Joran Weitzer grew up at Eastbrook and now serves as the Coordinator for Student Ministry Worship. He spends a lot of his time at rehearsals in the Church Office basement! But for Joran, his job is really about relationships with God and one another. He sat with fellow church member Sue Gilliland to speak about his journey of faith and discipleship.
How did you first come to faith in Jesus?
Growing up, my parents set a faithful example. They talked about God and scripture, and lived it with so much joy! I also had a great knowledge foundation from Eastbrook Church and from Eastbrook Academy. But what really made an impression on my fourth grade brain was seeing adults at church joyfully serve kids. I wondered, what’s so compelling about being a Christian that they’d spend their free time this way? In fifth grade, I put it together: God wanted a relationship with me! Because of sin, I’d been missing out on that, but it was available to me through Jesus.
Youʼve had struggles, and the Holy Spirit has used them to shape you. Tell us about some of them.
In eighth grade, I went through a storm. I didn’t live in a typical household; my mom and dad were committed to foster care and adoption — right now, I’m the oldest of seven children, and five are adopted. My parents have a deep, godly love and desire to shepherd these kids, but fostering and adopting is not a peaceful process. Dealing with scars and trauma can be very hard. That year seemed especially chaotic, loud, and angry, and because of my siblings’ very real needs, I wasn’t getting as much attention at home. At school, I struggled with how to fit in and who my friends were. I started to feel isolated and distant from God, but instead of opening up to others, I put up a front. I was helping to lead worship in youth group, but my heart was far away and falling into some sinful habits.
Then I hit rock bottom and finally understood that I didn’t deserve God’s love. I felt the Holy Spirit grip me as I experienced true grace. This really transformed me. I became more open to serving others on worship teams, mission trips, and at Fort Wilderness camp (later, I even met my wife, Bonnie, at Fort!) I saw leaders model truly living for the Kingdom, and I began to see my life as an offering to God.
When I started college, I also faced a struggle. I began as an engineering major, but soon God nudged me: was I choosing that path for financial security and prestige? I went into a season of prayer, and the Holy Spirit shifted my perspective. I realized the greatest highlights of my life had been serving others, whether on a mission trip, at church, or on the university campus. God showed me that He’d created me to serve people in full-time ministry. After that, I changed my major, and that has led to more growth and a lot of “Holy Spirit moments.”
Much of your servant leadership has involved discipling others through music and worship, in some form. What do those things mean to you?
Music clears the noise out of my head and settles me down so I can see who I am and who God is. Then I can admire God and wait for Him to speak.
Growing up at Eastbrook, I saw worship modeled as global and loud and beautiful. Whether it involved banners or choir or orches- tra, there were multiple ways to worship God. In sixth grade, I started learning the guitar and just loved it. Some of the youth leaders showed me how to play it in worship and brought me under their wing to mentor me. Those relationships were so important.
In high school, on a mission trip, I experienced an amazing worship service at our sister church in Guatemala. We were all singing with the same heart and passion but in different languages. I remember thinking, “God is even bigger than I imagined!” I knew I’d always want to be involved in musical worship.
As musicians, we have to realize we’re the tour guides, not the “attraction.”We help people come to the feet of God. The spiritual focus comes first, and the musical and technical aspects and desire for excellence follow.
How does that concept work in youth worship ministry here at Eastbrook?
We want to create a culture that feels like a family, where people are known and loved and can share burdens and be vulnerable, where we experience God individually and communally. This means our “rehearsals” aren’t just music practice. They might include Bible study, games, team building, or worship. We look for adult leaders who deeply love God and will give time to invest in relationships. We help students steward the gifts God has given them, including musical and technical gifts, and their leadership skills for future service.
So, where do you see your own leadership and future service moving? What would you like to work on in the next year?
As a church, we’re focusing on discipleship: following Jesus, our Rabbi, step by step. I’m asking: Am I ready to slow down? To make space to sit with God? To allow time for relationships? As a church, are we ready? I know it’s hard for me to eliminate distractions, which are idols. But if we pursue that spiritual discipline, we can form each other to be more like Christ. ■
August 29, 2023
August 29, 2023