My Dadís Bigger Than Your Dad and Other Lies

May 19, 2003
 Iíve been sharing from my experience, as a person who loves to share music, how it is to be in situations where I am dripping with desire to sing a song that is sure to bless the listener-- only I canĎt. Iíve been sharing how I had to jump through certain hoops to simply share one song a few times a year. I believe God has given me some insight concerning this kind of situation that has caused many musicians to be frustrated within the Body of Christ.

Letís ask ourselves why some of the best musicians in the world have come into the church and left the church within a short space of time. Some of the names that come to mind are Bob Dylan, Dion DiMucci, Jimmy Clanton, Billy Preston, and Johnny Rivers. I have listened to music by all these men and seen their rapid rise and fall within the church. Iíve heard the typical explanations about how they couldnít give up all that worldly fame, or that they were just never really serious about Christ.

Having listened to the music of each of these "60ís pop-stars" I can say with conviction that I believe every single one of them WAS totally serious. Each one was hailed as a new convert and offered to the church as proof that the Christian way is the only way. Within two to three years, each one had departed from the fold, and gone back to singing with their musician friends in "the world". Why? This is my opinion, since Iíve not spoken to any of them, and only read Dionís thoughts at his web-site.

I believe itís hard for a new believer to try to learn and do what the word of God teaches in the midst of a church where most people do their own thing. After a while the musician becomes very disillusioned since it seems like everyone around him wants to do their own thing. So the "pop-star" thinks, "I might as well do my own thing, too," which is playing music very well for people who appreciate good music. Itís not that people in the church donít appreciate good music, but rather that too often the church does not permit it. The musician has to go through a series of filters until the music that is inside him doesnít in any way shape or form resemble the music that comes out of him.

After the initial honeymoon of being some empire-builderís great catch from the wicked world of sin, after receiving loud applause every time he shares the story of how God rescued him from his heroin addiction right when he was ready to kill himself, the talented and famous musician realizes itís going to be the same old stuff over and over again, and that heís just a pawn in someone elseís game. When he goes back to sing at the club, maybe he doesnít go back to his drug addiction at all. Maybe itís a beer or two and a pack of cigarettes. Maybe he just sips diet sodas. What he does find is the love he though heíd found in the church that turned out to be a mirage. He can be himself and be accepted. In the church, he was like a trained monkey trying to please his master for a few scraps. Heís glad itís over. He still believes Jesus died for his sins and he believes heís going to heaven, but he had to get out of that place.

What are some of the stumbling blocks within the church that cause the most talented musicians to leave for a barroom audience?

1. Competition-- There are many people within any local fellowship that are vying for a particular ministry or position within that church. While the Bible teaches we should esteem others more highly than ourselves and consider the interests of others ahead of our own (Phil 2:3-4), most of the people Iíve fellowshipped with want to have their own way. If they think they deserve a particular position and someone else wants it, they will try to outdo that person. Often it is through doing favors for the pastor who in many cases is the one who will decide who gets the ministry call.

2. Rivalry-- Now the person desirous of the ministry not only is trying harder than the other candidate, but also seeing all the shortcomings of the other candidate to the point of being disdainful of them. It seldom is expressed directly. Itís an undercurrent that pollutes the atmosphere. Few people understand whatís going on, since no one will confront the issue, but it makes everyone a little uncomfortable.

3. Territoriality-- Iím the worship leader and someone from Rhode Island comes to the area who is a better musician than me. Now Iím very concerned that they might ask me to step down or share my position with the newcomer. Every time I see the newcomer, Iím reminded of a past betrayal. Every time the pastor talks to me about how to do the music on Sunday, Iím reading things into his words that I never heard before. Every time I see the other musician Iím asking myself if he wants to steal my position. He acts friendly but I know itís a mistake to trust him.

4. Strife-- People have a difference of opinion of what God wants in "His house." What He wants is love, mercy, kindness, and compassion. But instead we fight among ourselves to try to get our own way. Strife between pastor and worship leader is something Iíve seen a lot of. The worship leader thinks the people need to press in and there should be no time restraints, and donít ever quench the Spirit by stopping when "Heís moving." The pastor may feel that too long a song service will wear the people out, and that the purpose for the "praise and worship" time is to prepare their hearts to receive the message he will be preaching. Each one thinks the other is wrong.

5. Jealousy-- Here you are with just as much talent as the worship leader and twice the character (you know about his beer drinking), and heís up there every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening eating up the applause, and what do you get? One song for offering every three months. Just because heís married to the pastorís daughter, he gets favoritism and they look the other way when he strays. You see him at the supermarket but pretend that you donít. He says, hi, and you mutter, how ya doiní?

Now what do you suppose happens when you get a group of musicians together under an appointed leader? The leader tries to balance teaching his favorite songs with teaching the songs the pastor says the church prefers, and all the musicians are trying to earn the worship leaderís approval except for one who is jealous because he thinks he should have been made worship leader. The drummer and the bass player both left another church wounded because they didnít get to play there. They are not very good at keeping rhythm, but no one else knows how to play those instruments. The flute player is going through a divorce and the bass player is trying to cultivate a friendship with her.

