I’m a college student. For real. Really.

In the chaos of it all, what I’m about to say may be semi-coherent. I’m sure there’ll be revisions. But it is my hope that you are encouraged and motivated by it. Here it goes.


Leaving a life behind is one of the hardest things I’ve yet done in my brief eighteen years on this planet. I’ve cried through many a painful goodbye in the past few weeks. Our fourteen hour drive from Florida to Virginia gave me plenty of time to become uncharacteristically emotional, and I’ve honestly been terrified, at times. But though diving head-first into the unknown isn’t exactly comfortable, God has given me constant reassurance that this is the path He has called me to walk, for now. And in that, I find confidence.

One message in particular has been metaphorically carved across the face of the coming year. In measure of frequency that is almost too great to be purely coincidence, one verse seems to pop up just about everywhere I turn. Joshua 1:9 (ESV) says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Boom. What? You want to quote it again? Cool, let me add emphasis this time: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD IS WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO.” In the midst of the chaos that fills my mind, those words are a double-edged sword, stripping away every last worry and fear.

I have some thoughts on this that I’d like to share with you. To put the verse in its greater context, Moses (that parting-the-red-sea dude) has just died, and God is instructing Joshua (his intern, basically) to rise up and replace Moses as leader of His people. I think it’s very easy to overlook the context when referencing this verse, since the verse itself is so uplifting. But the context is so important because of it’s parallel applications to so many Christians – especially of the younger generation – in today’s world. As a member of this demographic (to whom I’m now directly speaking), the idea of rising to one day replace today’s Christian leaders is a daunting one. But it’s one we must embrace, and we must embrace it now.

In the culture we live in, it’s almost a natural tendency to hold back in hopes that someone else will take over the hard work in any given scenario. But if we hesitate to respond to a call placed upon ALL of us since the day we first ‘surrendered’ ourselves (Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 2:10; Mark 9:35; 2 Chronicles 19:6), then we simply do not fully comprehend the meaning of surrender. The word “surrender,” as defined by good old Merriam Webster, means: “to give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner: yield”. Read that part again- “especially as a prisoner.” This isn’t something meant to be taken lightly.

There’s something very interesting I learned recently while doing a study in James. (Alright, here’s your warning- nerdy Cassidy is making an appearance for the next paragraph or so.) In the original Greek texts, the apostles (Jesus’s disciples and some of their students) would refer to themselves in their letters each as a “δούλος” (doulos) of Christ. “∆ούλος” (doulos) is often translated as “servant,” however it more literally translates to mean “slave.”

Slave of Christ. Prisoner. How’s that surrender sounding now?

But stay with me for a moment.

Due to events in our human history, we’re extremely sensitive to the ideas of slavery and imprisonment. Every single scenario has gone horribly wrong. But why? Two reasons. 1) Humans are horribly flawed. Humans are evil by nature, and lust for a power that cannot truly be obtained drives man to do unspeakable things. 2) Equals cannot ever be truly superior to equals. Though for a time men may place certain men on gilded pedestals and others on filthy ground, humans are humans. And because our natures are all the same, we are all equal. There is no greater man, nor one less. Now think about this: How do these issues apply to God?

..they don’t. God is flawless. God is sovereign. God is Creator and Author of all.

So can we surrender ourselves? Can we really hand ourselves over into slavery? What if the Master is perfect and infallibly just? “Slave” is defined on Dictionary.com as “a person who is the property of and wholly subject to another; a bondservant.” Total surrender of existence- it’s a tough thing to grasp. But let me ask you- Is there anything greater? Is there any better purpose to serve?

There’s a mentality I’m starting to take on: “If not us, then who?” I think it very simply but powerfully sums up the posture that we, the Church, must assume. It’s not an easy task, and I’m struggling with it on a daily basis. But it’s heartening to see so many students here at Liberty who seem to have found the answer to these questions and are actively pursuing their future roles in Christian leadership in every field imaginable.

So as I sit here in my temporary dorm (mine is still under construction) and consider these things, I am comforted. Though I’m full of nerves, there is so much peace in the promise that God is with those who embrace surrender. Here’s to evicting Doubt, for whom there is no more room.  “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Here’s to diving head-first.

Love in Christ,
-Cassidy Claire

Doubt, Confidence, and Everything In-Between

I sat down at my piano once more. The house was quiet; I was alone. I stared at the keys for a moment, breathing in and out. That’s when I felt the words.


At eighteen years old, I can honestly say I’ve had things pretty easy for much of my life. Even the greatest of my struggles pale in comparison to some of others. But I am learning that no experience in life is trivial. All joy, all pain, all confidence and all doubt, however great or small, is meant to shape us into who we must become. And man, has this past year been shaping me.

