As school winds down, graduation celebrations peak, many of our Tennessee churches move toward a more relaxed season of the year – minus the Youth Choir tours, VBS music, Summer childrens music camps, of course. For many, however, Summer is a time when the Adult or Worship Choir reduces rehearsal time, some by taking a specific time off, and others by simply cutting down the length of rehearsals.
But what about you, Worship Pastors and Worship Musicians? Seems to me that Summer may be a perfect Growing Season for you. Time to read and study, time to take some lessons on an instrument, or get some vocal coaching. There are conferences available for personal growth in worship study, musicianship, family relations, and more. Of course whatever time you can spend at leisure with your family is critically important as well. Check out some of these planned conferences this Summer (listed below). If you have others that you attend and/or would recommend respond to the blog and we will post for shared reference. Please know that you are being prayed over as we tend to preparations here, and try to work in a bit of some of these same needs and growing opportunities ourselves. I sure hope ALL of you are planning to come and bring your Music Ministry Leadership for our Tennessee Music Ministry Leadership Conference in August!
SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY - THINK WORSHIP – JUNE 17 – 19, 2013
LifeWay Worship Week – Eric Geiger, Mike Harland, Jay Rouse, Ralph Vader
July 15-19, 2013 (Monday – Friday) - Ridgecrest, NC: LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center
Celebrating Grace – Bill Wilson, Mark Edwards, David Schwoebel, Stan Pethel
July 14 – 18, 2013 at Maryville College
TENNESSEE MUSIC MINISTRY LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
Sponsored by TBC Worship & Music Ministries – Brentwood Baptist, August 2-3, 2013
There are years that Pentecost Sunday and Mother’s Day land on the same Sunday, presenting a bit of a conflict issue for American churches. I mean, pitting Mom versus the the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church – really?
Good News!!! This year, Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12, and Pentecost Sunday is May 19. This provides opportunity for celebration of both Motherhood, and worship singing that celebrates the visitation of the Holy Spirit upon that church meeting in the Upper Room. I encourage you Worship Ministers to recognize each with appropriate worship opportunity through song and singing for your people. See the following:
Song for Mother’s Day
I love this song. Granted it is sung by one of my favorite singers and one of my favorite people, Kristyn Getty, but I hope you will hear its message. When the CD, Hymns for Christian Living, was recorded, Keith shared the recording with me. I cry every time I hear the song, including when I see the video linked below with little Eliza Joy Getty pictures. The emotive connections for me now, I think, are memories of my own children who are now grown and discovering their own callings and roads of life, but also as I consider my relation to my grandchildren, some of whom are about the age of Eliza. I think about the opportunities I have to influence their lives, and the prospect of planting seeds of faith in Christ. Kristyn’s sung prayer in this song reminds me that our time with children and grandchildren are limited. I find myself praying the prayer with Kristyn as she sings, remembering my own grown children as they parent our grandchildren. Listen to see if you don’t find an appropriate prayer here to share with moms on or around this Mother’s Day.
3. A Mother’s Prayer Music Video for your inspiration:
Our friends at Getty Music have made available a four-part setting of a wonderful song, Holy Spirit, that is perfect for use on Pentecost Sunday. If you would like a pdf file of this hymn you can email me, and I will forward to you this special gift the Gettys have made available to us. As usual, it provides a great match of text and tune, as well as a rich theologically reflective lyric. Send me an email and I will gladly forward you this gift from Keith & Kristyn.
Song for Pentecost Sunday
Getty Music has shared with us sheet music for ‘Holy Spirit Living Breath of God’ for you to consider using on Pentecost Sunday.
You can watch a live version of the song here:
While as Music Minister you may not have perogative to set thematic emphasis for these Sundays, you likely do have opportunity to plan the music for each day. Programming these songs and/or others that fit the special emphasis of Mother’s Day and Pentecost Sunday will offer your congregation opportunity to worship in concert with a large portion of Christian worshipers on each of these Sundays.
