I have always loved being in a band.
Well, let me amend that: most of the time I have loved being in a band.
The idea has appealed to me ever since one fateful night in the fall of 1966. My father came in the room to change the channels on the television, saying, “Hey, Dave, there’s a new show on I think you might like. It’s supposed to be funny.” He switched it over to the The Monkees, and I was hooked. The show was funny, but for me it connected on a whole other level. It made me want to play guitar. And not just play guitar: it made me want to play guitar in a band.
There is much to be said for one person playing solo guitar, accompanying themselves as they sing. I like the singer-songwriter genre, and there are a handful of artists who play and sing solo that I have listened to over the years. I enjoy singing and playing by myself, too. But there’s only so much you can do with one voice, six strings and ten fingers.
Add in another musician, and it gets more interesting. Now you can play complementary parts and sing a duet.
Add in two or three or more musicians, and suddenly it gets much more interesting. Singing three-four-and even five part harmonies is now possible, and instrumentally you go from one or two guitars, bass, drums and maybe even keyboard.
The best bands are the ones where everybody enjoys each other’s company, is respectful of each other, and where everyone leaves their egos at the door.
And as a general rule, unless you’re The Beatles, every band needs a leader: someone who can say, “This is the direction I think we should go, and this is how I think the song should sound.” Everybody else in the band ought to be able to voice their opinion, but then they should say, “Okay, if that’s what you think, that’s how we’ll try to do it.”
Sometimes being in a band can be miserable. If you have someone who has a “diva” (or “divo”) complex, that’s just not pleasant at all. This person thinks that he or she is better than everybody else, and tries to sing louder than everyone else, play over everyone else’s part, turn every difference of opinion into a federal case, tries to win every argument, take all the credit and hog the spotlight. Being in a band with someone like that is not a pleasant experience at all.
Being in a band where everyone knows their part, everyone plays their part and sings their harmony line, and where people are confident enough to “lay out” when needed (1.e.m to not play for a few moments in order to let other parts be heard better)…a band like that is a fantastic experience. All the people, all the pieces and all the parts come together to make something thrilling. It’s the old saying, “the whole is greater thank the sum of its parts”. When everybody is playing what they’re supposed to play, when they’re supposed to play it, the the best of their ability, and when every musician is listening to what everybody else is playing, and doing their best to fit in and complement what everyone else is playing…well, let me tell you, the experience is magical. Both the musicians and their audience are treated to a whole new level of delight.
I think there are some compelling parallels between musicians playing together and Christians being the church together.
We all need to have meaningful times alone with the Lord. A consistent time daily to read the Scriptures, to think about what God is telling us, and to talk to God in prayer is just as important to our spiritual health as eating good food every day is to our physical health. But you can take the solo approach too far. Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
But as believers in Jesus, we are commanded to congregate. The very definition of the word church communicates this idea. The Greek word ecclesia, translated church in English, means “a called-out assembly” or “people who have been called away from their normal pursuits to assemble together for a special purpose”. And the special purpose of Christians is to worship Jesus and carry out His commands together.
Something special happens when Christians get together to worship, something that doesn’t happen when you’re by yourself. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am among them.” (Matthew 18:20) The Lord is with you as you go through your life and when you worship Him alone, but He is there in special way when believers come together.
Every Christian needs to worship God together with other Christians at least once a week, on the Lord’s Day, Sunday. That’s where we sing together to the Lord, pray together, and listen together to His Word being preached and taught. We’re better together. We need each other, sinful strugglers though we all are.
And every Christian needs to be in a small group, like Sunday School or a home Bible study, on a weekly basis. The small group is where we can look each other in the eyes, share our struggles and our joys, bear each other’s burdens, and fulfill the “one another” commands of the New Testament. Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Add two or three Christians together, and it starts to get interesting: more testimonies about how God has worked in our lives, more insights about what we read in the Bible, more things to pray about and more people to pray with, and more encouragement from others in our walk with God. Add still more believers, in a Bible study, a Sunday School class or a worshiping congregation, and the richness of the experience can multiply exponentially.
A church, like a band, needs to have its leaders. These are the people the church chooses to fill the offices of elders and deacons, based on the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. And a church often chooses many others to serve in various ways within a congregation. These are all leadership positions.
And when the leadership has prayerfully considered a direction to go and presented it to the congregation, unless it’s illegal, immoral or fattening, the default response of the congregation ought to be, “Okay, if that’s what you think, we’ll give it a try.” (Well, fattening is probably okay.) If the leadership wants a church to do something that goes against Scripture, then raise some objections. Otherwise, say, “Sounds like a plan! Let’s give it a try!” Too often a church’s default response to direction from its leadership is to fold their arms and say, “I don’t like it!” Certainly you can voice your opinions (gently, in Christian love, without being angry or rude). You may be able to point out something that the leadership has missed. But having voiced your opinion, then get on board, play your part and see what God might do. I’ve discovered sometimes God gives good ideas to other people that He doesn’t give to me. You may find that true in your experience as well.
Sometimes being in church is miserable. When there is someone, or a handful of someones, who thinks that they are more spiritual than everyone else, who wants to have prominence in the church (like “Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first”, 3 John 9), who
always insists on having their own way, who turns every difference of opinion into a federal case, tries to win every argument, takes all the credit and hogs the spotlight…well, being in a church with people like that is not a pleasant experience at all.
But being in a church where everyone knows their part, everyone plays their part and exercises their spiritual gift, and where brothers and sisters in Christ are humble enough to let others shine (i.e., to let someone else get the credit or someone else’s idea be heard)…a church like that is a fantastic experience. All the members, all the gifts and all the acts of service come together to make something wonderful. It’s the church functioning as the Body of Christ, with Jesus as our Head, using us to accomplish His work.
When everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do, when they’re supposed to do it (as directed by the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, not our own self-centered desires), when we are serving to the best of our ability and depending on God to make up the lack, and when every member is respecting what everyone else is doing and trying their best to complement and help…well, let me tell you, the experience can be supernatural. Divine, even. Both believers and non-believers are witness to a whole new level of being the church. And in fact, that’s how it ought to be. That’s how the Lord of the church intended it to be.
When I was a teenager, before I or any of my friends could really play our instruments very well, sometimes we’d get to together in someone’s garage and say, “Let’s just jam!” That meant, “We really don’t know how to play any songs, but let’s all make some noise together and may it’ll sound good!” It almost never did. It usually sounded like chaos and mayhem. It took work to learn how to play a song together. And frankly, it took years and maturity to be able to play well together.
Too often in churches, we’re doing the spiritual equivalent of saying, “Let’s just jam!” Which means, “Let’s all just do our own thing and maybe it’ll turn out good!” But it almost never does. It takes willing hearts, sustained effort, and frankly, maturity to learn how to work together and minister together in Jesus’ name.
Songs and symphonies aren’t played accidentally. And a church is not built up accidentally, either. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). He builds the church, not us. But He won’t build it if we’re all running around, doing our own thing, ignoring what He said to do in His Word, and trying to advance our own personal agendas.
King David wrote, “How good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) That doesn’t mean “uniformity”. In a band, every musician and every instrument is different, but when they’re all playing together in unity and harmony, it can be really cool. In an orchestra, when forty or fifty musicians are all playing in unity and harmony, it’s majestic.
And in a church, when every member is worshiping and working together in unity and harmony, it’s the will of God.
That’s where God begins to work.
That’s where the Son is exalted.
That’s where the Holy Spirit begins to move.
And that’s where deep spiritual delight is found.
May God bless us with such an experience!
Soli Deo Gloria!