the baby and the bathwater

input – the edge
February 2, 2008, 3:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

the edge: the thin, sharp side of the blade of a cutting instrument

When I was in my early twenties I used to go hill walking alot. I’ve still got the same pair of walking boots I bought 20 years ago. They were quite pricey, but it just proves one of my theories in life : that it’s better to go for quality as it saves money in the long term. It’s why I have a Mac. Interestingly, having insisted on Mac’s for my creative team at church amongst a huge amount of cynicism, slowly, as more and more people get frustrated with slow, crashing, uninspiring pc’s are now seeing the sense in my ways. Mark Bailey, our lead pastor, even gave a talk at staff prayers recently on what we can learn from a Mac Store!

The revolution has begun…..

Anyway, where was I.

Oh yes, hill walking.

I remember one year we were staying in a youth hostel (remember those….) and we walked up Scarfell – the highest peak in England. We went the proper way up – the long way – and we were totally knackered by the end of it. Sitting in the youth hostel that evening we argued about who was going to drive to the pub. I won, and my friend John drove us the 500 yards to this great little place for pie and chips and beer. I can honestly say, that, after the exertion of the day, the two pints of real ale that accompanied the pie and chips were the most beautiful two pints I have ever tasted.

Anyway, another big memory from those walking trips was the time we went up Helvellyn and over Striding Edge. Basically, Striding Edge is this long thin strip of rock at pretty much the high point of that path. You go up this well worn route that is pretty comfortable, but eventually everything gets much more exposed, and scary, with steeper and steeper drops each side. And the final walk along striding edge can be terrifying. But the views are incredible. Get it on a good day and it gives some of the most beautiful landscapes you can imagine.

One of the things that I wish someone had been able to tell me about worship leading when I started out, was that it doesn’t get easier and easier as time goes by. It gets more scary every time. You would think that all the training and practice and leading week by week would eventually make the ground you are walking on feel more secure.

But it doesn’t.

I would have thought that, now having led worship at some of the biggest conferences in the UK, and travelled to various other places – even where the language is different – that my feet would feel that they have a stronger footing.

But they don’t seem to.

More often now than ever, I seem to be standing up, leading worship for my church, feeling like I haven’t really clue what I am doing. You may not know what it’s like to be up in front of people, with that horrible sensation of sweat dripping down your back, gripped by fear that you are making a total hash of things. But take it from me, it’s not very comfortable.

Not very comfortable at all.

And it’s as though my sense of self-belief is getting fainter and fainter the more I do this.

And maybe that’s not a bad thing.

But I wish that someone would have told me that. Whereas most things I seem to have been taught along the way seem to point me at getting more competent – and I guess that is no bad thing – not much seems to have prepared me for the fact that I would, over time, feel like I am walking more and more on the edge.

So the people that are influencing me most at the moment are those who are treading a thinner line – not people who are talking about it (because actually, most people do talk about it), but people actually treading it. So I am listening less to worship leaders who think that a tour of the US is a risky place, but listening to those who are stepping out in the less glamourous mission fields of their own local communities to lead worship. I am listening less to those voices who are producing books that expound the virtues of their own songs, and seeking out those who are delving into the scripture to really understand the nature and Kingdom of God – theologians in particular. I am listening less and less to people who seem to count success by the number of people at their conferences, and more to people who are working out the dangerous game of raising up new people within their own church. I am less interested in those people who are big-ing themselves up because their song is in the top 25 of the CCLI chart, and far more interested in those people who are writing songs that will meet the needs of their own church even though that means there is no chance of a commercial success.

And it’s not just in the whole area of gathered worship. As I try and lead a creative team at church – of designers and video editors and writers – I am realising the power of creative communication. It’s human nature for mankind to be engaged by all things creative: we were made like that. And a large part of that God-given creativity is about walking on the edge. So when we push creative boundaries we find ourselves having a powerful tool with which to engage those outside the church. You only need to see the sorry state of most church literature, design and magazines to realise that it is unsurprising that a large part of the church has lost the power to communicate effectively with those outside it’s walls. And as a result, it’s message is being lost.

But pushing boundaries does not make life easy. In fact the more I seem to tread a thinner line, not only do things feel more scary, but the more I seem to attract questioning voices. The more I push the creative boundaries, the more that I seem to attract the attention of the critical spirits. The more I try and step up onto the mountain peaks, the louder I seem to hear people shout up at me ‘come down, can’t you see the damage you are doing, don’t you care how much all this is costing?’ And actually I don’t deal with that very well. And I need to deal with it better.

The trouble is, that once you’ve seen the views from the scary places, you never want to go back down.

So input number 1: people walking the thinner line.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

wow mate! don’t fall off!! . .. . .I’ll join you on that one!

Comment by Naomi

Well if it’s scarier up top, I’m not sure I want to climb any further.

Comment by Christopher

I love that final bit about not wanting to come down once you’ve seen the view from the scary place.

You say “I am listening less to those voices who are producing books that expound the virtues of their own songs, and seeking out those who are delving into the scripture to really understand the nature and Kingdom of God – theologians in particular.”

You might like to read “Salvation’s song” by Marcus Green – the same Marcus Green who commented on this blog a little while ago.

I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s something of a theology of what worship is for, I think. Definitely a book about worship, but quite unlike any other book about worship I’ve come across. Anyway, I found it very thought provoking when I read it a couple of years ago, and I think it would appeal to you, judging by the kind of things you write about here.

Comment by Ruth

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