“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”
I’ve recently been reminded an awful lot about the importance of the individual. I remember my first few months as a volunteer in the youth department at Kerith Community Church; one of my responsibilities was to be there on a Friday night as nothing more than a number to ensure there were enough adults present; back then, I didn’t really have much of a passion for young people. On a good night, there were five of us. On an average night, there were three. Back then, we considered ourselves privileged to have two new people attend the group in a single evening. Back then, the individual; the ‘one’ mattered. Lots.
Fast forward a few years and now an average night at our youth group has about five times as many people as it used to. The youth band alone is almost the same size as the group of young people that I first joined. I have missed at most one in ten youth events over a period of nearly four years and yet there are still so many teenagers that I wouldn’t even recognise, let alone tell you what their name was. The individuals drift gently by amongst a sea of other similar individuals. The ‘one’ becomes the ‘mass’.
I need to stress that this is just my experience in the youth group – there are many other fantastic youth leaders at Kerith who are infinitely better at getting to know people than I am, but I certainly struggle. For me, people can very quickly become statistics and statistics can very quickly become more important than people if I’m not careful to keep it in check.
In a global society with a population too numerous to seriously comprehend, we need to remember the individual people. Individual people each have individual lives with individual stories that can be transformed in incredible ways. I have the privilege of leading the youth band I mentioned, called ‘Revolution’. I find it all too easy to look at them as a mass of people and focus on their output rather than their singular stories. Here are just a few:
Callum Wyles, one of our worship leaders. He was one of the first to arrive in the youth explosion almost three years ago. He came with a large group of friends and I had the immense honour of praying with him to become a Christian. He was the first person I ever got to pray with in that way. He’s grown from being a fringe member of the youth group to being hugely integral to it and his character and friendliness shine through in all that he does. I’m so excited to see how this popular, gentle-spirited guy has grown into a talented worship leader with a huge amount of potential.
Dan Watkins, one of our electric guitarists. Around four years ago, I received a phone call from a lady called Mel. A friend of mine had told her that I was teaching guitar and she asked if I was interested in teaching her son, Dan. I drove to their house and was slightly nervous about how small he was. He was only nine or ten at the time and to be completely honest, one of my major concerns was that he wouldn’t even be able to hold the guitar, let alone play it! Revolution had just been formed and I remember making a throw-away statement that in hindsight, I don’t think I really meant: “maybe in a few years time, he could join Revolution.” On an almost weekly basis for years now, I have taught Dan guitar – from the painstaking fundamentals to the surprisingly difficult, I’ve had front row seats to watch him grow into the hugely talented musician that he is now. Dan is currently one of our electric guitarists at Revolution and an extremely good one at that. He will be one of the people that shapes our youth group and church in the years to come.
Alicia Rutland, one of our vocalists. Alicia has been in Revolution from the start. For someone so slight, she can really make noise when she wants to! I remember the battles we fought in the early days of Revolution to keep people focussed on the task at hand…in particular, Alicia. Such a social person and so overflowing with emotion, she would be singing one moment and the next she’d be running around, shouting away, distracted. Despite the untamed nature of her extreme extrovert behaviour, Alicia has always been a core member of the team and a real asset. One of the brilliant things about her passion is…you’ve guessed it – she’s so passionate! However, in the last year something has changed in her attitude when at Revolution. Alicia’s ability has never been in question; but now more than ever, she is hugely dependable, servant-hearted and a natural (albeit reluctant) leader. Last night as rehearsals drew to a close she came to talk to me about a leadership issue and I was brimming with pride as I had the chance to share some of my experiences from the last few years with her. It’s so inspiring to see her maturing into a strong woman of God and fantastic to observe her leading so passionately in worship at LIFE.
I picked these three people at random, but the reality is that every single member of the band has their own inspiring story. When we see them leading worship, we aren’t just looking at a group of faceless, soulless musicians. We’re joining in with a collection of individuals pulling their stories together and highlighting every aspect of God’s transformational input into them for the world to see, encouraging us to do the same. Every person that you encounter has a story to tell – one that you might even play a key part in. ‘LIFE’, our youth group is on tonight and Revolution are playing. My prayer is that I’ll focus more on the individual than the whole. God, help me to be aware of every individual person I encounter and not just let them merge into the background. Help me respond to the needs every single ‘one’ and not sit idly by focussing on the enormity of the ‘mass’ whether that’s the young, the old, the rich or the poor. Help me to be more like You.