Trust God. And Do Your Best

Image courtesy of dkwonsh

Image courtesy of dkwonsh

I have had the privilege of getting to know hundreds of technical leaders from all over the country the past few years. While everyone is different, there are a number of common characteristics we share as technical artists, not the least of which is that we like to plan. We want to know what is coming up not only this weekend, but the next two or three. I know a guy who was getting anxious toward the end of October last year because his input list for Christmas wasn’t done yet! Ok, that was me. I may be a fringe case…

Still, we love to plan. And most of us work really hard. We work hard not simply because the work is hard, though it is sometimes; we work hard mostly because we care so deeply about the results. We work like we have the opportunity to see lives changed—and we do! But what’s tricky about the work we do is that while we do indeed have an important role to play, the final results are up to God. 

A few weeks ago, I was reading through Proverbs 21 in the Message. I love how practical Eugene Peterson made the entire book of Proverbs. The last verse in the chapter stood out to me, and as I read it, I thought, “This should be on a plaque in every tech booth.” It reads: 

“Do your best, prepare for the worst—then trust God to bring the victory.” 

If that doesn’t encapsulate what we do, I don’t know what does! Our entire role as a technical artist can be summarized in that verse. 

Do your best. This is not about excellence, perfection or punching a perfect show. It’s about doing your level best, giving it all you have and going all in. What that looks like will be different for all of us. But we can all do our best. 

Prepare for the worst. Stuff happens. Mic’s will fail, lights will burn out, equipment will break at the most inopportune time. Have a plan for when it does. This is not an “if” scenario, it’s a “when.” Bad things will happen. If you have a  plan, you can recover more quickly and do so more gracefully. 

Trust God to bring the victory. So often we feel like the results are up to us. If 10 people don’t get saved in a service, we beat ourselves up over the mix or the lighting or the visuals. But that part is not up to us. Our job is to present the Gospel in as clear and compelling a manner as possible, then trust God to use it as He sees fit. He is the one who changes hearts. He is the one who draws those who are far near. He will bring the victory. 

A friend of mine said it this way recently: “Pray like it’s all up to God; work like it’s all up to you.”

We live in this tension every day. It’s as challenging as it exciting. Which is probably why we love it so much.

Roland

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Jesus Didn't Have a PA

The other day, I was reading through some blogs and came across a post on Phil Cooke’s blog that I thought was interesting. The post itself wasn’t what inspired this post, however, it was one of the comments. Here is what one commenter wrote: 

I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t have to use special lighting or a tech manager when he delivered the Sermon on the Mount. And he got the message across just fine.

Before I develop my critique of this comment, I want to start by saying I’m not opposed to simpler, more traditional services. If you want to attend a church or service that doesn’t use special lighting, a loud PA or any other production technology, that’s totally cool. I think there is even a need for those services. So don’t take this as a blanket condemnation of traditional services because it’s not.

Jesus Didn’t Have a Lot of Things

It should be obvious, but Jesus didn’t have a lot of the things we take for granted today. In fact, Jesus didn’t have a big pipe organ, choir or piano to lead the 5000 in worship. He didn’t have a car to get him from place to place. He didn’t have coffee makers to provide a morning wake up for the crowds. He didn’t have those things because they weren’t invented yet. Now, we can debate all day long whether he would have used those things (I suspect He would have), but I don’t hear people like the commenter above calling for a ban on pipe organs because Jesus didn’t have one. 

I generally find those making the “Jesus didn’t have one” argument only when it conveniently supports whatever they don’t like in the contemporary church. And that is amusing to me. Much like quoting Scripture out of context to support our own agenda, it’s really a poor way to construct an argument. 

Can We Just Admit it’s a Preference?

You see, what we’re really talking about here is preference. Again, I have no problem if your preference is a more traditional style of service (which, lest we forget only really developed over the last couple of hundred years—it’s not “biblical”). But to broadly state that Jesus wouldn’t “put on a concert” is missing the point. Jesus spoke to the crowds using the idiom of the day. He was as contemporary as any mega church service is today. He communicated to the people in the language they understood. The modern church seeks to do the same through the use of lighting, visuals and audio, because that is the language of this generation.

Now, we can argue whether some of that goes too far and creates a consumeristic, non-engaged, concert-like experience instead of a worship service. But that’s another argument. To be sure, some services really are much more like a concert and less like a worship service, and that can be a problem. However, I’ve been a part of some really loud services that had plenty of lighting, haze and moving backgrounds that were amazing experiences of worship. I’ve also experienced a spontaneous service that had no technology at all, just voices, and it was amazing. 