In the past ten days I have had incredible opportunities for participation in ministry situations that have prodded my little brain to think. As a part of sharing these experiences with you, let me invite you to contemplate with me as well. Here is the setup:
One of the questions I get asked from time to time and-or one of the challenges to fielding choirs, instrumental groups, and performing ensembles has to do with the place of “performative” groups or musicians in worship and ministry. I welcome this question and thinking wholeheartedly, because I believe it is critical for us to assess the “Why” of things we ask of our people and call it ministry. No doubt, we have all seen and/or been a part of trying to produce show-stopping presentations of music, whether patterned after the concert hall, Broadway, or the Nightclub & Bar down the street. Over the years, and particularly in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, the adage, “There’s no business like show business,” was in full vogue in many churches who wore the moniker “Baptist” (an oft-hidden title nowadays). As each pageant had to top the last, narrations grew to silhouettes behind scrims and later to full-costumed musical plays with special effects and interactive video. Whew!!! Makes me tired just typing it. Of course, a majority of our churches still field a choir that presents an anthem weekly in worship. Most church worship music ministries present services comprised of performative music at least two times a year.
In recent days I have spoken for a worship music ministry banquet and preached a message regarding church unity in worship expression (with former Tennessee Music Minister David Vaughan at Meadowbrook Baptist in Birmingham, AL), participated with the Centurymen at the Memorial service remembering the life and ministry contributions of Buryl Red, conducted a Concert of Worship Music with the Tennessee Mens Chorale at First Baptist Church Dandridge, sang in the Sanctuary Choir for the early service at my church, Forest Hills Baptist in Nashville, attended worship at First Baptist Nashville with my children and grandchildren where the choir sang “No More Night,” attended a wedding of the son of one of our worship music ministers and longtime friend, Richard Dickerson, and attended the Sunday night Worship Music presentation and service featuring combined choirs and orchestras of Tulip Grove Baptist, Old Hickory and First Baptist Lebanon. Much of this activity includes involves performing groups in atmospheres of worship. Below are some thoughts.
In each setting I experienced profound ministry thanks to the work and presentation of the music groups involved – choirs, ensembles, instruments, duets, pianists, and organists. I admit that there were moments in each setting that I wondered how everyone else was perceiving/receiving this ministry. I wondered whether my stirred heart was because of my predisposition to receive such music as ministry. I had to eventually answer, “yes.” But in response I did not conclude, “ok, that means worship leaders should give up, because only the musically educated will be stirred by their ministry.” To the contrary, what I concluded was that there is great reason for hope, because worship ministers have golden opportunity by helping to bring gathered worshipers to a point of interpretation and understanding. Even more importantly, worship ministers have relationships with people. I know that I have degrees in music, theological training, and have years of experience in worship music leadership. This does not mean, however, that these are prerequisites for comprehending the ministry that I have experienced in recent days. The real prerequisite is involvement in one anothers’ lives. I love David and Jill Vaughan, and have walked with them through a part of life’s journey. I love my Centurymen brothers and our director, Buryl Red, now passed on to glory. I love very deeply every member of the Tennessee Mens Chorale and their instrumentalists. I love my Worship Pastor, Wayne Causey, my “kids’” leader, Joe Fitzpatrick. Richard Dickerson is a lifelong brother. Our “kids” have shared life and Russell and my daughter Liz have been “buds” through high school band days. Phil Lundy and Zach Young who led Sunday night are like prizes in our TBC Worship Pastor trophy case. I am proud of their level of excellence in ministry and music. I have many ties to participants in all of these choirs and instrumental groups. All this means I trust the leadership and respond accordingly to the worship engagement that each of these directs. Therefore, whether I like the way they do any one particular thing becomes irrelevant. I trust their leadership toward an engagement with God through music. Their performance becomes ministry. I listen to hear words and messages in musical settings because I know and trust them.
I am convinced that we sell our people far short of their capability to understand, interpret, appreciate, and engage in worship that is fostered by performative music presentation. What is needed involves a patience with people’s shift from entertainment mentality to participatory mindset, and a determined effort to bring about that shift. Leaders must take the time needed to bring people along.
