Joshua Swanson: Welcome to The Walk, a devotionals podcast for worshipers. John Shebaglian is an accomplished artist and songwriter, and he’s also responsible for an amazing discipleship ministry called the Psalmist Mission. His devotional focuses on the only name that saves. Here we go.
Jon Shabaglian: Well, guys, a joy to be with you today. My name is Jon Shabaglian, like you said, and as a kindred worship leader with you all as well, too, as I prayed about, um, the topic, I, I, this is, this is what I want to talk to us today about that. There is no such thing as a worship leader. Who is not a worshiper. I see that we’re in a season, in a time where it’s even been a title that has become the SID of worship leader.
And um, but really it’s a mantle and it is something that is clearly important to God. Yes, it is gaining attention. Yes, those who steward artistry and can point people to God. The Lord has been uniquely responding to that. But it hasn’t just been recently, it’s been throughout generations. It’s actually been millennia.
Little David, uh, would, was summoned to King Saul and he would play his harp and even evil spirits would leave the anointed one at that time. This mantle is so much more significant than the attention it can gain for ourselves. The streams on Instagram or on Spotify. And so often when God moves on a work, he is doing something really special.
But we always have to keep an eye out for… Um, how mankind, how we respond when God responds. Because typically our default is to not steward it well. That’s just human nature. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be countless books of the 66 in the Bible of prophets. And God just kept saying the same broken record.
Come back to me, guys. Come back to me, guys. Come back to me. And so I want to submit today to talk about that there is no such thing as a worship leader who is not a worshiper. I’ve had the privilege of, of making music, studying formally, a music degree, touring, making a bunch of records, doing music mission work, uh, outreaches and concerts on almost every continent.
And I am bad at a lot of things, but God, people, music. That’s what keeps me up at night. We are all the sum of our experiences. And God is a generational God who paints in generational brushstrokes. Everybody has carry something special from God, no matter if you’re a musician or, or you are anointed with spreadsheets.
Um, but, um, from a musician. One of us who have something carrier in this worship leader side, we inherited, we were given nobody, um, stewards what they have because of their own individual awesomeness. And for me, I feel that so soberly because I have two key bloodlines coming into me. I’m half Armenian, Shebaglian, maybe a little bit long and intimidating, but it is Armenian.
And the other half of me is Jewish. German Mennonite. I’m an Armenian side. I literally have 1, 700 years of Christianity in my bloodline. Armenians boasts of first Christian nation with remarkable generational covenant that God responds to out of Deuteronomy seven. He promised those who love me and keep my commandments.
I will bless you 1000 generations. And just even on that side, I feel this like tsunami crescendo that I did not earn or deserve that, that crashed into my life. But then there’s this other side of me, this German Mennonite side. That’s where the musical and minstrel side, the psalmist side we’re going to be talking about came.
That I didn’t understand or earn. And also this peacemaking mantle that Mennonites carry and have for generations. Both sides of my lineage have known deep persecution and both sides of them have known deep faith. And then somehow, as the story goes, my mom said that she couldn’t have children for years and then she finally prayed and said, God, give me a child that I can loan to you. And then, um, she got pregnant, gave birth to my twin brother. And then the doctor said, push again. And she said, what do you mean? And then out I came.
And so, uh, looking back to see how God has overseen as my dad has been a trip. Um, especially because of a lot of shaking in my own life, the Lord growing up as special as those bloodlines are I honestly I didn’t feel like either of them. There was so much family trauma that I grew up with was shaking that it made things really really cloudy to the point where I ended up calling out to God and I searched all the major religions and said God if you are and who you are whoever you are I need to know you because I need help. But it was out of that shaking that through music and, uh, crying out to God to see if he was real I actually started searching the scriptures for an artist.
That was a big deal for me because I, like, hate to read. Um, but, you know, there’s nothing like when things get pretty black and white, when things are fuzzy, when, uh, things get, uh, they’re challenging. And so, I cried out to God and said, If you’re real, maybe I’ll find you in the Bible, hopefully.
And, um, and the reality is through the scriptures and through music, it was like music to me. Therapy was happening before in my life before it was trendy or a movement because music is like the neosporin of the soul and I don’t know why it is, but it is a gift from the father. I used to lead these music mission trips to London. We were training up these Brits out there and then we do these missional outreaches in the pubs. I did a workshop called inspired by the master artist and this idea that those of us who are creatives, we have a special connection with our father because he is the master artist. He paints sunsets every day, starts over, and paints a new one the next day because he’s never running out of creativity.
