Joshua Swanson: Welcome to The Walk; a devotionals podcast led by worship leaders. In this episode, Jesse Reeves tells a phenomenal story about a time that God told him to stop going to church for a year. For those of you who don’t know Jesse, he’s a church planter and a prolific songwriter with hundreds of titles to his name, including How Great Is Our God, Lord I Need You, Indescribable, Our God, I Speak Jesus, and a bunch more. Here we go.
Jesse Reeves: Hey everybody. Uh, my name’s Jesse Reeves. I’m excited to be here with you today. And, uh, today I wanna talk to you about elevating the priesthood of the believer, and I know that sounds big and fancy, but I’m really excited to talk to you. I’m even more excited to talk to you now that I’ve talked a little bit to Joshua about the audience and what you guys are made up of.
Um, I love the fact that 80% of the people listening right now are volunteers in small churches, um, that fires me up. So I, I have a word from the Lord for you and also to the people that are on staff, to the guys that are doing this every week, uh, the same word applies and it’s, it’s just elevating the priesthood of the believer.
I’m gonna talk about that a little bit later. Um, my journey is a strange one, but my journey went from being raised on a ranch to playing music and writing songs and playing with Chris Tomlin for 17 years and got out of that in 2014. Moved back to Austin, Texas didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.
In that time was a part of, uh, planting churches. We planted a church in Austin called the Austin Stone, well helped plant a church, Um, that’s now by definition of megachurch, probably 8,000 people. Moved to Atlanta, Georgia helped start passion city church. I think the, the moral of the story is my wife and I are really slow learners and we say, man, we’re never gonna do that again and then God says, oh yes, you are.
So, got out of all of that in, in 2014, moved back to Austin and kind of felt we were done church planning and, um, just went to church. I worked for the Austin Stone for three years, and this is the craziest part of my journey is that in 2017, my wife, Janet came to me and if, you know, Janet, most of you don’t, but you need to, she’s an amazing human, but she is, she’s dialed into the Holy Spirit and we’ve been married 25 years. So, when she says, Jesus told me something, I don’t even question it anymore. I’m just like, okay, cool. What’d He say?
So, she came to me in 2017 and she said, Jesus told me something this morning and you’re not gonna like it, and I was like, okay, what did what’d he say? And she said, he told me that you have to quit going to church for one year.
And I was like, what can, can you explain that? And she said, he told me that you’ve been paid to be a Christian since you were 15 years old and it’s gonna take you one year to figure out who Jesus is again.
I said, okay. And like I said, I was working at the Austin Stone and so I quit December 1st, 2017 and it was, it was crazy. But for one year I didn’t go to church and we just had church as a family. We would read the Bible together. Janet was reading the book of Acts and like I said, she’s way more godly than me and I was reading this book, uh, called The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch and not to bore you, but this book just blew my mind because it basically graphs the growth rate of Christianity from Pentecost to today and you read the new Testament and it says that thousands of people were coming to know Christ daily. Right? That happened for the first 300 years of Christianity. Thousands and thousands of people were coming to follow Christ. Well you fast forward to today in 2022 and we have the fewest amount of people coming to know Jesus in history. That should be shocking to us. It was real shocking to me because you think about all this great worship music we have, all these, these resources, all these megachurches, like we should have the most in history, but we have the least. And so, basically, I have to be careful saying this, but what we’re doing is not working. Just because we have all the stuff doesn’t mean that people are coming to know Jesus and it just, it really just sent my mind spinning.
So, I’m reading that, talking to Janet; Janet’s reading Acts, talking to me and, you know, she comes to Acts 2:42 that says “those that were of the way devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, the teaching of the Apostles, and to prayer. And she was like, why can’t this be church? Why can’t we just come together and eat a meal together and, and pray for each other and read the Bible together.
And so that’s what we started doing. Now, here’s the crazy part of this story; also in Acts 2, three times, it mentions Solomon’s portico. And Janet was like, what is Solomon’s Portico? And so we, we did a little research on it and it’s crazy cuz Solomon’s Portico was basically the porch outside the temple and that’s where all the crazy stuff started happening in the New Testament.