Sunday night, for example, Zach and Phil carefully planned scripture readings involving Pastor David Freeman and people in a way that helped to frame the worship and prepared worshipers to receive music as more than a performance aimed at “tickling their ears.” To the contrary, worshipers were asked to participate by singing songs like “Power of the Cross.” They (we) were engaged in functional listening whereby the worship was not observation, but rather active. This is the only way performance by groups engages worshipers. It is by active listening that passive becomes engaged, and the transition must come by an intentional effort on the part of leaders.
Let me encourage all of our leaders to be intentional about helping worshipers comprehend performance music and helping them to interpret lyrical and musical expression so they can do more than be entertained. Instead, they can participate in music that will minister to their souls and invite their praise if they will allow. When they trust you because they know you, they will follow your lead.
Quite often as I travel the state of Tennessee I have people in churches ask me, “When is the Tennessee Mens Chorale going to be singing in our part of the state again?” I know that many of you who read this blog are not singers in our Tennessee Mens Chorale and/or Tennessee Ladies Chorus, but given that my purpose in this blog-site is to encourage worship renewal particularly among churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, I want to at least inform you of a concert of worship music on Thursday, May 2, at First Baptist Church Dandridge, Tennessee featuring the Tennessee Mens Chorale.
This is a concert, but it is more than a music concert. It is a service of worship in its content, form, and we trust in its style. The content is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If anyone attends and is not confronted with the claims of God’s love through His provision of our Lord Jesus, then we are failing as a musical organization, and I as a musical director leading such a fine group of Christian men. If the service is not shaped in a format that aids in comprehending this Gospel then we have failed. If the styles represented fail to communicate with those who gather, or worse yet, fail to represent the characteristics and message of our Triune God, then we have come up very short of our intention and our calling as musician ministers.
If you are a male Minister of Music in a Tennessee Baptist church, then we want you to join us in proclaiming Gospel in content, form, and style. If you do not fit in this category but live in East Tennessee, and/or can get to First Baptist Dandridge Thursday, May 2, then we would love to have you join us for a night that we trust will be inspiring, enlightening, musically satisfying, and most importantly, worshipful.
Did you know that a singular singing voice departing a room of singing changes the conglomerate sound energy of the collective whole. There is a change that takes place. You see, every individual voice carries an imprint every bit as individual as fingerprints. Absent one voice from a room of singing, and the sound of necessity is changed. Your voice is a signature of you. Have you ever called someone you have not spoken with in quite some time, and had them recognize you right away over the phone? That is because they hear your voice. And your sound is unique
If you have not read my other blog site www.paulclarkjr.com I hope you will do so, as what I want to address here takes those thoughts a definite step further and a bit more focused. That article refers to the influence and legacy of George Beverly Shea and Buryl Red. I would like you to prayerfully consider the legacy you are leaving through your signature voice. And when I say, “signature voice,” I am not just referring to your singing voice, though that certainly may be a part of the legacy I am implying. I would include the voice of your teaching, coaching, admonishing, encouraging, nurturing, caring, preaching, and worshiping. Your voice extends into all the areas of worship & music ministry at all levels. It involves that voice at home, in staff meeting and personal and professional staff relationships, in collegial relationships with fellow worship & music pastors (insert plug for TMC/TLC and all things TBC Worship & Music Ministry here), as well as your own voice of worship when you are in the prayer closet. In each situation of life you have a voice, and no other voice can substitute for your own.
In your home: The old adage “more is caught than taught” applies here. Does your spouse get to hear your voice of woship? Do your children know your need for forgiveness, your voice of confession, and your song of praise and thankfulness to the Lord for His grace? Is there a song of worship from your voice on car trips, vacations, and trips to drop kids off at school?
With pastor and staff: They know you are the one responsible for worship ministry, but do they know your voice of worship as you share about people’s needs, by your voice of hunger to know Him more, or your voice of genuine caring for them, and fellowship in Christ? Do you protect your ministry resource turf, or lend your voice to worship the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills? Is there a voice of singing that accompanies your ministry and service together?
