Rode Hard And Put Away Wet

my God, where do these days go?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Don't mess with the bull, son. You'll get the horns.

I worked on the tech team at church this Sunday - I was on lyrics. You know, the guy that makes the words on the screen fit with what the band is doing? That was me. The guy you only notice when he screws up. Fortunately, no screw-ups this week.

Anyhoo, before church starts every week, we have a little meeting with the pastor, the band, and all the tech guys (we have a video guy, a lights guy, a lyrics guy, and a sound guy - well, all usually guys, sometimes gals). The conversation revolves around the order of worship, who's doing what when, etc. And invariably, there's the following exchange (or a reasonable facsimile thereof):

Pastor: Ok, do you want to pray at that point, or do you want me to?
Band leader: It probably makes more sense as a transition for you to do it...
Pastor: Sounds good. You come on up during the prayer. Lights?
Lighting guy: Ok, I'll drop the lights when the prayer starts, so they'll be down when the band starts playing.

I always get a little fidgety at the point. I know that that stuff is important. I do. I understand that excellence in doing church includes being polished and ensuring smooth transitions, etc. But, when we start talking about prayer as a transition, it gets under my skin a little. It's a real struggle for me, because I'm a behind-the-scenes guy and I get it. But it always feels like dangerous business.

And I'm reminded of a couple of things. The first is the story of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6. When the Israelites, led by David, are taking the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, they don't follow God's instructions for how to transport it. And then, when the oxen pulling the cart stumble, and the ark starts to fall, Uzzah reaches out to stop it from falling. Verse 7 says, "The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God." It's dangerous business, messing with the ark of God.

Andrew Peterson (yes, I know) uses an interesting metaphor. He's got a song called "Mohawks on the Scaffold" that compares the way we do church to the building of the first American skyscrapers and the legend that Indians were used to build the highest parts, because they weren't afraid of the heights. The chorus goes, "Like Mohawks on the scaffold, heedless of the danger/Don't look down at the city, brother it's a long way to fall/Like Mohawks on the scaffold, strolling on the I-beams/Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, He's a puzzle that I've solved."

So where's the line? When does the business of church cross into irreverence? When does being concerned with the atmosphere and the content of church become too much about the concern and not enough about the church? Does it even matter? Am I too sensitive? Is it just part of the deal?

In the Peterson song, when he does the chorus the last time, he ends it with "Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, He's so patient with us all."

Lord, I hope so.


Rest in Peace, Paul Gleason. You will always be the ultimate authority figure to an entire generation of us. That's no small thing.


Blogger Heather said...

We just planted a church - had our 1st service 4 weeks ago, and I am equally annoyed/fearful about making it a show. It feels wrong. At one of our church-plant planning meetings, my husband (the pastor brought up the historical order of worship that is represented in some why by the same elements in almost every service at any church. You should have seen the reaction - people who have not been in leadership were SHOCKED to think it is all so intentional, so planned. I think the balance is so tender between order and manipulation. We are all terrified that we are being manipulated to experience it all a certain way.

7:56 AM  
Blogger the hamster said...

i remember when i watch song leaders write down the order of songs and they talked about the emotional ebb and flow of the songs. start up, but then take them down to places of humility for the lesson. the only problem was that i was the lesson giver who had to follow the tearful humility. it felt like a funeral in there every week.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Myles said...

i've been playing guitar nearly every sunday at church for the last four years, because i was tired of the nuts and bolts. some people are able to worship through the planning; that's not me. i was always stressed and out self-absorbed with how things were going. so, i quit.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband is a worship director. I was just thinking about this while watching a show about the machinery Ancient pagan priests used to manipulate the faithful. There are historical writings of priests looking for more and more spectacular "miracles" to draw people back from the Christian heretics. The show saw the priests as very calculating. However, the priests didn't really understand how the lode stone (magnet) manipulated their machines. They were probably very sincere and saw it as a magical gift from their god.

And all the Christians needed was the story of Christ.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Imagine being invited to a friend's for supper but your friend forgot to cook. You'll show up hungry and leave hungry. Next time you're invited you either won't bother going, or eat at home first - just in case. That's what church will be like without planning. The key is to pray, plan, not be "married" to the plan, but leave ample room for the Holy Spirit to move.

1:28 AM  

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