A Week On Point
Thanks so much to all our faculty and staff, and hosts Johnny Coggin, Ricky Clark, David Harbison, Kely Hatley, Jamie Parker, and Debbie Gouge, who made last week’s Music Ministry Leadership Conference gatherings possible.
Wow! Last week was full and even more fulfilling. Not that I don’t love my colleagues in the TBC offices, but I absolutely love pulling out of the Brentwood parking lot and heading out to meet with worship music leaders, minister together with fellow pastoral leaders, and be reminded of the tremendous impact that choir members, children’s choir leaders, and instrumentalists have in our Tennessee Baptist churches. I am referring to last week’s Regional Music Ministry Leadership Conference. I am sorry to say we had to cancel the Monday event in Memphis, but jockeyed through Jackson, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Elizabethton in the remaining days of the week. Being in five cities in five days with lots of music ministry leaders was a tremendous morale booster. What a blessing to hear stories about victories large and small, join others in prayer that God would have victory over church conflicts, and just to get to shake hands and hug necks of so many heroes of church music.
Though registrations were lower than two years ago in many of the locations, last week’s Regional Music Ministry Leadership Conference was no less powerful and worth the cost and effort. The sessions provided opportunity for leaders to be encouraged, informed, and inspired in areas of worship music ministry. The smaller turnout has me fired up all the more to advocate for the value of music ministry to children, teenagers, and adults. There is no doubt this is an uphill challenge. This is a time when churches and leaders have largely lost the vision of biblical music ministry.
I believe the present pragmatist trend in churches that seems more market-driven than conviction driven simply must run its course, and come to a natural end. Ignoring present opportunities to encourage young people toward the arts, church leaders seem destined to face a future without trained church musicians, professional and layman, and subsequently to wonder why they missed today’s opportunities to foster environments conducive to involving more teens and children in practicing the arts in church and worship. Our office receives numerous calls weekly from churches needing piano players, directors, and other music ministry leaders. I make it a practice to ask, “Does your church have preschool/children’s choirs, youth choir, or other music programs for young people? Responses to that question indicate disappointment in everything from children and youths’ motivations to parental support, to pastoral support. Whatever the case, I believe it the responsibility of us music ministers, you and me, to turn the tide. We must set aside our own sense of security and comfort and instead become a prophetic voice that advocates for music for the young through the church. Last week reminded me that though we are spread out across the state, we can have a powerful collective voice. This is a must, and can unite us at the same time it encourages usl.
After the week of daily conferences I had the great privilege of topping off the week at First Baptist Church in Jackson at a service recognizing 175 years of legacy in song. It was a moving experience for me, worshiping with the Jackson congregation I served for eight years of ministry, observing the effects of positive pastoral leadership from pastor Justin Wainscott (2011 MMLC preaching pastor), singing under the direction of Dr. Chris Mathews of Union University, and experiencing the acoustics of a space and organ I helped to bring about. I felt the week was highly focused on point to the center of my ministry at TBC, trying to bring opportunities for music ministry leaders to gather, be inspired, encouraged, and informed for ministry, and then closing out with an emotional reminder Sunday night of why we do what we do.
I was reminded how when serving churches like FBC Jackson my own family was deeply influenced and blessed through the lives of the people in music ministry. I readily recall when my younger son discovered his head voice as a result of second grade Music Makers Choir. I remember well how caring children’s leaders were attentive when my daughter was preparing for solo parts in children’s music, or when she joined a other children who belonged to adult choir members in singing at some special Christmas presentations. Through the love and encouraging ministry of these people, my own children developed their respect for leaders, their love of Christ, and their enjoyment of experiencing and practicing the arts as worship expression. Seems to me we need to give ourselves to making sure such opportunities continue into future years.