With other worship pastors: Do you take the time to be with other worship ministers for fellowship, shared ministry and accountability? Do you lend your voice to the community of worshiping worship pastors in concert, demonstrating humility of participant choir member and fellow servant? (DID I MENTION TMC AND TLC??) Does your voice sing when your brother in the church down the street is blessed with incoming talent or other resource that will glorify our Lord?
In Your Ministry: Is your voice heard offering thanks for those serving with you in your ministry? Is the sound of your voice encouraging and admonishing a familiar sound for those who sing in your choirs, play in your groups, or worship in your pews? Can your voice be heard praying prayers that would release talented leaders to serve in the Kingdom in places not directly benefiting you?
In Your Prayer Closet: Is there a worship rhythm of revelation and response in your prayer closet, whereby your voice is silent, listening to hear the Spirit’s revelation and revealing Word in scripture, followed by your voice of praise and thanksgiving in response, and again the voice of silence, and again, response in continuous song of a thankful worshiping heart.
The poignant lyric of Fred Pratt Green is the text of the benedictory sending song that the Tennessee Ladies Chorus use in closing their concerts, as they did Sunday night closing the concert of worship music with Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Old Hickory. When setting the lyric to new music thinking of this benedictory purpose I wanted the piece to serve as a means of underscoring that we musicians wanted our music to serve the purpose of glorifying Him, not our music, and certainly not ourselves. I hope the somewhat understated music score helps communicate that message. As a matter of spiritual dynamic, however, this purpose is likely served more by the clear intention (meaning) of the singers. For those that may not know this rich text, her is the first stanza, which is all our TLC setting includes:
When in our music God is glorified
And adoration leaves no room for pride,
It is as though the whole creation cried
What is praised here is not music. It is God. It does not say when we try, but when He is glorified. Pride is dwarfed by the overpowering adoration of the Creator – Giver God, Who has made possible not only our music-making, but even the adoration itself and our approach to offer it to Him as well. More reason for thankfulness and adoration. We may not summons all of creation, but we connect as though the whole creation cries (with us), “Alleluia!”
I cannot see into their hearts, but I get the very strong sense from our TLC singers that this is their heart, their intention. I am continually and deeply humbled at the opportunity to stand before our Tennessee musicians in times of concerted worshipful praise. I recognize the efforts made just to “get there,” given from whence all the singers have come. The sisterly spirit is palpable with display of Christian hospitality. Part of the experience is certainly music-making, and that is certainly made more beautiful by this Christian spirit.
The time of worship at Tulip Grove Baptist Church was rich with meaning and significance. While some may evaluate primarily by numbers of people in the congregation, I choose to make assessment based on a more holistic valuation. Appraising otherwise might miss the looks of response on the faces of those among the congregation with tearful eyes, graceful smiles, or concerned expressions. Over-emphasis on expedience might cause one to scurry away following the service, and miss out on the story from a pastor of a “turn around” church who attended the concert accompanied by ten children with whom the church intends to begin a children’s choir. Haste might miss the words of another pastor who simply stated, “my spirit was thirsty for this…you just don’t know what a blessing this music has been for me.”
Responses like these indicate to me that ministry has taken root in the hearts, minds, and spirits of those attending. I know ministry takes place among those making the music for praise, as it certainly did in the director as well.
I give thanks for the privilege of being part, and pray that God, and God alone is glorified in our music.
I love to tell the story for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest
Those men who participated in our Tennessee Mens Chorale retreat a couple of years ago may recall special moments of worship we shared revisiting this old hymn lyric, and allowing it to become new in us. While we were preparing at that point to utilize the song for an annual meeting, as requested by our Executive Director, its words seemed poignant to take fresh root and express worship. Several commented then, and some have remembered those moments since, about the fresh impact of singing that hymn had, renewing commitment, reminding of thankfulness. Something beyond articulating happens when familiar song touches the depths of our soul and reminds us of message, meaning, and significance. Its truth, however, lives far beyond the moment. Perhaps a real indicator of a worthy text for worship.
