Chip Stam & The Blessedness of Investing In Others

by Bobby Gilles

in Exhortations And Musings

Chip Stam, Mike Cosper, Kevin Twit, Neil Degraide, Tim Smith at Acts 29 Louisville Bootcamp, worship track

Chip Stam (far right) teaching at 2010 Acts 29 Louisville Bootcamp at our church Sojourn

It’s natural for any of us to explore relationships with those we perceive to be above us, or at least on our level, whether in terms of fame, skill, wisdom, income or some other measure of success. And we should desire mentors, but God also calls us to a way of life in which the greatest is the servant of all, where we never stop learning or teaching, where every joint in the body of Christ supplies and edifies his and her fellows.

Such was the example of worship leader & professor Carl “Chip” Stam.┬áIn many ways, Chip was a man whom Christ could point out as he commands us “Go and do the same.” Here is one of those ways:

I’ve written before about the formative role Chip played in the worship life of our church Sojourn and our Worship Pastor Mike Cosper. But Chip was one of those guys who was everywhere at once, always knowing how to encourage and admonish, sharpen and strengthen.

I joined Sojourn in the fall of 2004. I heard stories of Chip Stam a few times but had never met him. Then Chip emailed this to me in June 2007:

“A friend pointed me to your website. I had a good time listening and reading. Blessings on you. I am at Southern as the worship prof. Have you listened to the lectures by Townend and the Gettys? Let’s get a JAVA together sometime.”

This was before Sojourn had recorded any of my worship songs, before I had met Kristen, before I wrote my children’s book Our Home Is Like A Little Church, and before I joined the Sojourn Church staff. The site he referenced was a webpage of my poorly recorded demos – songs that have since been officially recorded, or discarded, or chopped up to make newer, better songs.

I say this because what Chip Stam did for me — and what he did for untold numbers of people — is something that we’d all do well to imitate. Chip invested and poured himself into people even if they weren’t his students, even if they didn’t have a name, even (and especially) if they hadn’t “arrived.” He didn’t think my song drafts were flawless, that I was going to “change the face of worship,” or anything like that. I guess he perceived a certain base level of talent, along with a desire to offer worship to God and theologically accurate songs to the church. That’s all he needed. His introduction was just a few sentences, but it was a big, unexpected deal to me at the time.

Over the next few years Chip and I crossed paths here and there, and I benefitted from each encounter, no matter how brief. Sometimes it would simply be encouragement; other times he challenged or instructed. We did converse about those Townend and Getty lectures – click that link above to listen to them, as well as lectures at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from Bob Kauflin, Reggie Kidd, Kevin Twit, Michael Card, John Frame, Harold Best and many other worship leaders who came to instruct students at Chip’s request.

In 2009, I rode with Sojourn Music leaders in a van to the yearly Worship Symposium at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A sudden snow storm had grounded flights out of Louisville, so we made a last-minute stop at Louisville International Airport to give Chip a ride. This was a treat for each of us, a couple of whom knew Chip much better than I, and others who met him for the first time on that conference weekend. I recall it now because it resembled every meeting I had with Chip — joyful remembrance and expectation of all God was doing and had promised to do, good-natured chatter, and cut-to-the-quick opinions about what does and doesn’t constitute a good worship song.

Just weeks after Chip’s first email to me, he contracted cancer. On May 1, 2011, Chip died. His long battle with cancer was over, and he left this earth to enjoy forever the One who had redeemed him. Now he is a part of the great cloud of witnesses in heaven.

He leaves behind many who carry on in the work of encouraging, equipping and learning from each other, looking for the city which is to come, and most of all, worshiping God. Chip’s example lingers, and I hope it does for a long time.

  • A teacher who is ever a student
  • One who imparts knowledge but encourages debate
  • A man who delights in finding a fellow traveler on the way home
  • Someone with boundless enthusiasm for the gospel
  • A leader who lives to duplicate himself, many times over
  • An evangelist and an example, about whom these words from Paul are also fitting:
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. — 1 Corinthians 11:1

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