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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Conferences, pt. 1

Sorry for not blogging more; it seems that I had nothing to write about and now all of a sudden I have too much.

I was able to attend two conferences this past month, both of which afforded me the opportunity to not only learn, but have time to reflect. It’s as if someone handed me a pass at the door that said “permission to think.” It’s so easy to let months pass without much reflection because of life’s responsibilities.

The first was called the Sacrifice of Praise conference, which is the PCA’s worship conference. Speakers included Reggie Kidd, Hughes Oliphant Olds, Scotty Smith, and Bryan Chapell. Here are a few thoughts:

Dr. Chapell’s talk helped me understand the history of how worship services are structured. It’s amazing to see how every generation/movement has included or excluded something from the service simply because they were reacting against what had come before. It should give us pause and cause us to examine what we do now.

Scotty made a comment in his talk that stuck with me. He told us that if Jesus were to come back right then, we would all look at each other from across the aisle (of the church we were meeting in) and exclaim “So it really was true!” It made me think of how the life of faith, even in the seasons when it is strong and constant, has an element of doubt that only the coming kingdom will eradicate.

I had the opportunity to go to dinner at St. Louis Bread Company (which is called Panera elsewhere in the country) with Dr. Olds and others. In response to a question about the use of art, dance, etc in worship, he simply said that worship services should focus on three things: the Word, the sacraments, and prayer. He also (unknowingly) taught me three other things by example: When I’m old (as he is, in his seventies), I need to

1) Grow a cool beard
2) Wear a cool hat
3) Order a second helping of soup.

He also (and I’m not making this up) danced the Charleston while seated at the table with us. Don’t ask.

In hearing seminar discussions of issues that worship leaders and pastors struggle with, Dr. Olds’ comments about the Word, sacraments and prayer kept coming back to me. One man talked about how his church would like to begin taking communion weekly. There were a few obstacles to this happening. First, they have recently begun a third service to cater to their older members, who have felt musically excluded from services as of late. Because of this, time in all services is rather tight. Secondly, the worship team has expanded so much that its members are spilling off the front of the platform, making it hard for communion traffic to flow quickly.

Whew. I don’t want to oversimplify what I’m sure is a complex and nuanced situation, but what steps could be taken to include elder members in the regular services? How does the solution to that problem tie in to the “not enough space for our band” problem? And how could the solutions to both problems pave the way to weekly communion?

Word, sacraments, prayer.

I drove to the conference with Kevin Twit, Cason Cooley, and Russell Hardeman. Kevin and Cason have been two of my closest friends for years, and Russell is a new friend who is on staff at church. It was so good to spend time talking with those guys, and I feel so privileged to be in community with them. We were also able to spend some time with a few other folks, including the Red Mountain guys (Brian Murphy and Clint Wells). If you weren’t aware, they’ve just released a third CD, The Gadsby Project. (I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m sure it’s worth getting.) Clint will also be joining me this April on tour as the guitar player for the Indelible Grace band, so be sure to come out to see his fret antics. He’s a great guy, though he has a tendency to insult Italian waiters for some reason. Don’t ask.

I’ll have to finish writing about the other conference I went to, and other happenings, at a later date. Thanks for reading my confused ramblings.

What I’m listening to:
David Crowder Band – Sunsets & Sushi. I’ve never been that big of a DCB fan, but this is an excellent EP. It’s a remix project that maintains the integrity (i.e. structure) of the songs, while reimagining what they can be (it ends up sounding a bit like The Postal Service, but better). I would absolutely love to do something like this in the future with my music.

U2 – Live From Under The Brooklyn Bridge. iTunes-exclusive EP from the greatest band in the world. Who knew that “I Will Follow” would sound better in 2005 than it did in 1980?

What I’m reading:
I just bought a slew (yes, a slew) of books to add to my stack. I’m still working on Rodney Clapp’s Tortured Wonders, and hope to start on David Dark’s The Gospel According To America soon.

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