He’s never running out of breathtaking. If you wonder that, you can just go up to the mountains at night time and look at the stars. They just, they look like little twinkle lights that a dad put out for, um, to keep his kids from being sad and scared in the night time. But they’re actually giant nuclear explosions going off just trillions of light years away. And that just shows his incredible personal handiwork as well as his artistry.
But getting to know God as an artist and as a vulnerable young kid, He started healing me and He revealed to me who He was. That began to influence everything that I am. Again, because what I want to talk about today is there’s no such thing as a worship leader who is not a worshiper. And I’m sad to say, having worked and collaborated with some remarkable gifted people, I see a trend of people… Utilizing music throwing Jesus’s bumper sticker on the back of it to build their own rocket ship that sadly the Father’s just gonna have to knock over later on.
Joshua Swanson: After this quick break, John will dive into how to make God angry. We’ll be right back.
Jon Shabaglian: Because it’s not important. There’s only one name that saves and it’s not mine. It’s not Worship Leader Magazine. It’s not Psalmist Mission, the work that I lead. Pick the biggest names, it’s not. There’s only one name that’s big and everyone else has a smaller, uh, small second fiddle role. If we would be found faithful, that’s the appropriate posture at the scripture says in James four, humble yourself before the mighty hand of God and he will lift you up.
Sadly. Our the our state as worship leaders is exposing itself because we are, we have the audacity to look at God and say, I am his representative. I am a worship leader and we take all the attention, much slash all of the attention from the Son and we put it on our face. I need to exhort myself and all of us that that is literally how you make God angry. Because Isaiah 53 says that it was the Lord’s will to crush him. And though he makes his life a guilt offering, he will prolong his days. He is the man of sorrows, the one who is familiar with grief and pain. That was only because God so loved the world.
I have my favorite son and my little princess. A son, Christopher, and my daughter Symphony. I can’t imagine crushing my children. There’s no way. That’s just not going to happen. So, post the cross in a time when it comes to worship and acknowledging the one name that was crushed, there is no such thing as a worship leader who is not. a worshiper. We have just created our own side offspring that I’m sad to say, I believe is illegitimate and it has cancerous fruit.
And so this is a challenge for myself because for many years I sadly have prayed the prayer, dear God, would you bless me and my music? So if I remember, I’ll try to bless you if I don’t get distracted. And the reality is we all get distracted. And then pretty soon it’s our name. com instead of the one name that saves, but that one name, will be lifted up high. Especially in these last days. And I feel, I sense as I, I just got back from Amsterdam and a global gathering of thousands of leaders from 130 different nations, all gathering for one purpose to covenant together, to bring the gospel to every human on the planet over the next 10 years, marking the 2000 year of Jesus’s resurrection and crucifixion out of 2033.
Rick Warren, Bill Johnson, Planet Shakers, every leader from everywhere, leaders, leaders that are known and not known and many, many powerful leaders. It was like God was assembling the Avengers. But the reality is friends that these are important days and God will make sure that his son does not go out with a whimper.
It will not be a kind of party. It will be such a crescendo that I think will suck the air out of the entire universe. The father is committed that his son receives nothing less than the appropriate honor due him. See if Jesus wasn’t crushed our praise could be mediocre, but he was crushed. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastisement that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds were healed.
And so there is no such thing as a worship leader who was not a worshiper. And I want to say to my many gifted friends, many of you who are more gifted than me, and many of you who are aspiring to be like those people more gifted than all of us. There is no such thing as a worship leader who was not a worshiper. If you are an amazing artisan, but you have never been to Zion, you are a tour guide who cannot be trusted. Now you are a loved tour guide and the Father is inviting you to meet the Son and walk with him also. But I would never spend 5,000 and hire a tour guide on the Savannah who said, I might be able to keep you safe. I just haven’t ever done this trip before. No, I would never do that because that would be too risky. I want a tour guide who has been there 20,000 times, and I would happily entrust payment and the trust of my life to somebody who’s done it constantly, if it is a very significant journey. The same thing I see happening in worship leaders in churches all over the nation, all over the world.
Somehow, we have created a title that is putting more attention on ourselves and the problem is if it takes away attention from the Son, the Father will no longer back it. And I want to say to you, many of you gifted worship artists, recording artists, if the father doesn’t back you, what on earth are we doing?
