Typically – and especially when I’m just visiting for a short “after-dinner” talk – I like to engage people in a conversation about how important it is that we see ourselves as “disciples of Jesus” rather than merely “members of a church.”
This idea has been on my mind a lot lately, as the men’s ministry groups I’m involved with at WFPC have been talking seriously about the practical applications of faith, the “how do I live my relationship with Jesus,” challenge, and the “what does being a Christian look like when I’m not at church” question.
THE BLUES: I find myself coming back to a story I shared in my first book, GET REAL: a spiritual journey for men, about wanting to play the blues on my guitar. We lived in Brandon at the time, so I asked our Praise Band director for some advice. Don was an accomplished musician who played trombone with the Florida Orchestra; he knew all the white notes, and all the black notes – plus the ones in-between.
I told Don I wanted to learn how to play “bluesy stuff” on my guitar. “I’ve got just what you need,” he said, and hooked me up with this really thick book. It had a photograph of a jazz guitarist on the front, looking so cool playing his blues.
I took the book home and I dove into it, excited, motivated, and ready to sound like B.B. King. But I was instantly disappointed; the volume was 80% theory, musical scales, finger exercises, and tedious repetition.
The next week I took the book back to Don. “This book is nothing but scales and exercise,” I complained. “Where’s the part where I can lay down a few sweet chords, plug in my amp, improvise, and get all bluesy?”
Don looked at me with a kind smile (and here I’m going to quote directly from GET REAL), “You don’t understand. You can’t improvise unless you have something to improvise from. If you don’t memorize all the scales first, you’ll be pulling from a dry well.”
You can’t improvise unless you have something to improvise from. If you don’t memorize all the scales first, you’ll be pulling from a dry well.
DISCIPLESHIP: WOW! I immediately thought about my spiritual life, and about how I want God to be with me every moment of the day, and how I want my life to play the sweet tune of the Gospel of Love as a natural response to whatever is going on, whatever the circumstance, and whoever I’m with.
And I realized that if I don’t give God something to improvise from – if I don’t ground myself in prayer, in study, in learning, in fellowship, in service, in mission, in the disciplines of faith – then God is not going to have anything to improvise from.
Being disciples is about equipping ourselves for God’s service, and a large part of that is theory, scales, exercises, and (sometimes tedious) repetition.
Please pray that God will help me get the message across with clarity, with encouragement, and animated by the Spirit.