X-Factor worship? Honour thy mentor.

I just found this clip on YouTube of something my original guitar tutor put together and thought you might like to see it – it gets pretty impressive from about 1 minute in…

What’s really interesting is that when I started to take lessons with Paul about 20 years ago he had moved from being an A-list UK session professional doing albums, tours and TV work with some very big names and into teaching because he had contracted tinnitus which meant he couldn’t play loud gigs anymore.

About the same time he became a Christian and not only prayed that the Lord would bring him the right students but also continued to pray for them, sometimes well after they had stopped taking lessons. I remember he taught a young guy in the year below me at school who eventually became a Christian, moved to California, joined the Vineyard church and ended up writing and producing some well known worship songs and albums for them. I think Paul even gave a few lessons to a very young Mr Matthew Redman (dunno what became of him?).  

Now Paul is a WAY better player than the musical notoriety he’s received and yet since he’s become ‘the coach’ and invested in people lives with time, prayer, interest and concern he’s probably had more of an effect on them than they know or he realizes.

It’s interesting when you parallel that with an expression of ‘leading worship’. Most of us want to be up front and the notion of pouring into other people’s lives can seem like a poor consolation prize unless we get to do the fun stuff ourselves. Yet how much more of a real expression of worship is it when a person chooses to invest others at the expense of their own ‘platform’?

In fact I know a number of people like Paul, some pretty well known, who have spent their lives investing in what has now become the contemporary worship scene. They have pioneered, mentored, created sounds and songs, helped shape our understanding and fended off stupid theological objections towards change. For instance you wouldn’t believe how hard some people fought to convince the mainstream church that drums in worship is not inherently evil. They have stacks of experience, wisdom, sensitivity and content and yet because they are not young/cool/musically fashionable etc we basically forget about them in favor of young hipper musicians who may bring a younger crowd into the church but in terms of real ministry and content frankly some still have a lot to learn. Yet quite a few of these older pioneers are still around and struggling to make a living even though we enjoy the fruits of their labor. Of course there are many more jobs these days for musicians within the local church and since worship music has become its own genre there are more opportunities for those musicians to become professional artists. But I am slightly uncomfortable when we start to replace wisdom with fashion if all we are doing is seeking to become more culturally relevant.

Of course musical style does change and I’m not talking about bringing back a 70s worship renaissance but I do think we should be creating roles within our worship culture and industry that brings honor to those with experience and actively moves ministry away from the worship leader/fan/celebrity road that we’ve started to drive down in some areas.

Perhaps we should explore partnering between young ‘artist’ and older mentor. I’m told that in Jewish tradition a priest would train under an older one until they were 30, from 30-50 perform the function and from 50 onwards would mentor the younger ones.

Certainly promoting a sense of team ministry could help us begin to disconnect the idea that being a successful worship leader means having to conform to the singer/songwriter/artist mould. But more importantly team ministry should give honor, respect and value to the components and members that are not immediately on show.