Updated: Jul 28
NAMM 2022 – It was an interesting experience. Prior to becoming a Christian, when I was full-fledge entrenched in the music industry, I was a NAMM regular. I went to NAMM to perform, to hang out, to geek-out over the gear. It was like a holiday weekend for me. When the LORD called me into ministry, and asked me to step away from music for a time, that tradition ended. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Still, from that time, until now, it’s been YEARS. Over 15-years to be exact.
My trip to NAMM wasn’t really planned either. Someone had some extra passes and asked if I wanted to take my son. He’s been getting really into music production lately. He loves watching the Reason livestreams with me. He loves learning. He loves the entertainment facet of it. I figured with his new interest; he would REALLY dig NAMM. So, I accepted the passes. Since it was pretty stress-free in getting there and getting in, it was really easy to just enjoy the excitement of my boy; and it was in that mindset that I had my guard down, to learn some compelling things about church through the music industry.
When we first got in, it was sensory over-load for my boy. When you pick up your badge, you immediately find yourself in the area with all of the pro recording equipment. All of the companies that make high end pre-amps, compressors, eq’s and all that fun stuff, were there. My boy has only seen these things in either old pics of me, or in plugin version. To see a Neve channel strip in real life, blew him away! It was cool.
So, as we were walking, he started asking me questions about the gear he saw. We happened to be right in front of the Highland Dynamics booth. I used their gear as an example of how some things worked. One of the guys at the booth came and spoke with us, and it was great. He could see that my boy was really interested and excited, but very intimated by the gear. He made extra effort to encourage him to touch the gear – to turn the knobs, handle the switches, and feel the quality with his hands. While he was timidly lifting his hand to do so, I happened to catch a photo that has stuck with me since.
When I saw this photo, the idea of “vintage meets youth” came to mind. It stuck with me throughout the day. It was a concept that kept on showing up also as we talked with vendors and others. People were excited to see my son there. They were willing to talk to him too. They invited him to play with the equipment, assuring him he wasn’t doing anything wrong, and wouldn’t break anything. It was really cool to see how the older folks were making a concerted effort to encourage a young kid to play, participate, with the hope of one day, him buying his own gear, and contributing to the music industry.
The next day, after looking at that photo again, I was kind of bummed. I realized that, the way we were treated at NAMM, was a far cry from our ministry experience. When I first got into ministry, I wasn’t encouraged to participate, unless it was under the strict supervision of people restricting my learning process. There wasn’t an invitation to experience ministry with a “hands-on” approach, unless it was in an area of ministry, where the people in charge felt I couldn’t mess anything up – like with the young kids.
Now, in all fairness, I understand why people treated me that way in ministry (and it seems like they’re continuing to treat us this way too). The reason why is because, Bible-teaching and ministry leadership isn’t a place where “creativity” in the traditional sense, is the best idea. The Word of God – the Bible – is the standard. The standard needs to be followed correctly. When I was just getting into ministry, I didn’t know the standard. My hope was to learn, so that I could impart that understanding to others. But, as I’ve survived the trials of religious-tradition in modern church culture, the LORD has shown me the truth. No one knows what they’re doing.
While I understand that the older-folks were trying to protect the integrity of God’s standards, keeping me from messing things up, I learned that, it was all done under the assumption that they were in fact doing it right. They tried to keep me at bay, because they didn’t want my inexperience to mess things up. I didn’t have “authenticated-credentials-from-established- institutions,” to gain their approval. The truth of the matter is, my church experience has been filled with people trying to keep me away, afraid that I’m going to cramp their religious-style, when in fact, their religious-style is cramping God’s standards. Interesting…
In church, we don’t want the younger generation to “touch.” We want them to watch and learn, assuming that the things they see the older folks do, are always correct. We don’t invite learning-on-the-job, where leader and follower alike, admit that it’s a best-effort scenario, in humility and dependency on the LORD. So, it kind of seems like, the younger folks are “encouraged” to find their own way; but that way is usually separated from the wisdom and experience of the older folks that can help, if they were more encouraging and inviting. It’s kind of a mess.
All that to say, NAMM was oddly convicting for me. It made me do some soul-searching on my own, to make sure I’m not imparting the same negative experience that I’ve had to deal with. It’s caused me to consider whether I’m doing music or ministry, out of bitterness because of the ways we’ve been treated by those who came before us. It’s made me wonder if I’m depending on the LORD to be a part of the solution, instead of adding to the problems. For those who would consider themselves leaders in any capacity, real leadership really requires us to admit that we don’t always have the answers, and don’t always do the right things. That said, we shouldn’t have a problem inviting others to come along side, and join us in our best effort to get it right. Like with music, it’s amazing to see what people who don’t know everything, can actually contribute. My boy isn’t refined in his music-making, or in his knowledge of music. Still, he has good ideas and has been helpful. I try not to shut him up, or shut him out. At NAMM, they encouraged him to get his hands on the gear, to learn to fall in love with the learning and the process. I feel like that would be a better approach to discipleship in the church, than what we’ve actually been doing. So, instead of just sharing some cool photos of cool gear we saw, we thought we’d share some perspective too.