Now, feel free to create artistry. And see how high you can get between American Idol and The Voice that we got. We got all kinds of platforms and I have been in those lines. There are a lot of amazing key people all over the world. But the second Chronicles 16:9 says the eyes of the Lord look throughout the Earth looking to strengthen those hearts that are set on him and God is looking for people he can trust. And artistry is amazing. It does something to the human soul, and it is a gift from God. It’s like the international language. Why is it that you can say, Jesus is Lord, and you can say, Jesus is Lord. And all of a sudden the human soul wakes up. That’s because the maker of everything decided to give the people he loves down on this little planet called Earth a gift.
It’s called artistry, and a smaller part of its expression is called music, and it touches the human soul. And I have seen it. I’ve seen it. When I was asked to be the worship leader on the hundred year of the Armenian genocide in Istanbul, Turkey, with Turks and Armenians who are supposed to be my enemies, my people and their people see my grandparents fled for their lives from the genocide.
And a hundred years later, the Lord had an assignment for me as a Psalmist to help heal. That was terrifying. But I watched how music could take the good gospel of reconciliation and healing into places you would never dare to even speak of. And I watched the music and the spirit of God heal ground that, that had literally been filled with blood as a recording artist and music minister and worship leader for years.
And when we were pregnant with my, our second child, my little princess symphony, the Lord had me pause, man. It was almost like he said. Son, I need you to stop on your, your cute, uh, record music concert ministry stuff and worship leader. And I need you to go care about kids with no dads and in generational poverty.
And I started a work called Grace Note, and we would teach keyboard, art, dance, guitar, hip hop beats, and vocals to under resourced youth in Southie Fresno in California. And I saw the fingerprints of Jesus in shocking ways. It just wasn’t very, uh, trendy. It didn’t make it on, um, CCM Magazine and, and, uh, Christianity Today.
It never picked it up. But I can tell you about lives that were changed to this day. And then years later, about five years ago, God had me start a work called Psalmist Mission. I felt like he said to me, Jon, raise up trustworthy psalmists. At that time, I didn’t use the word psalmist. I, cause I didn’t have a psalmist father myself.
In fact, I look back and kind of hang my head in shame thinking how I tried to help God fulfill the calling on my life for so many years. I didn’t have a real guide. It was like, where’s the 50 year old killer artist who sings like an angel and still has the same wife and doesn’t have his hands in dark cookie jars when nobody’s looking.
I was longing for that and I’m out of the hole and void of not having that. And that, um, psalmist father or guide, as I would say, I felt like he gave me the burden in my late teens, 20s, 30s, and now early 40s to raise up hopefully an army before I’m dead. So five years ago, he had me start a work called psalmist mission and we do a nine month worship cohort where we’re training up musicians and worship leaders all around California to be on mission for God, but he said trustworthy.
I didn’t use the word psalmist at that time, or trustworthy, but looking back, I see now more what he was meaning.
Joshua Swanson: When we come back, Jon expands on how God has never been impressed with your gifting, but is rather looking for people he can trust.
Okay, back to Jon Shabaglian to close us out.
Jon Shabaglian: He’s looking for people he can trust. Jesus has never been mesmerized at your gifting. Some of you who are far more gifted than me, he’s not blown away at your feathers, even if you’re a beautiful peacock. He just loves you and he purchased us. He literally purchased us with lamb’s blood guys. He purchased us with his own son’s blood.
And so, so when he said, Jon, raise up trustworthy psalmists after being in Turkey and after, you know, touring mission work in Australia and London and, and seeing God heal some of the most foulest parts of darkness and then having me stop the concert thing and care about kids and generational poverty with Grace Note and then five years ago started work to train up others to other psalmist to be on mission. My first thought when he said John raise up trustworthy psalmist My thought was oh snap, I have to be one. Because we can only beget whatever we are.
So if you’re an amazing sinner who leads worship at a church, but you don’t fear God when nobody’s looking or you don’t worship the Lord when nobody’s looking your line arrays and your hazers are the only authority that is going to be behind you, but it doesn’t have power to bring open up blind eyes and freed wounded hearts.
But if we are worshipers who seek him in the secret place, when nobody’s looking, he can trust us as spiritual tour guides. When everybody’s looking. I want to invite my Psalmist worship leader, recording artists, friends who are incredibly gifted and have a sensitivity to the things of God. He has invited us first to be his worshiper.
He does not need helpers. He doesn’t need a team. He has legions of angels and with one word he could save everybody by himself. But like, the dad who is a construction worker and brings his two year old son to the job site, and he puts a cute little Playmobil hammer set on him and lets him walk around with him at the construction site.
