Ministry Lessons from Rush

The today I was watching this fascinating documentary on the band Rush.  When I was a teenager, Rush was absolutely huge.  Moving Pictures came out the year I started high school, and was an incredible album.  These guys have been together for forty years.

I was interested in seeing some interviews with guys from other bands like the Smashing Pumpkins, Metallica and Pantera, who all said something to the effect that being able to play Rush songs was the benchmark of excellence for them as young musicians.

Here's the cool part, though.  The film was focused on the late 70s, the time Rush was putting out 2112, Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres.  Now, all of these are incredibly complex, deep records, lyrically and musically.  They focused a little on the nine-minute instrumental called "La Villa Strangiato" off Hemispheres, and how much difficulty they had recording it.  Originally they were determined to record it in one long take, playing it all the way through, but after days of trying, according to Getty Lee,  the band admitted defeat and recorded it in three sections.

Then Neil Peart said that they had  been writing music that they didn't have the ability to play. That they were coming up with ideas that they didn't have the talent to pull off in the studio, and they had to figure out how to make it work, but that kind of over reaching defined who they were.  It occurred to be that once they pushed through and figured out how to record the songs, they still had to figure out how to play them live.

I think that same attitude belongs in ministry.   God tells us to "write the vision and make it plain on the tablets, that he may run with it who reads it."  (Hab 2:2, NKJV)  We should all be "writing visions" for which we lack the talent to pull off.  Why do we limit ourselves to our idea of our abilities?  Why do we tone down what God shows us?  To avoid failure?  Embarrassment? 

Some of the biggest personal successes I've had as a musician was when I stood on a stage next to a better musician (embarrassment) and took on a song I had no hope of playing(failure).  

Some of the biggest successes I've had in ministry is taking on a vision that I didn't have the experience or resources to accomplish.  Because if I lived right up to the bleeding edge of my talent and ability, I wouldn't need to rely on God.  

Here's another thing:  they were talking about their early 80's albums, Signals and Power Windows. Both of these records were very synthesizer-heavy.  There was a lot of talk about how they tried it, and pretty much did a lousy job at it.  It was trendy, it was new at the time, they were on the right track, they went too far, they goofed.  No justification, no excuses.  We tried something, we goofed.  We got better. 

There's nothing wrong with failure.   It's only really failure if you don't do anything with it.  The only failure is not trying.  

The last thing I want to bring up is how Neil Peart, possibly the best rock drummer ever, was asked to play at a Buddy Rich tribute in 1992 and was nervous about it.  He was scared to play.  He thought he didn't have the chops.   But he played anyway (see point 1 above) and when he was done, he realized it wasn't good.  So he hooked up with jazz legend Freddy Gruber and started taking lessons.  (See point 2 above.)

We never stop learning, growing, striving.  As ministers, we never reach the pinnacle of our profession.  Not in this lifetime, anyway.   There's always room for more, always space for growth, always another way of doing things.   

So what can you try, fail, and accomplish today?


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