I have been reminded this Lenten season of the hunger, thirst, and joy I have in telling (and especially singing) the story of Jesus. For many reasons, I purposefully avoided taking an interim music ministry leadership position since the first of the year. I wanted freedom to visit worship in some of your churches, have done consulting with you and your pastors per request, and have filled in for a few of you who needed to be away for a Sunday or Wednesday. When I was not in your churches, or doing other TBC work, I have been in choir at Forest Hills. It has been very good for me. (Can’t speak for Wayne, but…I jest) I have been reminded of many things that choir participation brings, but I want to focus on one of the greatest joys, because I want to encourage you to once again remind your people (just in case you need a little reminder prod from Uncle Paul).
First, our hunger and thirst to hear it like the rest is tantalized and stirred by our choral participation. Yes, you can get this in other ways – worship band only folks, just make it fit your genre for now, ok? – but repeating phrases while working on parts, or dynamics, or rhythmic unity, allows the story to tease my spirit. There’s no great metaphor for this, so I will use food. J I know that communicates. When Easter dinner was cooking at our house, the smells all call on my senses. I could sense my saliva glands preparing themselves. There comes a time when I start sneaking around to get a sneak preview – a taste of this, just one bite of that. I want to eat. I love to watch grandchildren start to imitate the patterns. I have used them for excuse enough (knowing Ebbie will give in to their wanting a taste) that the older ones totally catch on. They first imitate my hunger and thirst, then it took hold somewhere, and now they are hungry and thirsty without provocation. (part biology, part developmental environment I think)
Following this season of celebrating THE STORY, HIS STORY, I encourage you to keep digging with choir. Keep mining the music for phrasing that paints a text well, or rhythm or dynamics that convey the drama. Remain sensitive to ways the art “just works” in the lives and expressions of choir members. Give them opportunity, perhaps, to tell you what happens in them as they sing the songs, work the phrases, and unveil truth from the inside out.
Hope you will plan to join us for coming opportunities to make music together!! Come hungry and thirsty!!
In his weekly email to staff our Executive Director almost always signs off with something about being on the journey with us. This always resonates with me, as I often think of life and ministry as journey.
I frequently say (and very much mean it) that I have the best job on the Tennessee Baptist Convention Ministries staff. The main reason I make that statement is that I dearly love those with whom it is my assigned responsibility to work most closely, our minister musicians, all those who work to serve their churches or schools through musical expression, training, leading, and support. I have a sense that in many ways we think in similar ways. We think about much of the same things. Our concerns and struggles are similar. I believe we are on a common journey together. We travel a road that we pray is a Kingdom road, blessed by God, enabled because of and thus always pointing to Christ, empowered and ongoingly reformed by the conviction and correction of the Holy Spirit through scripture and through fellowship.
Last week a few Middle Tennessee Worship Music Ministers gathered for a time of open discussion and a shared meal. We talked openly about the challenges of this holy season of the year. We shared changes in our own paths that have led most of us toward a more sensitive embrace of the Christian year. We discussed the struggle that presents as a worship music leader in a secularized culture that values leisure above devotion. We recognized a gap between our grasp of the significance of the time and that of those in our congregations, including in some cases our choirs and other music forces. We discussed responses to the challenge, and I believe inspired one another relative to our determination in the face of those trials. It was good to work on it together, though we are in very different settings.
Yesterday I had lunch with one of our newer worship pastors in the state. We had a wonderful visit. To hear his heart’s desire to bring his congregation and music leaders along toward Kingdom focus was inspiring, especially given his young age and newness to our state. I am grateful the Lord brought him to serve here, and yesterday was great reminder to me that this means we get to travel part of the road together. As part of sharing we both agreed that we are richly blessed to be able to do what we do. Recounting those blessings with fellow travelers both stirs our minds to think of ways we are blessed, and inspires our spirit to travel on.
