Lately I've been feeling more like a missionary than a musician but the feeling has helped remind me of some important things about music. Much of my experience with music within the last 13 years has been in the context or inspired by Missions. Over half of the songs on the first CD I ever recorded "Through These Pinholes" were written on a missions trip to Costa Rica in 1993. In the 3 months of missions work in the jungles and mountains of Costa Rica God began to give me a little bit of His heart for people and radically altered my perspective on life, worship, and music. Through that experience I was able to glimpse something far bigger than my little "American Dreams". By 1996 I had been on several missions trips and ended up leading a missions trip with the college ministry I pastored to Amsterdam, Hungary, and Poland. It was on this trip that my band Mary's den was concieved. Over the next 6 years Mary's den was continually fuelled by a heart for missions. Sure we loved playing music together but there was something so much bigger than our music that drove us on.
In recent posts I have written about the importance of the micro-community of "The Band" in music. Another contextual issue is the importance of "the Mission" in music. I am personally a much better musician, songwriter, and performer when I am connected with the mission.
What is the Mission?
The mission is that thing that trancends the very music we make. The mission is about helping the broken, effecting positive change in the world, getting down in the pit with the depressed and lending an ear, and reaching out a hand of mercy to the ones in need. The mission is the ideal that fuels the songwriter with passion and grounds him to the real world.
I know I use U2 for a lot of examples here but I'll use them again. U2 is a band that from the begining realized that 4 guys in a band can really bring about change in the world. I know of no band as passionate, but it's not random or blind passion though, it's the passion fuelled by the mission. It's hard to imagine a U2 void of mission. In the past 5 years U2 has not simply turned out good music, but has done so much to eliminate debts of third world countries, and help the sick and orphaned in Africa. U2 has a real sense that there is something that transcends their rock-n-roll.
Sure, some bands are just good bands, and some songwriters just turn out good songs, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I believe there's a much better place to go with our music. Bob Dylan's lyrics don't just resonate with folks because they're well written but because they say something! and that something is connected to the idea that these songs can actually change the world for the better.
So what about worship music and the mission?