The first miracle Peter did was on Solomon’s Portico. Um, it got to where people were dragging their sick people out and you know, Peter’s shadow would fall on ’em and they would be healed. Like the crazy stuff that happened in the New Testament. It was all on Solomon’s Portico. What is that? It’s the porch outside the temple and so you have all these good Jewish people that are now following Jesus, but they’re in the habit of coming together in the temple and they still wanna gather and have community, but they can’t go in the temple anymore cuz what they believe is considered heresy by the Jews. So, they just get together out on the porch and Janet was like, why can’t this be church? Something outside the walls of the traditional church where we eat a meal together, pray together, read the Bible together. So, she was like, would you pray with me for Solomon’s Porto? I was like, yes. So, we started praying for Solomon’s Portico, not having any clue.
Okay. This is where God has a crazy sense of humor. I live in Dripping Springs, Texas. Dripping Spring, Texas is just west of Austin and if you’ve ever seen the show Friday Night Lights, that is our community. It revolves around high school football. The whole community goes, you know, it’s a, it’s a big deal.
The defensive coordinator for the Dripping Springs high school football team was Chris King. I didn’t know Chris at all. I didn’t know his family. I just knew he was the defensive coordinator. Janet and I are praying for Solomon’s Portico and Janet gets a text from Tracy King, Chris’s wife, who we don’t know. And there were four families on this text and they said, hey, Chris and I have been praying about getting some people together at our house, and we just want to eat a meal together and read the Bible together and pray for each other.
And then she said in quotes, have “good old fashioned porch fellowship.” And Janet reads me this text and I’m just like, I, I think that’s what we’re praying for. It kind of seems to tick all the boxes. So a couple days later I’m reading in Acts and when I get to Solomon’s Portico, there’s the little star and out beside, you know, where it gives the definition of Solomon’s Portico, it says the King’s porch.
And I just started laughing. I was like, Janet, I’m slow, but we’ve been praying together for the King’s porch. And we literally just got invited to Chris and Tracy King’s porch. And so we were like, I think God is telling us that he’s in this.
So fast forward we meet with these four family. It’s amazing and we’re like, what would it look like if this was church? What would it look like if we just did this and anytime it started getting too big, we just multiplied and started another one and started another one? And then cuz my brain is crazy. I was just like, well, if you multiply every year for 10 years, on year 11, you have 1024 churches.
Some of you you’re just like, what? Think about this. You start year one, you have 1, year two, you have 2, year three you have 4, then 8, then 16, then 32, then 64, then what, 128 then I don’t know. It goes on from there. Year 11, you have 1024 churches and I’m like, oh my goodness, I think this is what we’re supposed to.
What would it look like if nobody got paid? That’s, that would be novel, but it’s still a church so people can give to it and we give all the money away? I was like that, that sounds crazy. But again, in Acts, it says that the people would bring their gifts and lay ’em at the Apostles feet and they would distribute ’em and there was no need among them.
Like that is what the church is supposed to look. So that’s what we’re doing and we’re on year 3. Right now we have 6 churches, so we’re actually ahead of schedule, um, actually about to start our 7th and have been given away, you know, we’ve been paying rent for single moms. We’ve been paying for people’s surgeries, um, and it’s fun.
Sorry. My brain just gets going too fast. I know I gotta slow down, but if let’s say one of our people meets a single mom at the grocery store and comes to us and says, Hey, I met a single mom and she needs money for rent. Her rent is $800. We will say great, but we are not going to give her $800. We’re gonna give you $800 and you are gonna go to her and elevate your priesthood. And that means you’re gonna go give her the $800 and we want you to tell her that Jesus sees her and that he hasn’t forgotten about her and see how you can pray for her and speak the name of Jesus into her life. That’s what we mean by elevating the priesthood.
Bam. That’s the end of section one.