Anytime someone asks me, “What exactly do you do?” I always include my blessed opportunity to travel the journey alongside our pastoral music leaders. I know from personal experience that the journey can become lonely when a senior pastor’s support becomes strained, weakened, or sadly non-existent. I know the stress of people applying pressure for their way when we are seeking the way of the Holy Spirit’s guiding. I know the isolation of planning for biblical worship in the pressure cooker of public opinion. I know the strain of working with limited resources, whether financial or personnel. Having been there personally allows me some insight as to where you, our worship music leaders, are along the path. I have by no means “arrived,” but I have come to realize the critical importance of not traveling the journey alone. I admit that I run short of time to foster the fellowship among you at the level that I sincerely wish I could. I find myself wishing I had more hours in the day, more days in the week…and remembering that God gives unto each day what He deems best.
I trust that you who serve as worship music ministry leaders know that our Tennessee Baptist Mens Chorale and Tennessee Ladies Chorus, as well as all the events we plan for training and fellowship are planned to help bring us together to foster healthy worship ministry practices, to strengthen you in your role of serving the church and fulfilling the Great Commission while observing the Great Commandment. I hope you know that our appeals for you to be involved are founded in a hunger for shared blessing, you blessing others and others blessing you through shared experience. I believe we need you, and you need us. How about getting on board.
Because this week is a particularly busy one for most all of you in church ministry of worship leadership, I try to leave you alone. Nevertheless, in this busy yet holy week of needed spiritual blessing I am praying daily for just that upon you, your families, the work of your hands, and Holy Spirit power. I pray your freedom to know the surpassing joy of the Risen Christ, especially this coming Lord’s Day as you lead in the celebration of that joy.
Thank you for allowing me to travel part of the journey with you. Your fellowship is a gift of grace.
I wish all Tennessee Worship Ministers and Pastors could have been part of last Sunday night’s St. Patrick’s Day Concert at the Ryman with Keith & Kristyn Getty and Friends. Besides being a fantastic worship music feast, it was just flat fun to look around the room and see so many of our Tennessee Baptists worshiping together amongst the sellout crowd at the World-famous Ryman Auditorium. While my view of the stage was not the best, I had a preferred view of Tennessee Ladies Chorus and Tennessee Mens Chorale folk who were directly across from me in the other balcony, and some of them, like me, had their families with them…a special treat to see our loved ones worshiping together with one another! I had to think this was a little bit of heaven. What a marvelous way to prepare our hearts for Holy Week and the season of Easter.
Sunday night was a reminder of why the relationship with the Gettys is important to me and to us, and I believe important for worship in our churches. The songs that they are giving the Church are theologically rich and liturgically applicable to the worshiping Church in many ways. One Song helps us pray as disciples, offering to God the work of our days and asking him to be honored in all we do that it may display Christ. The final set of songs took the worshipers through a time of deep reflection and praise-filled celebration of Jesus’ time in Gethsemane, the cross, and the Resurrection. The singing certainly resonated on a personal level, often drawing tears from this worshiping grandfather who was blessed to be singing with two grandchildren close by. The thing I so deeply appreciate about these modern hymns is that they never stoop to the kind of self-absorption that so sadly and all too frequently characterizes songs and singing that takes place in many evangelical churches. Far too many worship songs seem to turn focus on the worshiper rather than the One we say we are worshiping. Whereas, for example, there is clarity of the Gospel message and focus in songs like The Power of the Cross, See What a Morning, and the always powerful, In Christ Alone. There is Godward direction in the prayersong, Holy Spirit, and in the battle song, O Church Arise.
In a time when we as Tennessee Baptists are being asked to strengthen our resolve to share our faith, and bare witness to so many all around us who are lost, it seems crucial to me for our gathered worship to be characterized by lifting up the person of Jesus for the world to see. It seems to me that we simply must avoid Satan’s tempting trap to grab a little attention for ourselves, or to be more concerned with “feeling good” in worship than we are with pointing to the Christ Who is the only power for transforming lives from lostness to glorious salvation in Him.
I consider the Gettys to be friends, and certainly appreciate the incredible talents with which they have been blessed, as has the entourage they enlist to join them. I realize the potential for the level of celebrity they enjoy to become a distraction to them, or to us as we engage in opportunities for shared service through music-making. It is important to pray to be guarded against such distraction. Another rich indication of the value of the Getty songs, however, is that like all worthy worship material, they turn thoughts and affections away from distraction and toward Christ.
