Meet Me Monday is kicking off with Gina Milne! She is one of the worship leaders at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Co. She began by attending New Life’s School of Worship in 2007-2009 and then started on the worship team in 2011. She is currently blessing people with her voice through New Life Worship, Desperation Band, and White Flag. Without further ado, here is some of her wisdom.
Tell me a little history about you and where you come from!
Well, I was fortunate to grow up in beautiful Napa Valley, California with my amazing mom and dad along with two older sisters who, to this day, are my best friends. At age four, I began attending Saint Apollinaris Catholic school and was in a class of 36 kids for nine years – all the way from kindergarten to eighth grade. Yes, we wore uniforms and yes, we hated them. I was a unique child. I remember always feeling different from the other kids and never exactly fitting in. While I was really cute in kindergarten, I was in a full-on chunky phase come fourth grade, which never exactly bodes well for making friends. It’s funny, though, cause thinking back I don’t remember it bothering me much. My sisters were my best friends and as long as I could come home from school and hang out with them every day, I didn’t really feel a sense of lack. Both my sisters were in high school and sang in the choir. I wanted to be just like them and sing just like them! In fourth grade, that dream came true when one of my teachers noticed I had some musical ability and asked me to start singing at church. At the time, I didn’t really know the significance of what I was doing, but that season truly marked the beginning of my love for Jesus and for leading worship.
How did your relationship with God start?
Being that I attended Catholic school for nine years, it started then. I remember going to religion class and hearing all about the cool stuff Jesus did and being so amazed by him. I remember walking through the stations of the cross for the first time. This is a beautiful Catholic ritual where you walk around to 14 different pieces of artwork that depict Jesus on the day of crucifixion. Looking at what Jesus went through all because He loved us left me feeling overwhelmed, even at such a young age. While all of this left me feeling intrigued by Jesus, I didn’t fully understand what his life had to do with mine and certainly didn’t know that I could talk to him for myself. Then, after I graduated from Catholic School, I started attending a public high school and a certain boy caught my eye on day one. Like…I was sure we were going to get married and live happily ever after. Spoiler Alert: We didn’t’! Hah! Naturally, I wanted to be involved in whatever he was involved in which is how I wound up attending an Assemblies of God church in town. It was there that I discovered I could talk to God for myself and…get this…He could talk back! Soon after visiting the church, I was invited by the youth pastor to attend a conference with the student ministry. It was my first time experiencing contemporary worship with a band in a large, corporate setting and I will never forget singing “And I surrender all to you, all to you.” As we kept singing these words, I encountered the Holy Spirit for the first time and I knew my life would never be the same.
How has leading worship affected your relationship with God?
Honestly, it has just shattered all the boxes I have tried to put God in and continues to do so consistently. He just blows through all my little comfort zones and makes me feel so small and so big at the same time. It’s awesome. We live in a world that is so dominated by division, fixated on who is right and wrong, red or blue, right or left. Honestly, it’s a world dominated by fear. But I have to say, I have led worship for many different kinds of churches, age groups, denominations, varying worship cultures, etc. and consistently I see all of those differences “grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace”. All the sudden, it’s not about who is guilty of what or who is in “better standing” with God than someone else. At the core of us is that first word God spoke over creation when he formed mankind. He made us in His image and called us “very good”. As someone who has been given the precious gift and weighty burden of leading people to declare the truth about who God is and who He says we are, I have committed to not declare anything from a stage that God hasn’t already embedded in me off the stage. God forges leaders in the hidden places. So, leading worship has caused me to be constantly evaluating how I can practically, each day, call my attention to the presence of God as I drive down the road, play with my dogs, cook for my husband, sit outside in the quiet and everything in between; always tuning into what He might be singing over me at any given moment.
What is a challenge you have overcome through this ministry?
I would say a spirit of comparison is one of the main things I have overcome through the ministry of worship. Now, let me be clear, it still sucks me in from time-to-time, but it’s not an all-consuming insecurity like it once was. Since I have struggled with it myself, I can usually spot it pretty quickly and it seems to manifest itself in one of three ways. Form number one, I see people shrink back and just sing straight through worship songs, too afraid to step out and actually lead the people. Form number two, I see people who are so aggressive in their leadership that they stifle the other gifts represented around them and are unwilling to take any criticism or critique. Form number three, I see people who start to imitate other worship leaders they admire. While I think it’s great to be inspired by other worship leaders and even adopt some tried and true practices, it’s quite another thing when we start to imitate people down to their vibrato, inflections, and even body language. Quite honestly, I’ve dipped into all three of these at different times in my life and it always came back to a core belief that the gift God gave me wasn’t good enough. I needed to bolster it up with some of my own pomp and frills. But, once I started to actually believe what the scripture says in Ephesians 2:10, that we were created in Christ Jesus for good works prepared ahead for us, I could start walking in MY specific gifts and not someone else’s. Additionally, when we embrace our unique design, we start to realize that every gift has a place in the Kingdom. Another person’s gift doesn’t diminish yours. Practically, whenever I feel threatened by someone and sense comparison trying to creep back in, I ask that person to lunch or coffee. It’s funny how much easier it is to objectify and marginalize someone when you haven’t sat across the table from them, looked them in the eye, laughed together, and shared mutually about victories and defeats. All the sudden, that person becomes a lot less threatening. So, if you’re struggling with comparison, start having more lunches and coffees with the people you view as adversaries.
