Focus on a Cavalier Baritone player at Drum Corps International World Finals. Taken on August 7, 2004 in Denver. –C.lettinga 19:15, 15 August 2006 (UTC)c.lettinga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you go to a football game with our family, you might hear one of my kids say, “Get off the field! Bring on the band!” They’re not much into sports, but they love music, and in the fall, you’ll often find us at local marching band competitions.
A few years ago, my oldest daughter spent a summer playing for the Colt Cadets drum corps. It was a grueling summer that pushed her like I’ve never seen. Middle and high school students travelled around the country in packed busses, slept on gym floors in schools without air conditioning, and spent almost every waking moment running around football fields in formation so fast that I’d be out of breath, but somehow they had enough breath left to fill stadiums with brass music, competing against college music majors.
The whole summer, they played the same set of songs, but no two shows were the same, because each time they had their task just about perfect, the directors changed the routine to make it more difficult, pushing them to complete tasks they never thought possible, and as they grew in skill and athleticism, they also grew in confidence and maturity.
Why is it that a youth drum corps can demand more of people than a church whose God calls us to love with every fiber of our being? Both are voluntary. What’s the difference?
The difference is perceived value. Those kids wanted to improve their skill and be better than when they started. They believed that such improvement was possible and worth the effort. And seeing the initial growth, they expected that they would continue to grow and improve. Here’s a sampling of what you need to make that work:
1. They knew they weren’t experts. This can be tough to admit. As a pastor, in my training and coaching over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about what I didn’t know and what I needed to change. It was hard to accept that I’ve been doing things wrong or poorly for my entire ministry up to this point, especially difficult when it was something I considered one of my strengths. What about your spiritual maturity? If you’re not Jesus, admit that you have room for growth and may be wrong about your approach to spirituality.
2. They wanted to improve. Because we know we’ll never be perfect like Jesus on this side of heaven, we can easily say, “No point trying.” But while those kids knew they wouldn’t be the best in the world, they knew they’d be better. I imagine some of you don’t believe you can ever experience such change in your spiritual life. God says otherwise: “Rain and snow come down from the sky. They do not go back again until they water the earth. They make it sprout and grow so that it produces seed for farmers and food for people to eat. My word, which comes from my mouth, is like the rain and snow. It will not come back to me without results. It will accomplish whatever I want and achieve whatever I send it to do.” (Isaiah 55:10, 11, GWV) A disciple of Jesus Christ can no more grow without regular time spent with eyes or ears applied to the Scriptures than a trumpeter can grow without mouth to a trumpet mouthpiece.
3. They knew it would take discipline. Notice the word “disciple” in “discipline”? As Lutherans, we get so hung up on God’s grace and salvation apart from works, that we forget that, once we have been saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9), that spiritual exercise is necessary to make us stronger so we’re more aware of God’s love for us and the opportunity to love those around us.
“Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” (Php 3:17-21, NLT)
And that leads to the final component:
4. They had hands-on guidance to help them train. Imagine the drum corps leaders telling the kids to each practice at home or on a local football field, and they’d never practice together until the performance. Can you hear the brass clanging as trumpets and trombones crash into each other? We so often think that we can figure this all out on our own, since we have the Biblical example, but there’s no substitute for discipleship in groups. If you’re not meeting regularly with other Christians around God’s Word, you’re like a one-person football team. Get involved with one or start one. By this fall, we hope to have many more opportunities, but don’t wait until then anymore than you’d wait a few months to eat because you knew you were going to a good restaurant for your birthday.
You need to grow. You can grow. It takes work and help. It’s worth the effort. I have yet to meet someone who experienced spiritual growth and regretted it. The only regrets I’ve ever heard were, “Why did I wait so long?”