WORSHIP BUILDS BRIDGES
Over the last 13 years certain visions for ministry at TBC have been prevalent. I would be transparent enough to tell you I have been a doubter at times (aka lost faith that these visions might be realized during my time here), but my doubts have not destroyed the visions. One of those visions was to more directly involve the Tennessee Mens Chorale and Tennessee Ladies Chorus in partnership missions. I have always believed in the power of music to touch people’s lives with the Gospel, and I know how well these groups can make such music. This vision has become reality in the Lord’s time in the His way through His provision. TLC has shared in Montana and Iowa, and TMC has ministered in Brazil, Wales, and Montana as part of our Tennessee partnerships. We continue to realize the vision this coming year with TMC heading to Italy next Fall, and I continue to believe that important ministry awaits us in that country where the Gospel message is so desperately needed. I am praying for where TLC might minister through song next as well.
Another vision that has been on my mind and heart for these years has included a dream that lines of racial divide could begin to be crossed, allowing worship and music-making to be celebrated among integrated believers. I have purposefully visited churches in our state of different ethnicities to get a feel of those environments and prayed that these visits might help begin to build bridges. I am not always “comfortable,” per se in those settings, but I have always been welcome. The Chattanooga convention presented us with a golden opportunity that I believe was providentially orchestrated. With Dr. Fred Luter preaching our TBC annual meeting message, our executive director asked that music for the morning session in which he would preach would include ethnically mixed leadership. Working with Brother Willie McLaurin, our TBC African-American and Leadership Specialist, I contacted Marcellus Barnes, Minister of Worship at Mt Canaan Baptist Church in Chattanooga. One thing led to another and not only did Marcellus offer leadership for our Wednesday morning convention worship, but after discovering his church had a Men’s singing group, I invited their participation in our Sunday night Tennessee Men’s Chorale concert in Athens prior to the convention. They accepted and I have to say that in my estimation our time together was wonderful.
I want to thank Mike Dannel for trusting me in my request to bring the Mt Canaan group to his church for the TMC Sunday night concert. His willingness to share that vision opened the door for shared ministry. I am convinced that when the Gospel is at work in us, we are drawn together. The scripture that says, “in Him (Christ) all things hold together,” (Col 1:17) surely includes His creations being drawn together in racial harmony. Since we are participants in the ministry of reconciliation, reconciling the world to Him, bridging relationships through shared music-making and praise offering is surely included. I pray the joyful experiences of Sunday night’s concert at East Athens will be a beginning point of more shared experiences. The Lord inhabits the praise of His people…especially when those people are unified in a desire to offer Him music to the praise of His glorious grace!