That is what we’ve been invited to do. And in his kindness, he lets us bang on nails and he said, see, you got to go with dad to work today. That’s all we’re doing friends. We’re just joining dad in the work. I have a song I carried for 10 years before you had me release it on this last record. It’s called About Your Business, says God I want to stay about your business. Because I sure would hate to miss this. You’re the reason why we exist. So I’m gonna stay about your business.
I want to encourage you gifted artisans who have a unique craft that can awaken the human soul. If we seek Him in the secret places, worshipers, when no one is looking, there will be a shockingly different power when everybody is looking. But if we don’t, it’ll just be melodies that are power little to powerless.
And I, sadly, I am not the judge and my opinion doesn’t matter, but what I’m seeing is power little and powerless. And in these last days, where the darkness is clearly not playing around, I believe the Word of the Lord is going forth across the earth and He is raising up His kingdom’s sleeper cells, who are seeking Him when nobody’s looking.
And He will fill them with melodies and creative dramas and expressions of film and songs and compositions that humans and mortals have never even thought of in history. I believe he has storehouses in heaven waiting to share with people he can trust. He’s not waiting to give to the talented. He’s waiting to share with the people he can trust.
That’s why I believe he said when he had me start Psalmist Mission, Jon raise up trustworthy psalmist. He’s looking for people he can trust. And my colleagues, I would just encourage you. Let’s strive to be the worship leaders, the minstrels, the psalmists, that God can trust, because there’s no such thing as a worship leader who is not a worshiper.
But when we seek him in the secret place, there is no limit to the power he might pour through us to a broken and hurting world. We’re alive to create and walk with him for such a time as this.
Would you pray with me? God, thank you for the opportunity to gather with musicians and worshipers all over the nation and maybe even beyond. I thank you for the kingdom sleeper cells of worshipers who you have called for such a time as this. I speak life and over those whose hearts had grown dormant, those who have fixated more on Planning Center and click tracks and stems and instrumentation than stewarding and staying in step with the Master Artist.
We thank you, Father God, how your intention was to be the master conductor. We may be the oboe player or the French hornist or the percussionist or the trombones, but God, we want to be in step with your guidance. Forgive us, Father, for putting more attention on ourselves, then on your son, because there was only one that was crushed and who being in very nature, God, he didn’t consider equality with God something grasped, but he humbled himself. Philippians 2. That remarkable son of yours was an expression because you so loved the world. God, it’s a shocking story that is so far beyond our pay grade. And I’m so sorry for the times I have taken attention to what your Son. Father, I pray with my fellow gifted worship leaders and musicians or upcoming leaders who are being raised up, stirred with melody, or those are just moved by worship in general.
I speak life over them. God, I speak awakening over their spirit that their hearts would be hungry to seek you in the secret place. As the psalmist said, taste and see that the Lord is good. Father, may there be hordes of worship leaders that are raised up that are starving for the fruit. They’re seeing the hollow and shallowness of the food that we’ve been eating that is religious and close, but miles away.
It is like a placebo that doesn’t come with real power. But I pray that you would be raising up musicians and minstrels and psalmists that are creating with God. And because of that, this world would never be the same. It would be lit on fire with the glory of God. With humble, powerful artisans who carry love and the good news that, Jesus saves sinners.
That they would carry it into the churches, and they would carry it under the bridges with homeless people. They would carry it when there’s crowds, and they would carry it to the one person who couldn’t do anything for them. They would be psalmists on mission, and God, how you would entrust them in these last days would be absolutely shocking.
And that, Lord, we pray that all the attention would go on your son Jesus. And we can’t wait to see the final crescendo of how you honor your son. Put us in, Coach. Let us be even the smallest of parts. Give us melodies, creativity, divine strategies we’ve never thought of and we look forward with joy how you’re going to use your people in these important last days.
In Jesus name, we all pray, amen.
Joshua Swanson: Thank you, Jon, so much for sharing your devotional with us. We’re going to play out this episode with a song called Symphony of Peace that John performs alongside his co writer, Temitope. It’s named after his daughter.
As always, special thanks to Matt McCartie for producing and editing today’s episode. Jacob Fairclough produced our theme song. The Walk is brought to you by Worship Leader. I also want to thank the team at Life Audio for their partnership. If you go to lifeaudio. com, you’ll find dozens of other faith centered podcasts. They’ve got shows about health and wellness, parenting, current cultural events, and more.