Joshua Swanson: Jesse didn’t gimme much choice on when to break for commercial, so here we are. Wasn’t that a great story? I, I love it when God speaks so clearly. In the second half of this episode, Jesse dives into the Priesthood of the believer and it’s just as powerful as what you’ve already heard, so stick around for that.
I actually have a really cool announcement to make about something coming from worship leader that is literally years in the making. Our founder, Chuck Fromm, before he went to be with Jesus, was passionate about creating a more formal educational path for worship leaders, worship teams, volunteers, and anyone who considers themselves a worshiper, and we are thrilled to announce that we’ve seen his vision through. We will be launching the Worship Leader Institute this fall. This online learning platform is bringing everything you know and love about the National Worship Leader Conference and are over 30 years of publishing, to an online learning community.
We are committed to helping by providing you with affordable access, to training and educational content at $15 a month. At launch you’ll have over 20 workshops in our Worship Leader Institute library, some from previous conferences and some brand new, and we’ll add new workshops monthly from top worship leaders, songwriters, pastors, theologians, professors authors, and more.
Then next year we’ll be launching full courses and certification programs. Members will also enjoy access to Worship Leader’s 30 plus years of issues and bonus issues, which is already timeless content. So, head over to Worshipleaderinstitute.com and get on the waiting list to join our new online learning community.
Again, that’s Worshipleaderinstitute.com and we’ll put the link in the show notes. Okay, back to Jesse.
Jesse Reeves: So, let me clarify what I mean by elevating the priesthood of the believer. Am I saying that, you know, you need t quit working for a church? No, absolutely not. Am I saying that you should go work for a church? Absolutely not. This is what I’m saying. Remember what I said in the first 300 years of Christianity, there were thousands coming to know Christ daily, and that I believe is because when you read 1st Peter 2, you, you know this and to us as Westerners, it’s not that big of a deal, but this is a revolutionary verse. 1st Peter 2:9, “but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. A people for his own possession. That you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Why was that revolutionary to the first generation of Christians? Here’s why think about this. For the past thousands and thousands of years, since God gave Moses the law, Jewish people had to make this trek once a year all the way to Jerusalem and bring a sacrifice. You had to bring a, you know, a bull. If you didn’t have a bull, you had to bring a spotless lamb. If you couldn’t afford a lamb, you had to bring a pigeon. Like it goes all the way down. But, when you went to the priest, you had to bring a sacrifice with you once a year.
Every family had to do that and go stand before the priest. Well, what was the role of the priest? The priest was a representative of God to the people, and he was a representative of the people to God. So, the people would bring their sacrifices, the priest would, you know, receive the sacrifices, bless the people, give them a word from the Lord.
This was the system. Well, all of a sudden Jesus comes and Jesus dies on the cross. He raises from the dead. He tells people that he’s going back to heaven and places that mantle on us. And now he, he’s ascended back to heaven. The holy spirits come in, Acts chapter two. And Peter now writing to the Jews says by the way you are all now priests. That was revolutionary to them. They didn’t have to go stand before a man and make a sacrifice once a year. No, you are a priest, now. If you’re a blacksmith, you’re a priest. If you’re a farmer, you’re a priest. If you are, you know, whatever their jobs were back then, you were a priest. It was not okay, now you need to quit working in the fields and come work at the church.
No, you know, Colossians says “whatever you do in word or deed, do it all for the glory of God.” That’s the theme of the New Testament. So now you have, let’s say a farmer that’s selling his good. People are coming to him to him to buy grain. He’s a priest now and so he can be a representative of God to the people and a representative of the people to God.
Does this make sense? Like this is why thousands were coming daily because people understood their roles. That happened for the first 300 years of Christianity until not, this is some of y’all are gonna be bored outta your mind. But 313 AD is when Constantine signed the edict of Milan and what that did, was it reestablished, the Old Testament system.
