Her Forte, Our Blessing: Familiar Voice Resonates Ahead of Convention 2023
By Carl Stagner
Several notable firsts fuel the buzz surrounding Convention 2023, not the least of which is the uniquely diverse array of skilled artists coming together to collectively lead worship in Tampa. Among those coordinating these talented leaders is a voice familiar to the Church of God movement, Sarah Scharbrough McLaughlin. Having led worship at Church of God Convention and Regional Conferences, Sarah has demonstrated a keen sensitivity to the Spirit while ministering through musical artistry of the highest caliber. As just one of several worship leaders working together to serve the Movement in Tampa, Sarah draws from her rich background not only in music, but also across the ecclesiastical landscape, to create experiences honoring to God and edifying to the worshiper.
In view of her eclectic heritage, Sarah calls herself “somewhat of a spiritual mutt.” Introduced to the Church of God movement through Anderson University, her faith background consists of Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, and Syrian Orthodox worship experiences. As a freshman at Anderson University, the unity of believers and centrality of Jesus drew Sarah to the Church of God movement, however, as did certain esteemed expositors of God’s Word, like Kerry Robinson at East Side Church of God, and iconic and influential musicians, such as Jay and Amy Rouse.
As an AU student, Sarah helped lead worship at different points for local Church of God congregations, including—but not limited to—East Side, Madison Park (then North Anderson), Sherman Street, Arrow Heights, as well as Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis. Since then, she’s also offered her God-given talent at churches beyond the Church of God movement. Wherever she has served, though, she’s helped to create an atmosphere conducive to authentic worship. Her connection to Anderson University only further solidified when, after graduation, she served nearly five years as worship leader for Anderson University’s chapel services.
Beyond her heart for worship, Sarah Scharbrough McLaughlin possesses musical skills on par with some of the greatest Nashville superstars and acclaimed composers. Sure, Sarah can sing and play piano—which you’ll often find her doing in worship settings—but this gifted individual can also play other instruments, like guitar, ukulele, flute, and accordion. It wasn’t uncommon to find Sarah in her parents’ music room tinkering around on any of these instruments and others. After all, her parents were steeped in music, too—Sarah’s mother was a piano teacher and accomplished pianist, and her father owned a piano store, where he not only tuned pianos, but also restored them. Not surprisingly, piano would ultimately become the instrument of choice through which she would find pleasure and glorify the Lord. Combined with a voice both dynamic and smooth, Sarah Scharbrough McLaughlin’s worship leadership goes beyond the norm, bringing in elements of classical and jazz music. These styles are a reflection of her childhood experiences.
“It wasn’t unusual for us kids to run around [my parents’] various gigs, be it the Renaissance Festival, the church, the local jazz clubs, or just playing at Dad’s piano shop,” Sarah explains. “We were just immersed in music. I don’t remember my parents ever viewing music as a chore to practice in our house. For that reason, I don’t ever remember them telling me I needed to practice, either. We were all just playing and singing constantly because it was the fun thing to do and is who we were.”
While Sarah built quite an extensive résumé before her first worship leadership role at the Church of God Convention, her recent experiences are equally impressive.
“The last few years have been filled with cool opportunities and experiences,” she recounts. “I’ve had the joy and honor of performing with several symphonies, and hearing original songs come alive with an orchestra is thrilling. I’ve put out another album with love songs and lullabies called Rêverie, dedicated to my five children. I also recently released two music videos of original songs recorded at Gaither Studios. Partnering with several nonprofits to provide musical performances is always a joy, also. Honestly, whether it’s tracking a tune at home or performing in an auditorium, I count it such a gift to still be making music and collaborating with other gifted artists, musicians, and worship leaders.”
Convention-goers will be encouraged by Sarah’s gift to the church of her heart and talent, but will be further inspired by the group dynamic of this year’s main sessions. Instead of one leader, Leslie Barnes, Michael Romero, Allen Swoope, Leo and Meagan Flores, Aaron Woolsey, Stephen Scharbrough, and Jeff McLaughlin will all pool their resources and gifts for a unique harmonization of sound and style. Sarah is excited to be in the mix.
“I’m looking forward to our experience leading worship together in Tampa,” she exclaims. “I know about half of this group, and the rest of us will be meeting down there! Not the typical way to form a band, but exciting. Each of these worship leaders has quite an awesome reputation and résumé, and I am looking forward to learning from, and being led by, all of them. It will be a cool challenge to blend it all together!”
Ministering through meaningful music—that’s Sarah’s forte, our blessing.
“He’s got the whole world in his hands.” What an encouraging reality! Be inspired by it, be challenged by it, and experience it firsthand at Convention 2023 and General Assembly, June 22–25 in Tampa, Florida. Learn more and register at www.chogconvention.org.
Feature (top) photo: Sarah loves the beautiful family God has given her.