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Dealing With Complacency

It doesn’t matter how many seats are in the auditorium, how talented the musicians, how awesome the gear, or how beautiful the song: at some point or another, we all have to deal with the cancerous disease of complacency. And I’ve noticed that how we deal with it, in our circles of influence is not only like a window into our true motives, but also a core sample of our effectiveness as leaders, and sometimes more importantly, as friends.

In my current stage of life, I’ve held every position in a worship band except choir director. Everything from part -time volunteer to creative director, and in one terrible, regretful case, drummer.

But a portion of the undercurrent of all my experiences (except the drumming one) has been a passion to be effective at whatever I, or the band I’m in, am/is doing. It’s something I believe musicians are called to, and it’s something about which I have a tendency to be outspoken, occasionally rather loudly.

Regardless of my personal convictions, I think there are three things worship leaders and support staff can do to create a culture that hates complacency and loves excellence. And that culture, as long as it’s focused on the advancement of God’s name and leading people in His worship, must exist.

 

First of all, this discussion is much bigger than music stands, so if that’s what you think of when you think “complacency,” then stop now. Well, don’t stop now. Keep reading, and then stop. I’ll agree that a music stand is a crutch, but I’m not sure it’s as big a deal as we sometimes make it out to be.

 

The first real step in combatting complacency is cultivating relationships. That seems to be the first step in combatting a lot of negative things, go fig.

What I mean is, if you have no rapport with your team, they won’t be receptive to your efforts to push them toward excellence. (Side note: Don’t assume that just because you’re behind the microphone or have a title, you know what excellence looks like. Yikes.)

Good rapport consists of three things: mutual attention, mutual positivity, and coordination. Thanks, Wikipedia. But that makes sense, right? I can’t effectively express my passion for excellence to you if there’s no pretense between us. I’ll look or sound like a witch, a spook, a goof, or a jerk, and none of those things make you want to do what I suggest. But if there’s a relationship between us, you know what drives me, and I know what drives you, we can communicate in a way that fosters legitimate growth, and that should be what we’re both after.

 

 

The second is proper planning. Get Planning Center. It will be one of the best tools you’ve ever used. If you’ve already got it, use it. In addition to allowing you to make detailed, info-rich plans for your team members, utilizing the tools in Planning Center will provide a few indirect results that will help you combat complacency.

You send me, the bassist (it’s always the bassist), a Planning Center schedule on Tuesday for the following Sunday. Assuming there is a weekly rehearsal that isn’t within 24 hours of the plan being sent, that’s a more than reasonable amount of time to practice on my own. But I show up completely unprepared, with no legitimate excuse. It’s time for a powwow.

Using the tools Planning Center has to offer not only allows you to better equip your team, but it also allows you to quickly identify potential problems with complacency and devotion.

But this only works if you’ve got the first step under your belt. Who cares that you’re disappointed if we’re not friends? Why should I put in the practice time if we don’t have the same goals? Big deal, I didn’t practice. That’s what rehearsal is for. Etc.

 

 

The third is effective rehearsal time. Few things show respect for your team like respecting their time. And if you’ve fostered good relationships and provided proper planning, this is really the icing on the Complacency Combat Cake.

Have specified beginning and end times for rehearsals. If you don’t get to everything on the set list, it gets cut. Over time, you’ll get the hang of the time constraint, and you’ll get to everything.

Cutting what you don’t rehearse does two things: it shows your team that you’re serious about getting them out of rehearsal and back to their families/lives on time, and it shows them that you’re serious about excellence. A “que sera sera” attitude really should have no place in rehearsal. Leading God’s people in worship is a big responsibility, and to take it so lightly is no good. Saying, “We didn’t get to that last song, but we’ve played it 1000 times,” communicates “I’m ok with the possibility of a train wreck. I hope you remember the break before the chorus.”

If a band member is late, start without them. If the guitar players patch cables don’t work, cut the pedal board and go straight from guitar to amp.

 

If the first two steps are done, giving these extra authoritative pushes to your team will be easier and will foster growth, mutual respect, and most importantly, a desire for continued excellence. It won’t happen overnight, and requires effort and time, but if we want our teams to share our devotions, visions, and desires for excellence, these steps are a necessity.

 

Feel free to share steps you’ve taken to kick complacency in the face and teeth.