It’s a Matter of the Heart

We are commanded to worship God in spirit and truth. If you can’t worship at our current church, perhaps we need to find one where you can. If you can’t find one, perhaps you have an issue of the heart. If you are older and are attending a church that is changing to meet the needs of a younger generation and you’re bitter about that, you have an issue of the heart, not volume. You can either choose to support the efforts to reach the next generation for Christ or get pissed off that your personal needs aren’t being met. 

As I get older, I already know there will come a day when I don’t really care for the style of music of 20-somethings. But boy do I ever want to be part of a church that is doing a great job reaching that group of people. And who knows, maybe I’ll split my time between an 80’s style service with 4 second reverbs and a “modern” service with whatever music it popular at the time. 

But the point is, don’t confuse your preference with what Jesus would or would not have done. Because I’m pretty sure He wouldn’t do that

“Gear

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My Sabbatical

Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/oliverkendal/

Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/oliverkendal/

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I’m no longer working at Coast Hills, or any other church for that matter, as a TD any longer. I wrapped up in May and have begun a whole new adventure as system designer/project manager for Flexstage, which is part of the architecture firm, Visioneering. Several people have asked me recently, “So, what does your Sunday morning look like now?” When a question comes up more than a few times, it usually becomes a blog post. So here you go.

I’m on Sabbatical

Usually it’s the pastoral staff that gets to take sabbatical. Every few years, pastors often take a month, two or several off to refresh, pray and study. It’s a good concept, and one that I fully support. We all need time to recharge. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. For the last few months, my Sundays have been sleeping in, writing, going for walks and sometimes watching a NASCAR race in my PJs. 

I had originally planned on taking a month off, but it’s turned into more than that. Now, I feel compelled to give some disclaimers at this point. I am not mad at the Church. I don’t feel burned by the Church. I don’t hate the Church. I’m not quitting Church to focus on my business. I just need a break. I will be back.

It’s Been a Long Time

I didn’t grow up going to church. My family and I went once in a while, but in the absence of any meaningful experience, I didn’t stick around. When I met the Lord in 1988 (almost 26 years ago to the week…), I immediately started attending church weekly. Except for a 4-month period in 2002 when I had to work weekends, I’ve attended church pretty much every weekend since 1988. I calculated that by my last weekend at Coast, I had worked approximately 380 of the previous 400 weekends. In that time, I mixed, lit, ran slides for or TD’d well over 1,000 services. 

Along the way, I started equating, at least at a subconscious level, going to church with working. I didn’t even know I was doing it until I stopped. It really wasn’t until a few months ago that I figured it out. So right now, I need to re-program my mind. 

Building New Models

As I write this, I keep thinking back to January when I took Jamie Anderson’s Smaart class. He kept saying, “This is hard because we’re building new models of how sound works in our heads. Building new models is hard. Don’t worry, it gets easier.” That’s what I feel like I’m doing. I have to build a new model in my head of what going to church is. 

Of course, I know what going to church is. But in my mind, I need to get to a place where I’m not critiquing the mix or lighting while I’m there. I need to be able to not feel like I should be working while I’m there. And quite frankly, I need time to rest. My new job has been great, but because I’m learning and refining a whole new skill set, it’s mentally exhausting. Working on staff at a church takes it’s toll even under the best of circumstances. I’m realizing now, three months out, how taxing my time at Coast really was. 

Descriptive, Not Prescriptive

I say this a lot, but I’m telling you what is going on with me, not what you should be doing. I know guys who have been doing the TD thing for many more years than I have and they’re well-adjusted and happy. That is wonderful. This is just what I’m doing right now, nothing more. Like I said, I’m not mad and I will be back. I just don’t know when. 

I remember my first pastor, Ron Boehm, going on vacation one time and saying that he didn’t go to church that weekend just to prove to himself that he could do it. I think it’s important that we know why we’re going to church. Do we do it because we work there? Do we go because we need to get our card punched for the week? Is it to see our friends or social circle? Is it just our habit? Or do we go because we can’t be anywhere else? Because we are compelled to go. Those are important questions. 

Right now, I’m experiencing my time with the Lord in a new way. It’s a lot less programmed and more organic. And it’s very refreshing. I look forward to going back when I’m ready. Until then, I will continue to serve the church through this blog, the podcast and my work with Visioneering. It’s what I feel called to right now. And it’s good.

Roland