Thursday, October 18, 2007

You think you're a rock star, S.A.?

Get it? That's not racist is it? I mean, it's dumb and not-funny, but I think it's probably harmless.

Whatever. Either way, here's the recap of last weekend in San Antonio. It was a great time.

Friday I did a house concert in the Spring Branch area, which is right off 281, between San Antonio and New Braunfels. Kelly and Tiffany Tremont were the hosts, and the leadership of Riverside Community Church put it all together. They had the show in the Tremonts' really cool, really massive backyard. The weather was surprisingly fantastic.

Keith Sewell, my good friend and the co-owner of The MixLab, came along and played percussion. He also sang harmony of several of the songs and basically conquered the world with sonic beauty. It was a really great show. We played for about 90 minutes for about 50 people, and got a great response. Really felt like God was doing some God stuff.

Sold enough CD's to pay Keith a little and still make some money.

Keith had to leave for a vacation with his wife (which is almost as cool as playing house shows for very little money), so I went and stayed with Darrell Smith and his family. Darrell is a good friend, a sometimes-client at the studio, and also a really great musician and songwriter. He helped me set up the whole weekend and his wife was kind enough to let me interrupt their lives for 48 hours or so.

During the day on Saturday, I rode along with Darrell and his drummer/pal AJ Navarro to a day-time gig they had at T Bar M in New Braunfels. It was fun. We led worship, and I just played second acoustic and sang some harmony. I had to read charts and everything. I never get to do that kind of thing. It was good for me. Darrell did a great job leading, and that was cool to see as well.

That night I did another house show, this time at the home of Keith and Dinah Shelly. Dinah is Darrell's sister, and they have a really cool house. It was another backyard deal. AJ agreed to sit in with me and, despite the fact that we didn't practice at all, he nailed it about 99% of the time.

The crowd was a little smaller at this show. Maybe 40 people. Still big for a house concert, though. Darrell took some pictures with his fancy new iPhone. They're not really very good, but I wanted to put them here anyway, to show that iPhones, though nifty, are crap cameras. Those Apple people think they're such hot snot, you know?

Again, great show. Props to Darrell for taking pictures that would probably be awesome if his phone wasn't trying to pretend like a real camera.

The next morning I went back out to Spring Branch and played the morning service at Riverside Community Church. My friend Scott Heare is the pastor there, and it was really great to be with him and the people of Riverside.

OK, here's where I do a little brutal honesty. You expect that from me, right?

First, let me give away the punchline: I sincerely enjoyed my time at the Sunday gathering of Riverside Community Church.

So what? Big deal.

Well, here's the brutal part. I hardly ever feel that way when I work with other churches besides my own. It's not like I always hate everything about every single church besides Community Church. It's not that extreme. It's just that I usually sit thru church services and think something like "I got paroled from this kind of white-collar jail a while ago, and I don't want to go back." Hey, I know how that sounds. I tried to think of a better metaphor -- something not quite as harsh -- but I came up blank.

Am I saying that being involved in another church besides my own would be comparable to being in jail? Of course not. I know a guy who is in prison right now, and it would be terribly insulting and insensitive to make that kind of serious comparison.

I just mean that, at my church, I feel really, really free. I feel like I can really be myself. I feel like people are really relaxed and alive. I feel like the Spirit of God is absolutely welcome and wanted. I feel like real relationships are prioritized over policies and schedules.

And at most churches, that's not how I feel. Again, I'm not saying those places are dungeons of nasty wickedness or whatever. I'm just saying that other places feel, quite often, like something far less than CHURCH to me.

And I'm saying that Riverside's Sunday gathering felt more like real CHURCH than lots of the Sunday gatherings where I am graciously allowed to lead and play.

So, if I've been to your church lately, don't get all huffy and defensive. I don't claim to be an authority on all-things-church-related. I'm just a guy with opinions. More than anything, I'm trying to tell you that Riverside is a cool church.

And maybe I'm also trying to make you (and me, all of us) think about what kind of environments we are creating and maintaining and protecting in our faith communities; what sorts of "greenhouses for the soul" we are building among our people and in our various gatherings.

That's all.

I'm open to any/all discussion on this. Anybody think I'm being unfair? Anybody think I have wrong desires/expectations for church? Hey, let's talk.

So Riverside was fun. Scott gave a really great teaching. The people worshiped like crazy. The church paid me real money. The people bought crazy amounts of CD's.

And I got home in time to worship with Community Church on Sunday night.

Great weekend.

I have one more house show to recap. The ubiquitous Hendrick family hosted me for a show this past Tuesday, and I need to write about how cool it was. Soon.

Also, I'll announce the winner of the marquee contest early next week.


Alex Burdine said...

if "ese" was spelled "S.A." then it would be racist, but otherwise, you're good.

do you think it's the nature of your job, Ross, that makes you feel weird about other churches? on one hand you're treated REALLY well, but on other hand, you're the new guy that no one knows what to do with (insert weird road story here).

Just curious. I love com church and know that I wouldn't be free like I am without it (although I had a head start with Jim and Dawn as parents) However, I see a byproduct of traveling a lot and not being connected to a given church for too long as a potential bummer enhancer.

It sure makes me wonder have "professional worship leaders" do their job 300 days a year on the road.

anyway, just a thought.

Alex Burdine said...

p.s. I wrote that in a rush, so if it doesn't make sense then just ignore it.

oh, and you were right about "the office" US. AMAZING.

I said it: ross was right.

Johnny! said...