The importance of demographic

My wife and I recently attended a Bethel Live concert, or worship night, or what have you. I was very anxious to see and hear some of the people who are shaping the culture of modern worship music. That’s why we try to make it to any event like that we can. Hillsong, Tomlin, but not Casting Crowns. Ugh.

As both a musician and worship leader (These are not always inclusive. A person can definitely be one and not the other.), I love the high budget, high production events put on by these incredibly successful worship bands. I have a love for high quality production and I feel that in some ways, I worship God more through the actual music and production, than I do the words. That’s a whole separate discussion in itself.

But almost more than anything, I love to bring things back from these events. There is an immense opportunity in watching a touring group of musicians do their thing. I try and glean all I can from these experiences, from music engineering to sound pressure level and loudness, from on-stage presence to prayer and musical transitions. I feel that there is always so much to learn from groups like those mentioned above, and from others like Elevation Worship, and Jesus Culture.

The aforementioned Bethel event was hosted by First Baptist of North Mobile. Yes, I’m serious. If you know anything about either of those organizations, you may see the catch. Bethel Live (the band) as well as the whole church/school is a very charismatic association. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you stay within the rules in the Bible. FBNM is a…Baptist church. They’re…not very charismatic.

My propensity to overanalyze the production aspects of an event like this gave me a unique chance to pay more attention to the people around me than I should have. It was a night of worship, and I know I should have been tuning out the folk around me. Nevertheless, I found myself not-so-inconspicuously people watching. The mash-up of cutting-edge-charismaticism in a super Southern Baptist venue was too much for my attention deficit brain to ignore.

There were “slayings in the spirit,” “tongues of fire,” and whatever it means when you wave your hand like a chef’s knife cutting celery. I don’t mean to sound insulting. It was immensely distracting to everyone around. And dangerous.

But there were also people worshiping with raised hands, and loud singing. Because of the nature of Bethel, I anticipated both styles. In reality, it was nice to see people from many Christian backgrounds come together and spend time in song. Three hours of song.

As I said before, I love to learn from these events and bring back things that I’ve learned. I think it’s very important to continually push for excellence. At the end of the night, however, I found that there was very little for me to effectively bring back to my team and church. That shouldn’t be viewed as an insult, or a cut down, but it also shouldn’t be that surprising either.

Bethel is an inherently charismatic group, and while I like a portion of their music, it certainly doesn’t lend itself to replication by a wide margin of churches. (This does raise the question: Should that even be a concern for them?)

It’s an interesting situation to see so many people worshiping the same God, to the same music, all from different backgrounds and denominations, but knowing that bringing too much of the experience back wouldn’t fit the demographic that is our home church.

That’s the heart of what I’m trying to say. It’s incredibly important to know your demographic. Know the people you’re leading and singing with. Know what speaks to them as a group. A big part of our job as worship leaders is to make our pastor’s job easier by ushering our people into God’s presence, and if we want to do that effectively, we have to pay attention to things like this.

I should clarify that in doing this, you won’t simply be catering to personal preference or comfort, which some take issue with. Some people mistake this concept for complacency or unwillingness to try new things. That’s missing the forest for the trees. I want to effectively lead the people entrusted to me in worship. It only serves to reason that I speak/sing/carry myself in a way that resonates with them.

There will always be room to try new things, new songs, new styles, and new concepts. But if I don’t know the people I’m leading, know their likes and dislikes, and what resonates with them, I’m doing them a disservice and in essence, making my pastor’s job harder.

For every one blog post I write, there are 3-4 others that I write and delete, thinking, “This is the dumbest thing a person could write.”

 

And sometimes I have that realization too late (i.e., The Blog Heard Round The World, a.k.a., The Great Blog Fiasco of 2011). But I think that stuff is important. Both the dumb things people write, and the realization of how dumb they are. I’ve been writing semi-regularly for four years, and I’ve only had a handful of instances where at the end of writing something, I read it over and think, “That is exactly what I was trying to say.”

 

What I mean is, learning process, finding your voice. And not only finding your voice, but finding and writing about things that matter to you. I hated Blue Like Jazz, but I received more email replies on that review of a 10 year old book, than I have about almost anything else. I wrote about it because I didn’t like it. From cover to cover, I thought it was a risky, overrated, stylistic cop out. And I’ve found that when I experience something I don’t like, I really enjoy writing about it. It’s considerably easier to write about things I don’t like. This is problematic. At heart, I’m not a jerk, but at times I definitely act like one, or rather, write like one, or rather, ok, both.