Keith & Kristyn have asked that the Tennessee Ladies Chorus & Tennessee Mens Chorale once again serve as the choir for their Irish Christmas tour grand finale at the Schermerhorn this next year. Of course I told Keith that I continue to remain committed to our participation.
I know full well that many of our worship music ministers are overloaded with responsibilities of preparing for special Palm Sunday or Easter music presentations. To assist your personal preparation for worship leadership responsibilities consider singing through some of these modern hymns that might assist you to keep mind and heart on Christ!
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 held powerful moments that I was not at all expecting. Those moments continue to speak into worship gatherings for me. I want to pass those thoughts on to you, knowing that you who help to facilitate the worship of your church likewise have encounters and moments through your days that deserve to speak into the worship gatherings of those you lead.
As I have previously shared, the week of February 25 – March 1 was a week I had committed to serving as clinician for the Watauga Baptist Association’s 35th Annual Music School. I love doing this event, and spending time with the folks in the upper northeast corner of our state. During that same week Scott Andrews’ dad went home to be with the Lord. I felt that pull to be in several places at one time. As part of my personal journey through Lent this year I was praying for wisdom and insight even into these pressing needs, and my responses to them as a minister, and as a brother in Christ. The Lord impressed upon my spirit that I could not be everywhere. That conviction brought about spiritual surrender followed by a sense of peace. On Tuesday, I received a text message from Dr. Clark Measels at Carson Newman telling me that Dr. Louis Ball had gone to the hospital and was likely going to refuse any drastic treatment. I rearranged Wednesday afternoon appointments and drove to Knoxville to see Dr. Ball.
The hour in that hospital room was priceless in multiple ways. First, Dr. Ball wanted to process his decision regarding his refusal of surgery. We talked about facing our fears, we prayed and cried a bit. He knew where He was going, and who was waiting for him there. Amidst his words of affirmation of my work (he was always a great encourager) I told him how meaningful it was for me to see Mary Charlotte and him sitting at the front of the balcony at First Baptist Jefferson City during our Youth Project Youth Choir events, and at the chapel when the Tennessee Mens Chorale sang. He seemed to take some pleasure in those memories. We talked about the early days of the “Volunteer Chorale” as it was known in its start, when he directed the group. We laughed a bit about the blessing of directing directors. He had some humorous remembrances about singing for WSM Television, the Southern Baptist Church Music Conference, and other presentations where the group felt the pressure of being at their best. During our time of visiting I was keenly aware of the Spirit’s presence warming our hearts, and freeing our lips to express kindness and care.
An hour or so after I left the hospital I received another text from Clark Measels, this time stating, “Louis has gone into a coma.” Thursday morning’s 8:29am message was that our friend had died. My mind raced to consider the precious gift of those moments on Wednesday, the fact that I was able to be there to experience them, and the reminder that though I could not be everywhere, the Holy Spirit can be, and was comforting our brother and his family in Memphis, even as He was present with those close to Dr. Ball.
I do not profess to know what spirits, like Dr. and Mrs. Ball, can and cannot see from their knew home with Jesus. I have heard pastors and others speculate on such matters. I do know this, however. I have a vivid image in my mind of Louis & Mary Charlotte Ball seated in the front row of the balcony at First Baptist Church Jefferson City, Tennessee, overlooking a mass choir of students singing anthems of church music offering praise to the Lord. I have a picture in mind of that same couple seated toward the back of that same room listening to a choir comprised of Worship Minister Musicians. I have in my memory bank words of priceless affirmation in these scenarios when these two church music giants said, “Keep it up!” “You are doing the right things.” “This is what we need.”
I find that during gathered worship, as the church sings, there is something of the spirit and visual memories of Louis & Mary Charlotte that speak to me, and remind me of a great cloud of witnesses, and remind me that those gathered on a given Sunday morning are not the first, nor the last, to join the song of praise. I pray that we who have opportunity to lead in worship through music or otherwise will broaden our horizon to grasp more of the breadth of worship. It is so much larger than “what we want right now,” for we “join the everlasting song and crown Him Lord of all!”