How would you define "free" as you used it in your description?

rk said...

first of all, big props for giving US Office a chance. Glad you like it.

second, i think you're absolutely right with the point you're making about "professional worship leaders." I have this whole long theory about all that (maybe someday...), and that's really one of the main reasons that I decided to be a part of Community Church. I needed that kind of connection for the "traveling" part of my life to make sense.

I'm not sure that's totally tied to what I'm getting at here (and I'm not sure that it's not), but either way, I'm with you that there's a problem that nobody seems to be talking about. How good can I be at leading "the church" if most of my time is spent on a "tour bus"?

For the record, I don't have a tour bus, but you get the idea.

I think my problem is simpler than that, though. Honestly, I'm really just talking about how phony and formal and no-fun most church gatherings seem to me. I'm not talking about liturgy or rituals. I'm actually really into all that kind of stuff, and our church does a bit of it. I'm talking about "preacher voice" and rock-star worship leaders and the fact that people seem to freak out if anything at all goes off the written, rehearsed schedule. I'm talking about things looking/feeling more like a congressional session or a funeral or a theater production than like a family gathering or a party with friends.

I'm saying that I act like me whether it's at the Sunday gathering or not. Scot and Thad (pastors at Com Church) pray the same way whether they're with their wife and kids or they're on stage. I don't see a lot of that kind of consistency out there.

I don't know if that makes sense. Either way, I really do know that I'm making snap judgments about places/people that I don't know very well (that's the other part where you've definitely nailed it).


I hope that when I say "free" I mean what Paul meant when he said that "it was for freedom that Christ has set us free, no longer to be subject to the yoke of slavery..." But maybe I mean something else much less biblical or noble.

Again (see my thoughts to alex), I'm not strictly talking about anything at all resembling reverence or formality. I just mean that people seem to be less themselves when they gather together and call it "big church" than they are other times. And that doesn't look like freedom to me.

Maybe in my mind (with regard to this issue), the opposite of freedom isn't bondage (necessarily). Maybe the opposite of freedom, in this case, is phoniness.

Hey, I don't know. Thoughts? Anybody else want to jump in?

Johnny! said...

I'll buy that. I didn't expect that you meant what seems to be the common definition when "free" is applied to a worship service, that is, "I get to do whatever I feel like at the time." I take you to be saying that under most of the kinds of circumstances you and I find ourselves in it's difficult for you to pour yourself into what is going on. Me too. I usually find it hard to figure out what the heck we're even doing. I think that is the crisis in the Churches in our country. A reform in liturgy (and no, I don't think y'all all need prayer books) away from self-centered experience seeking is critical, IMO.

Lauri Hahn said...

Not being a member of Riverside CC or the Honeycomb Hideout that this blogspot can sometimes be (in a good way!!!) I still feel the need to chime in on church wierdness.

Every Christian has a different BC/AD story to tell about themselves and a list of influences, preferences and differences.

Having said that, my observation has been that somewhere between "bad" churches looking too much like the world & "worse" churches acting pious to appease projected, unfair & unbiblical expectations, you find a lot of Christians who have never really seen what free looks like with a capital F.

For whatever reason, that kind of free is rarely lived out but passionately craved by every single believer who wishes they could be themselves (the new, clean, improved version) but "can't" because from what they've seen & maybe been told, no part of their old selves was salvageable and so looking anything like your old self wouldn't be Christian-like. They're left with "who the heck am I, then?"

They figure all of this "dying to one's self," "taking up one's cross," and "fellowshipping with His sufferings" stuff must also be about identity & this must be what it feels like to lose yourself to Jesus. Better to be a Christian who has lost your je ne cest quois but gained your salvation than to be a lukewarm wad for God's spitoon.

Even really great, well-meaning churches full of godly people can have a tight set of Christian culture gender-specific expectations. I am not saying that there AREN'T real gender-specific (or any other specific/non-specific)expectations from Jesus CLEARLY lined out for us. It's just that some go too far; beyond His expectations & into someone else's. Been there.

In a nutshell, what I am saying is that some church things are drags b/c they end up being like a Jr. High sock hop; no one's really sure of who they are, whether or not they want to fit in or stand out or how to best express any of that under the guidelines clearly explained. So they just act like it's fun because they're sure about it supposing to BE fun.

That's why (I think) shame & pride are bedfellows. The message that the Lord created us to be unique individuals, quirks & all is lost on so many believers today. Somewhere along the way, being a Christian suddenly started to look like a drag instead of the amazing, FREEING, impossible to compare life it is.

Johnny! said...

That's some good stuff, right there.

Big Ham said...

good post, man.
I've been thinking a lot about my church experiences.

In a nutshell: grew up in a Christian home, started doubting towards end of high school, unbelief freshman year in college, dragged to faith by God through series of events and conversations with on-the-rise brother/theologian.

I think a lot of what contributed to both not really having "saving faith" to begin with, and slipping away from the church is something that you address here and in some of your songs.

Your music has really helped me put words to a lot of my thoughts- "Non-Religious Me" in particular.

I think people go to church, see everybody's "best foot forward" and tend to isolate doubts, questions, and sins. Because it looks like everybody else has everything under control and everybody else can't be struggling with the same things I'm struggling with.

And I think that leads to a lot of lonely struggles and eventually lonely failures.

But, thats just my two cents...

I think you definitely need to blog about the funeral fistfight, the river rat, the bed mouse, the "penis" defense, and whatever else your hiding in that noggin..

-David Hamilton

Big Ham said...

maybe I should have said "on-the-rise-theologian/brother"...?

Big Ham said...
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