Enter seventeen-year-old Cassidy. It was June of 2013, and I had just finished my Junior year of high-school and begun the college application process. For years, I had dreamed of studying at Belmont University in Nashville, so I applied there at my earliest opportunity and was accepted. I didn’t even consider looking anywhere else. But (luckily) my parents did. So I applied to another, much smaller Christian college in Tennessee (which was a weird situation, but that’s a story for another time), where I was also accepted. I was determined to study in Tennessee. But then I got my financial aid award letters. Both schools were very generous by their standards, but it simply wasn’t enough. My parents began discussing backup options. The idea of Community College was tossed around more than a few times. This was particularly upsetting to me because from elementary age, I had been told by my parents and grandparents that I had to get good grades so that I could get scholarships, or I wouldn’t be able to go to college. So I had always striven to do my absolute best in all things academic. I’d had no more than a handful of B’s in my life. Such a clean academic record was supposed to be the answer to all my college doubts, right? Wrong. That’s when I began to have a realization that I wouldn’t become fully aware of until later on. Reality check No. 1: You cannot depend only on yourself, no matter how good you think you are. You will never be in control. 

After I had taken time to absorb reality and reflect on what I already knew, that life goes on, I began to look at my local options. I calmed down, thanked God and tried to let go of my own plans in favor of a new, uncertain future. It was then that my mom discovered Liberty University. Everything about Liberty seemed to scream “CASSIDY YOU NEED TO APPLY HERE.” They were the only Christian school I found that offered a full-tuition scholarship for students who had received a Commendation from National Merit (as opposed to semi-final or finalists), which I had. They offered degrees similar to the ones I had been looking at for Belmont. They had worship Ministry Teams which students could audition to be a part of. So I applied and was accepted on full-tuition. I also got into their Honors College and onto a Ministry Team. Reality check No. 2: When you let God be the controller of your life and don’t let your own ideas cloud your judgement, amazing things happen.

It seemed like everything was finally set and ready to go. I could sail into my new-found sunset without a second thought…or not. Suddenly, people in Nashville began to have interest in my music. I met with folks and talked with pros who encouraged me to go the music route (which I already planned to do) by forgoing the whole college thing (which I had never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever even considered. Remember that whole thing about me prepping for college since elementary school?). Apparently going to college takes away from years that could otherwise be formative in the career of a music artist. Ever since eighth grade (another story for another time), I’ve felt that God has called me to music ministry, both in church and out of it. So as someone who hoped to someday be a recording artist, this troubled me. I had never thought that something as beneficial as a college education could actually hinder a career. I began to doubt everything. At first I doubted that I was called to minister through music as a recording artist. Then I doubted that I was really meant to go to college. I tried so hard to figure it out, but then I became consciously aware of what I had already learned- remember reality check no. 1? So instead I prayed. As a musician, sometimes my most “beautiful” prayers (though all prayers are beautiful to God) are those I write to music. I would sit at my piano and try to write, but the right words wouldn’t come. So I just played piano. (I don’t think God minds that at all, though. Sometimes the heart speaks more freely when the voice is silent.)

After weeks of discussions with my parents (who had also been given pause) and much prayer, it became apparent to me that all signs were pointing me to Liberty. I got back into the swing of college-planning. During that time, I decided to audition for a tri-state vocal contest on The JOY FM, a Christian radio station. The contest was called Cellphone Superstar, and it was something I had heard every year on the station and thought, “oh, I should do that next year,” which I would inevitably forget to do. This time, I found out about it during the last two days of auditions. In-light of upcoming departure, I decided that I needed to at least give it a shot and submitted mine the very last day. I didn’t believe that I would qualify, since the competition was among worship leaders (who can already surely sing) from three states. So when I was informed a few days later that I had made it into the top 16, I was overwhelmed. I sat down at my piano once more. The house was quiet; I was alone. I stared at the keys for a moment, breathing in and out. That’s when I felt the words. I finally had the words that I had long been trying to write. Within an hour, “Give Me Rest” was born.

I turned eighteen and went on to win Cellphone Superstar. I’m still overwhelmed when I think about it. The grand prize was an opportunity to have one song mixed, mastered, and recorded by Conrad Johnson (of the Christian band Chris and Conrad) at Inertia Sound Studio in Lakeland, FL. When I went into the studio for the first time, I intended to record another song of mine, due to some perfectionism-related skepticism I had about “Give Me Rest.” But Conrad insisted, and after some small lyrical revisions, my skepticism was replaced with excitement (verging on giddiness. I mean, come on. I was about to professionally record an original song. I was really, really happy.)

At the time I’m writing this, “Give Me Rest” is three days from release. It still echoes in my life. Even as busy as I am between last-minute preparations for college and seemingly endless social media promotion for the song, I still feel at rest. I feel like a work has been completed in my life, however small it may be. “Give Me Rest” is the musical verbalization of a prayer that’s been in my heart for a while. And through joy, pain, doubt, and confidence, it’s a prayer that God continues to answer.

I really hope you enjoy it!
Love in Christ,
Cassidy Claire

P.S. You can download “Give Me Rest” on iTunes or Amazon Mp3.

And feel free to head over to http://www.cassidyclaire.net to find out what’s going on with my music and in my fascinating (*wink*) life, as well as to connect with me via social media. 🙂 I’d love to hear from you! Thanks, and God bless!