He, he made it law that people had to come together once a week together together, to go to church. That’s also when the Sabbath day moved from Saturday to Sunday, cuz he didn’t wanna acknowledge the Jewish day, but most importantly is he created a separation between clergy and lay people. That’s when that happened and from 313 AD, all the way to today, there’s been a steady decline in the people coming to know Jesus. Why? It’s because ordinary, everyday, people do not see themselves as a priest. Now we’ve almost gone all the way back to the Old Testament system to where we all come together. And we sit in a dark room and we listen to one priest up on the stage, maybe two, if you count the worship leader and the pastor, you have two priests that are, you know, representing God, and then the majority of people go home and they do nothing about it. That is our goal is to elevate the priesthood of the believer.
So how do we do that? Well, we start every one after we eat a meal together, we start every one of our meetings with what we call Jesus stories. And that just looks like, I’ll say, hey, or whoever’s leading at that house will say, hey, let’s go around the circle and just tell if one time this week that you got to speak the name of Jesus to somebody. And I’m telling you the first two months of that was the most painful, awkward thing that you’ve ever been a part of. People like try not to make eye contact at with me. They’re like looking at their shoes all of a sudden when Jesus story is like, they, oh, I need to go to the bathroom or whatever, because no one had spoken the name of Jesus for the last seven days in all of our interactions, no one has spoken the name of Jesus to anyone. So literally after two months of that, I, I literally said this, I said, hey, this week, I want you to speak the name of Jesus to somebody, even if your motivation is wrong. Even if your motivation is just so this time next week is not awkward, do it. There’s actually a lot of justification in the New Testament of people preaching the gospel with the wrong motives and God still uses it.
So slowly it started happening and people started realizing that they could be priests and they could speak the name of Jesus to people. Well, now three years into it, we kind of have to cut Jesus stories short every week because we’re in the habit of speaking the name of Jesus, we’re in the habit of being priests.
So, let, let me just say this, I’m gonna pause and talk about a song for a second, since I am a songwriter. There’s a song that we wrote called I Speak Jesus, and if you’ve heard it great, if you haven’t great, I’m gonna tell you why that song exists. And what’s funny about that song is it was written for a living room and God seems to kind of blow on it, and that just makes me happy.
It’s written to elevate the priesthood of the believer. I Speak Jesus. To put that on people’s tongues to elevate their priesthood, where they realize that they can speak the name of Jesus. Why do we need to speak the name of Jesus? So, here is our educational thing for the day. Are you ready?
Acts chapter 3. You’ve heard this story before, but I shall now read it to you. Acts 3. “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, and a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the beautiful gate to ask for alms of those who were entering the temple.” By the way, this is on Solomon’s Portico, the King’s porch.
“Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms and Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, look at us and he fixed his attention on them expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand and raised him up. And immediately his feet and ankles were made strong in, leaping up, he stood and began to walk and he entered the temple with them walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God and recognized him as the one who sat at the beautiful gate of the temple, asking for alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”
Okay. If you’ve heard that story a thousand times, I just want you to hear it fresh and I want, I wanna break it down. I want you to think about this. Peter and John had followed Jesus for three years of his ministry. They’d seen Jesus do all these amazing miracles. This is the first miracle that Peter does. So, think about this. Jesus has ascended to heaven. The Holy Spirit has come. Peter and John are walking into the temple. There’s this guy there that has been paralyzed since birth and what’s interesting to me about that is it says that they lay him at the gate daily.
So, this guy has been coming to church every single and what is he asking for? He’s asking for money. Why would that guy be asking for money? Here’s what I believe. I believe that he’s asking for money because he doesn’t believe in his heart that the thing he needs the most is even possible. The thing he needs the most is to be healed. The thing he needs is to be able to walk and he’s not even asking for that, cuz that’s not a possibility in his brain. And I just wanna say this, I think that our churches are filled today with people that are coming and they don’t even believe that their real needs are possible to be healed.
People, that’s why we’re having to give away AirPods for people to come. That’s why we’re having to have these, these, you know, big like series and all this stuff, because Jesus isn’t enough. But here you have Peter, first time he’s ever done this, he looks at this guy and he’s like, hey man, I don’t have any silver or gold, but what I have, I’m gonna give to you.