What has been the best moment you had through leading worship?
Oh man! This is difficult. There are so many incredible times that come to mind! I would say, most recently, I was leading worship for an event in Garden City, Kansas last month. There were two events, one on Friday and one on Saturday. The Friday event was a packed house and there was such incredible engagement from everyone in the room. But the Saturday event was a lot smaller and something just felt off from the very beginning. Before the night even began, I had a sense from the Lord that we needed to be on our toes and ready for anything. As we stepped out and did our opening song, I felt so disconnected from the people. I kept asking the Lord for a word…but was left with a feeling I can only describe as blank. After we finished our opener, I went and found a seat out in the auditorium so I could see the faces of the people we were leading in attempts to connect with them and get a sense of where they were at. One by one, I saw glowing faces from cell phones in everyone’s laps. And there it was. The voice of the Lord saying, “You see that? They aren’t here right now. They are escaping into the past and into the future. They need to come be with me here.” So, when we got back up to lead the ministry time, I shared this word with the people. Immediately, tears began to flow throughout the room and you could feel this holy release as people let their guards down and allowed themselves to be fully present with the Holy Spirit. The ministry team we were traveling with did such a great job and, on the fly, began praying with people one-on-one. It was a palpable, holy moment and I will never forget it.
What was a challenging season of your life and how has God used it?
Well, I just want to start by saying that I feel like the challenging seasons of our lives are actually the pearls to be treasured. A lot of times we are just wanting to rush through the valleys and get back to those mountaintops. But, I submit to you that we need to linger in the valley sometimes. They forge greatness in us if we stay present, ask tough questions of ourselves and answer honestly. We can’t get fixated on shifting blame as to whose fault it is that our lives have taken a difficult turn. We have to always turn inward and hear the voice of God speaking within us. As Pastor Brady Boyd once said, A sword can only be formed in the furnace of fire. These seasons of resistance are never the problem. They are our victory in process. So, all of that to say, 2016 was, by far, the most difficult year of my entire life. I was disoriented, confused, depressed and just…not in a good place. It led to me needing to take some time off from leading worship which, to be quite honest, wasn’t my choice initially. Some discerning leaders came together and made the decision for me and I was NOT happy about it at first. But after I allowed my flesh to fight and wrestle and struggle, I heard the Lord gently say, “Gina. Submit to it as unto me. It is I who is leading you here.” So that’s exactly what I did. I think it ended up being about six months that I didn’t lead worship at all and I won’t lie. It wasn’t fun, but it was a total gift from God. It allowed me the space I needed to sort through a lot of lies I was believing about myself. Deep, dark lies I had taken on and didn’t even realize until I did the work required to unearth some seeds of deception that were planted in my heart. Now, on the other side of that season, I see new seeds of truth flourishing in place of those lies. Seeds of unconditional love, boundless acceptance, palpable empathy and compassion, and eyes that always strive to look past the idealistic version of people and see straight to the heart. These are some of the swords that the Lord gave me through a season of fire and I could not be more grateful.
What piece of advice would you give Christian girls and women?
First, stop comparing yourself to others. Be someone who sees with the eyes of Jesus. It is easy to love someone who props you up and makes you feel good about yourself. But, Jesus within us is embracing the people who threaten our ideals, challenge the value we find in the eyes of man, and turn our comfortable worlds upside down. THAT is the essence of Jesus. Secondly, show yourself grace…and LOTS of it. We aren’t perfect and the sooner we can talk about our short-comings, the sooner we realize we are not alone. There is freedom in that! There is no freedom to be found in trying to uphold some perfect, cookie-cutter, Christian image. That effort will return void. So, take the risk. Share your deepest struggles with a trusted friend – emphasis on trusted. If they are a good friend, their response will pleasantly surprise you and you’ll be liberated from the feeling that you’re fighting alone. Let people fight with you and for you. And don’t let guilt bog you down for a single second. Punishing yourself via guilt won’t somehow make you more deserving of the grace of Jesus. You already have it.
Wow! I told you she was amazing! Make sure to follow Gina on Instagram, to keep up on all of her adventures. If you have any Meet Me Monday requests send them to email@example.com. Remember you are so beautiful and loved!