​Rebekah Bartels is a worship leader and songwriter from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Game Changer

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."1 Thess.5:11

10 years ago... Wait. Not only does the phrase “10 years ago” make me feel a little old, but it also reminds me of just how much God can pack into ten years of your life. It’s easy to see where you are now and feel like you could be doing more or like you’re “past your prime”, but when you look back and see all the specific times that God has led you to where you are now, it can leave you in awe. Ten years ago this past August I was on my way home from a summer that changed the course of my life. 


I had spent the summer of ’05 on a Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) Summer Project in San Diego. There were 100+ college students living in condos and an old motel between Mission Beach and Mission Bay in San Diego. Most of us were employees at Sea World serving up fajitas, twirling glow-in-the-dark merchandise, or inviting the crowd to sing along with the Shamu song. The point of the summer was to be discipled, learn how to disciple others, live in community with each other, and invite the people that come into your life into that community. It taught us to have that support of believers, but also be able to be a witness to those in our workplace and neighborhood.  


This trip also helped us recognize our gifts and grow in them. Each Friday night we held a worship time in the community center by the bay, and I was interested in being a part of the team, so I signed up for auditions to be a vocalist. I didn’t really know what the auditions were like, so I brought my guitar for accompaniment. As I stepped into the condo garage in front of the staff who were running the auditions, my nerves started to rush over me. I had only been playing guitar for about a year at that point, so I know I played a typical G-C-D song (musicians will understand this) called “Worth It All”.  At the end of the song the staff were quiet, then they conversed with each other, and then Jason, the leader of the Friday night team, looked up at me and said, “We would love for you to LEAD one of the worship teams.” 


Uhhhh... Ok? I I was just a sophomore girl who had no experience leading a band, I barely knew enough guitar to save my life (thank you, Jesus, for capos), and they wanted me to be a LEADER? I would have to think about it. I left the audition and went to seek God’s answer. I knew I really wanted to do it, but I didn’t know if I could. After praying throughout the next day, I decided to say yes--with the Lord’s help! This was the first I had ever truly led worship at a gathering. My team was a huge support. Many questions were asked and and they were involved in the process of putting the music together and rehearsing, and of course I took in all I could glean from our staff leaders. So I led every other friday night for about 3 months. 


I have never grown so much in one summer. And all because the leaders in my life saw something in me, called it out, and challenged me to step into it. They were game changers. If they hadn’t encouraged me to step up to where God was calling me, my entire life would’ve looked differently. I even found out that a few of my guy friends at Summer Project, before they really knew me, had been very skeptical about a woman leading worship. But after we all came into the presence of God together, they were my biggest cheerleaders. We need these people in our lives. People that have the eyes and heart of God, who see what He sees, and who call it out and encourage us along the way. 


I was definitely not a great worship leader at the beginning--and I am still learning today after ten years, but I was eager to learn and willing to take a risk and allow the power of God in me to lead through my weakness. 


Following that summer, I led at our college campus Cru meetings. After that year I felt a stirring in me and accepted God’s call to take time off of school and lead worship at a small church in St. Cloud, MN. After three years I was stirred again and moved to St. Paul where I was called to lead at a larger church. There are too many details in each of these transitions to explain here, but I can say that in each place there were people in my life who were obedient to share God’s heart for me and what he was calling me to do. And here’s the kicker...I had to be OBEDIENT too. I couldn’t live in fear or live out of my insecurities. I had to remind myself and have others remind me of God’s power and authority IN ME. The Holy Spirit responds to this obedience and empowers us with everything we need!


When I see where I am now and I look back, I am beyond grateful. I am so grateful for Jason and the staff at our Summer Project for hearing God and calling me into my destiny. I am grateful for those who discipled me along the way and who have helped me dream bigger dreams. I don’t know what I would do without the support of mentors, friends, and family who remind me of my identity and calling and that God has more than I can even imagine in store. Thank you to my “game changers”. I hope you know who you are. You have sown so much in me that has multiplied and has been used for growing the Kingdom of God. And I am only ONE of hundreds, maybe even thousands, that you have affected. 


My story isn’t just meant to share what God has done in me, but my heart is also to call each of us to become a game changer. Whether it is encouraging the youth in your church to use their gifts, speaking encouragement to a coworker, lifting up and affirming your spouse, PLEASE do not keep it to yourself. Let’s always remain in the presence of God so we can hear what he is saying about everyone we encounter and SHARE what he has for them. You could change the course of someone’s destiny for eternity. Be a game changer.