I mean, can you imagine speaking and saying in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. I mean, you have to put yourself out there for a second. I can imagine like John whispering in his ear, like, hey man, just try it. Just try it, see what happens. So, Peter just, he has the boldness to speak the name of Jesus over this guy and the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk, and all of a sudden, this dude stands up and starts running around and praising God. And I love that. It says that everybody was like, they recognized him and they were amazed by it.
This is what, how I think this translates. That’s Peter. Peter’s the same guy that said, by the way you’re all now priests. So, here’s what I wanna say to people. If you are a mechanic, be a priest. People are walking into your mechanic shop. That is your church. You are the priest of that shop. Speak the name of Jesus over him. We tell our people all the time don’t ever tell somebody you’re gonna pray for ’em. Just pray for ‘em. Right there in the name of Jesus and, and y’all, I’m telling you, it works.
We have seen God do crazy things just by speaking the name of Jesus. If you’re a doctor, be a priest. People are coming to your church. Last week, I was with this guy that was putting a new radio in my car. He’s a believer. He has people coming to his shop that are never walked through the doors of my church and I told him, man, elevate your priest. Pray for people. Speak the name of Jesus over people and he’s doing it. It’s, it’s amazing. Let me just also say this to people that are on staff at a church and you’re working in a church. Do you need to quit? No, that’s what God’s called you to do.
However, I will say this. Your priesthood is not solely what happens on stage from 9:30 to noon on a Sunday. In fact, what I submit to you is that is probably the smallest amount of your priesthood. Your priesthood consists of are you speaking the name of Jesus over your team? Do you care more about their health and their spiritual health than your set list?
Are you spending as much time in prayer as you are in rehearsal? That’s how you can elevate your priesthood. But also, I’m just gonna say this, the only time you speak the name of Jesus doesn’t need to be on stage. I’m gonna challenge you to go through your week speaking the name of Jesus. The people that you encounter when you’re dropping off your kids at school, the people you encounter at restaurants, speak the name of Jesus. Pray for them. Elevate your priesthood beyond Sunday, and I’m telling you something’s gonna happen in your heart.
A lot of you I know are probably burned out. You’re burned out because you’re doing a deal instead of walking in the Holy Spirit. If you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, you’re not gonna get burned out, cuz you’re gonna start seeing like life come into people and when life comes into other people, it’s gonna rejuvenate your spirit and your soul. And it’s gonna make you lead on Sunday, even with more fire and more passion, because you’re gonna actually believe the things that you’re singing.
If we start doing this again, if we start speaking the name of Jesus, we are going to see thousands of people come to know him daily. Again, that is our goal. That is what we’re shooting for. That’s why we wrote the song to get the name of Jesus being in people’s cars, in their churches, in their homes, in their hearts. Just as a reminder, I wanna speak the name of Jesus over every heart and every mind, because I know there’s peace within your presence. So I speak Jesus. That, that’s the goal. It’s not about a song. It’s about putting the name of Jesus on people’s lips so that we can see a movement of the Holy Spirit. We can see people come to know him and by the grace of God that we can see revival come in our lifetime.
Joshua Swanson: Did you have a moment where you got to speak the name of Jesus to someone this past week? It’s a challenge worthy of our calling, isn’t it? What do you think about Jesse’s statement that what we’re doing isn’t working? If that makes you uncomfortable? Good. It makes me uncomfortable and it makes me reevaluate my own personal priesthood as a part of our work here at Authentic Media and Worship Leader.
So, thank you, Jesse, for that. We will play out this episode with one of Jesse’s songs called I Speak Jesus. I’m sure you saw that coming, but man, just bathe in these words and let them inspire.
As always special thanks to Matt McCarty for producing and editing today’s episode. Jacob Fairclough produced our theme song. The Walk is brought to you by Worship Leader Magazine, which is an Authentic Media brand. I’m Joshua Swanson. Here’s I Speak Jesus.