 

But I’ve found that the opposite is also true. I love to write about things I love, but it’s way harder.

 

The fact is, it’s easy to write about things I’m passionate about, and for that reason, and because being negative is only fun some of the time, I’m going to try and shift the tone of my writing.

 

Like it says in the other pages of this site, I have a passion for helping to sharpen the skills of other people in a musical setting. I love to share ideas and spread what little knowledge I have.

 

So I’m going to try writing about that out for a while. I know it won’t appeal to everyone, but it might be useful to some.

 

And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll write about another book I hate.

HEY!

This is my old blog. New posts will still show up here, but you should really visit www.COLOURANDTONE.com for the latest opinionated, and entirely subjective information.

The new site is live! Head over to WWW.COLOURANDTONE.COM and check it out!

Big news about the blog coming today at noon! Stay tuned.

Exciting changes coming!

I’m in the process of building a legitimate website where I can host my blog, gear reviews and other things. Should be ready in a month or two. For now though, this site will still be updated regularly and active.

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Shame On You

To all the people who had no opinion concerning the Great Fast Food Opinion Fiasco of 2012:

Shame on you.

If you ever were made fun of for wearing certain clothes, holding certain opinions, liking certain people, etc., you would have understood why it was such a big deal to come to the realization that a fast food restaurant didn’t hold the same opinions as you.

Never mind that the restaurant in question never refused service to anyone. Never mind that the staff of the restaurant are more polite to customers than almost any other fast food restaurant. Never mind that most of the leaders of companies that most people support on a daily basis may, in fact, hold some opinion that some other people might not agree with.

None of that crap matters. You should be more accep…

What?

They did?

Oh.

Never mind.

Number 1 with a large sweet tea, please.

And 2 packets of CFA sauce (I love that sauce).

I recently had Dick Boyden, genious, modify my amplifier. I’d been on the fence lately about what my next step should be, in regard to tone, and determined that as it stood, my amp was the weakest link.

So I called Dick.

Dick Boyden is known fairly well in the southeast US as an amp guru and tone shaper. He’s built amps for Warren Haynes, Steve Howe, Mark Bryan, and others. He’s a very knowledgeable guy and if you’ve heard of him, you know of his reputation.

After two brief phone conversations, I sent him my Jet City JCA20h head. I told him that I wanted more clean headroom, a darker voice, and more all around “umph.”

I sent him my amp on a Wednesday, and he was finished with it by Monday. The day I received the amp back, I was scheduled to play at a church function, and didn’t have time to test it at Dick’s shop/home.

When I plugged the amp in, I was surprised to hear more of everything.

More clarity, more clean headroom, more available overdrive, more equalization capacity, more of everything. It’s like the stock configuration only released a tenth of what the circuit could do, and whatever Dick did released the rest.

I’ve advocated this amp in its stock configuration for a long time and would still. But if you have this amp, and are looking for more of anything, or everything, rest assured that it’s in the circuit, it just needs to be brought out.

I’ve played high end amps, and clones of high end amps. I would put the modded JCA up against them in a heartbeat.

I’m very impressed with Dick’s work, and it was absolutely worth the price.

I’m confident that he could bring the same new life to most any amplifier. If you’re not satisfied with the tone your amp is producing, go see him.

www.boydenamp.com

Dick Boyden on Facebook

Amplifier Work

Some Clarification

I should clarify a few things:

I’m not in any way advocating you going up to overtly homosexual strangers and calling them out. That’s the wrong thing to do. Always. Plus, the people that do this are really just assuming that the strangers they’re talking to are actually gay. That’s not exactly fair. They might just be overly macho or effeminate.

Nor do I think that participating in gay protests is the right thing to do. It’s not, ever.

People don’t protest breaking the speed limit, or downloading movies. Doing crap like that screams, “I found the sin hierarchy that doesn’t exist! Get past my display of rudeness and convert to my religion!”

The only way calling someone out on their sin on a one-on-one basis works is if you have a relationship with them. Especially if you want to see them change for the better.

In fact, the only times Jesus ever called people out in public and made a big deal about it, was when he was calling out the Pharacies. The super religious guys. And he called them children of the devil for the way they treated people and their condescension, and their love for the law, and not people. Don’t be children of the devil.
 

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