Bivocational Drummer: Meetups with two pros and a hack

This past week, I met with two drummers that are very much part of the music industry.  One played tracks for Elton John’s latest movie and the other played with Kanye out in the mountains.  I met with them to hear their experiences as drummers and to deepen my own understanding of identity as a musician.  

I’m a bivocational minister and musician.  My path led me towards ministry (corporate chaplain) as a life calling.  This means that I am primarily devoted to being a sacramental presence in the marketplace, providing care to employees.

But I have also been playing drums since I was a kid, mostly in church settings.  I’m not a classically trained musician. I don’t read sheet music. I don’t know much about music theory.  And I don’t have deep aspirations to “make it” in the music industry. I just don’t.  

But I do have a longing to create music, play with great musicians, and facilitate times during musical worship where people experience the Presence of God in deep ways.  

While meeting with these great drummers, we talked about life, spirituality, and how music impacts our hearts.  They shared how the music industry and being a full time musician can be tough on a soul. While they’ve had great experiences, they’ve also wrestled with the realities of life.  One drummer said that the industry is a like a machine. Gotta stay relevant, say yes to everything asked of you, and eventually leads to burn out.  

We didn’t talk about technique, how to have more chops, or how to land the gig.  We didn’t talk about Elton John or Kanye West. We talked about the deeper things in life that we long for and wrestle with.  

I’ve been thinking of both interactions and wondering about my sense of musicianship and personhood.  In both interactions, I was both a minister and musician. Musicians have their own language and culture.  They see and think about things differently. Artists are wrestling with truth and trying to give it expression.  They’re the last standing prophets to call out the BS and wake us up to a new normal.  

I had more clarity of the kind of musician I’d like to be:  someone who wrestles with truth and beauty, inviting people into a new normal through the power of music.  

Urbana18: Nothing new in Revelation

[NOTE:  This year, I have the opportunity to play drums for the Urbana conference and be the band chaplain.  From their site:

Urbana is a catalytic event bringing together a diverse mix of college and graduate students, faculty, recent graduates, pastors, church and ministry leaders, missions organizations and schools.

I’m posting thoughts/reflections on being musicians, ministers, and mission-minded that are shaped by scripture, tradition, and our own experiences.  This year, Urbana has chosen the theme “Faithful Witness” and the book of Revelation to discern our role in God’s mission for the world.  I’m also using a rubric of character, competency, chemistry, and culture to organize thoughts and ideas.]

Eugene Peterson says that there is nothing new being said in the book of Revelation.  I found that deeply profound given that my pentecostal/dispensationalist background gave me a sense that Revelation was about futuristic, catastrophic events occurring on earth.  Rapture.  Wars.  Famine.  Earthquakes.  The Anti-Christ (Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, The Pope, Barak Obama, Trump).

So when I read Psalm 93:1,25, I was yet again reminded of Peterson’s adage:  there’s nothing new being said.  God has been saying it “…in the beginning”.

The team has been thinking about Revelation 4-5, which has been dubbed “The Throne room scene”.  What John saw then is what the Psalmist says thousands of years prior:

1 The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;

the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.

2 Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.

Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
    holiness adorns your house
    for endless days.

Why does the Lord reign?  And why is that good news?  And how does the Lord rule and reign?  That’s probably the most important question for me.  In other words, whose in charge and are they worthy of leading?

In the marketplace, a company takes its shape and form from the leaders (those who rule and reign).  The manner of leading trickles down the pike and influences each person.  Leadership is very important.  It sets vision and values which impact the culture of a company.

As Christians, we profess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  He rules and reigns with justice, mercy, and unfailing love.  That’s a great description of a leader!

As musicians leading people in worship, I’m a bit holy-scared!  How and why is that God would choose to use some rag-tag people with unclean lips and impure hearts to lead people into His throne room?  I’m not trying to paint a sad picture of our depravity, but in some ways, God’s presence doesn’t allow me to stay unexposed.  All things are brought to the light and because he rules with justice and mercy, I’m in good hands.

Someone taught early on my musician formation that we play because we motivated and compelled to worship the living God.  When I play at church, people come up to me and say, “I knew it was you playing today…I could feel you.”  That means a lot to me because I want every beat to a passionate prose of worship to the living God.  I’m captivated by this Jesus as King figure!  I’m moved by His love for me and for you.  And I want the music to reflect it.