I remember traveling as a kid.
Three of us in the back seat of an old-school VW bug, Mom and Dad in front.
It was inevitable; after a while one of us would get on the other two’s nerves.
Or two of them would get on mine. And the skirmish would begin.
It usually started softly – even silently.
Mouthed “I’m telling”
or the stuck-out tongue “I dare you”.
To this day I don’t know if Mom and Dad knew all that was going on right behind them or not. VW bugs were pretty noisy, and it’s possible they only heard the murmuring. At any rate, as I recall, we in the back seat usually heard one of three things from the front seat:
– Stop Whining.
– Take your mind off it. (In other words, whatever it is isn’t going to matter in ten years.)
– Work together, you guys.
Very rarely did we hear “Don’t make me stop this car.” We knew better than to go that far. It always hurt.
On Monday of this week, coming out of Scottsbluff, I heard a snippet of a radio broadcast I respect but never get to hear. Haven Today was interviewing Tommy Walker, worship leader in California, Promise Keepers worship leader, Composer and arranger. In the few minutes I heard him, he said two things that piqued my interest:
“The hymns, which unified congregations and generations for centuries, have in the last ten or twenty years divided congregations…” and he went on to say it’s time for that to stop. “No kidding!” I heard myself say. An “amen” of sorts. He went on to say that as much as he enjoys writing new songs, leading his congregation in singing them, there’s something about those hymns that transcends the here and now, something that teaches powerful truths, something that says Isaac Watts said that three hundred years ago and it’s still true.
I went back and listened to the full broadcast online tonight. If you want to hear the full interview, here’s the link:
There’s been some commotion in the back seat where I lead worship lately. I know I’ve not heard everything, and it’s probably better that I haven’t.
If God were driving — and He is — I think He’d look over at me and raise his eyebrows. “Do you hear that too?”
I do. I have. I have a great team of musicians and technicians working with me and we pull hard together to be sure we direct our congregation’s attention to God. We want to disappear as prompters in the first few minutes each week so people think only about God, tell Him how much they love Him, want to serve Him, want to give of their talents and resources so His reputation increases and the Gospel is carried to still more. When churches think that way there’s no end to what God can do, and the blessings flow freely.
When we think selfishly, however, things get restless behind the front seat.
When we think about ourselves the music can be
not quite powerful enough,
a little too new and
not quite contemporary enough,
all on the same Sunday!
To some I’ve said “Stop whining,” like my parents said to us.
To some I’ve said “Take your mind off it. This isn’t as big as you’re making it out to be.”
Mostly I’ve said “Work together, you guys. The enemy loves it when we quarrel and I’m not about to give him the satisfaction.”
I do know this. When you mix consumerism (what do I like?),
strong personal preferences (what do I like most?),
and myopia (not being able to see beyond my front gate) at church – any church – murmuring is the result.
“I don’t envy you.” people sometimes say. “How in the world do you satisfy everyone?”
“I don’t.” I always smile. While I never set out to irritate anyone intentionally in how we praise and worship the Almighty, not everyone gets it, any more than everyone gets it in Algebra I or American History.
I do my best to lead EVERYone who comes to my church in praise and worship, every week. But I can’t do much about people who bring checklists with them:
[ ] Too loud.
[ ] too soft.
[ ] Too fast.
[ ] too slow.
[ ] Too many people up there.
[ ] Too fancy.
[ ] too plain.
[ ] Not enough harmony.
[ ] too much harmony.
Those are the people who come as consumers rather than worshipers.
I consistently disappoint them.
Come expecting to meet with God.
Come planning to tell Him how much you love Him for His mercy and grace.
Come with something to give Him — and GIVE it.
Come looking for someone to encourage
and make sure you help them smile.
Pray with someone needing comfort and tender loving care.
THOSE are the days the worship set will seem relevant, heartfelt and genuine. Like God sat next to you today.
It’s my privilege to lead people to praise and worship God, reinforce biblical truth and encourage each other, week after week after week after week. It’s what He’s called me to do, and I’d do it even if I didn’t get paid to.
I’ll keep saying “Work together, you guys.” It’s how I’m wired.
If anybody says “Don’t make me stop this car!” It’ll be God, not me. He’s driving.