While all these things and much more are going on, no one ever talks about there being any problems with the worship team. The worship leader believes if they practice Tuesday night for an hour and have intercessors pray for them for a few minutes, God will show up big on Sunday morning.

I want you to understand that it is NOT my purpose to be a critic of the church or any individual. What I want to do is give the reader insight into why things are the way they are. I left a worship team in 1996 and have not re-entered that ministry. I have played at lots of churches, and sometimes with other musicians who belong to that churchís worship group. Iíll share an experience from the summer of 2001.

I was working at Teen Challenge in the Pittsburgh area. The ministry helps men who want to get free from drug addiction using a bible based approach. As a counselor I daily used music to minister to individuals and groups and found it to be a very effective way to help men draw closer to God. Teen Challenge has two phases. The first part is called induction, which was where I was involved. The second part is called the training center. Induction centers have 10-30 guys for four to five months. The training center takes 250 guys who graduate from the various induction centers, and gives them another eight months of training at a place near Reading, PA, called "the Farm".

Many times, students of mine who were in phase 2 at the Farm would try to persuade me to drive (4 hours) to Rehrersburg on the weekend to visit them and play at their Saturday or Sunday morning "chapel". One day, one of my favorite students (Iím listening to his first CD now) made arrangements for me to share songs and a message at a Saturday morning chapel. When I arrived at chapel well in advance of the starting time, the staff member who had been told I was coming seemed less than friendly. No nastiness or anything like that, just no affection at all. He told me he would do the normal order of the service and then announce me at the end of the service, and anyone who wanted to stay could stay. Talk about un-royal treatment!

As I always do, I smiled and nodded and was completely agreeable. The worship team was six guys from the Farm including my dear friend Chris who played keyboards. There was a violinist, a bass player, a drummer, and a couple of guitar players. They did five or six songs with reasonable skill and the staff member preached about his views on professional sports. (He thought it was a tremendous vehicle for the competitive nature of man.) When he finished speaking, he brought the group back up and they played a couple more songs.

When they finished he said something like: "One of the counselors from Pittsburgh is here this morning and heís gonna play a few songs for us. This meeting is officially over, but youíre welcome to stay if youíd like."

There were probably 300 people there when he made the announcement, and there were about 50 or 60 left when I got on stage. I had brought some overheads, and the group didnít move so I began to play what I thought was the simplest of my songs. I called out the chord changes to the musicians and ran through the chorus and verse one time and then began to sing. The group played with great enthusiasm, but they took the song somewhere it has never been before or since and it didnít really sound like the song I wrote.

When the song ended (mercifully) I said to the other musicians, "Iíd like to minister to you especially, but I need you to return to your seats so I can do that." I tried to be as gentle and diplomatic as I could, but as they stepped down from the stage I could see in the spirit all sorts of bad attitude on all but two of them. The voices in their heads were something like: "Who does this cat think he is coming in here and taking over the meeting? The dudeís got an ego problem."

I thanked them as they returned to their seats and began to teach another song. I would have hoped that they could have been attentive and sung the song from their seats, but by the end of the song four of them had left. Only Chris and the violin player remained and about thirty other people. We had a very wonderful time as God touched their hearts through the music for almost an hour and no one really wanted to leave. About a dozen gathered near the altar, and the violin player joined in and Chris played conga drums. It was nice. Why? Because we were worshipping God and He was loving us.

Most people, sadly, in the Body are too wrapped up in whateverís going on in their life or in their mind to take some time to get close to God. They hope God will be pleased by their hard work and devotion, or if theyíre not working hard and being devoted, they hope He will cut them some slack while theyíre going through these "tests and trials." I donít see God cracking a whip over me trying to get me to work harder at the ministry (another religiously overused word) Heís called me into. Heís just glad I want to work at things that matter to Him. But, Heís shown me over and over and over again that I am more important and precious to Him than any work I might do and any feat I might accomplish for Him.

Bob Dylan, Dion DiMucci, Jimmy Clanton, Billy Preston, and Johnny Rivers. All great singers. All gone. Go figure.

Sometimes while I was attending church in the late nineties and only on rare occasions sharing any of the hundreds of songs God was giving me, it felt like He had benched me. Like He had put me on the shelf. Like I was a singer without a band, a man without a country, a musician in exile. During this time when I and my gift were largely invisible even at what I considered to be "my own church" God was doing a great work in my life and I was playing more music every day than I had ever played in my life. Each new song brought me to a new place with God. Each day I would sing and live the messages of His songs.

Feeding my spirit/ Iím starving my flesh/ Receiving Your life/ Iím conformed to Your death (2X)

Jesus You showed me the way I should live/ And Jesus You taught me how to forgive/ You are my master/ Iím trusting in You/ Knowing You love me/ Youíre faithful and true (chorus)

Jesus not my will but Your will be done/ And Jesus let my mind and Your mind be one/ Nothing compares to the splendor of You/ Why You should love me/ I havenít a clue (chorus)

Learning each day how to carry my cross/ And calling it gain what I once counted loss/ Winning by losing and dying to me/ Washed by Your word and Your blood/ I am free! (chorus)

Can you see where singing a song like that could build oneís "inner man"?

Here is a song that reinforced what the Bible was telling me in I Corinthians 10:13. Also John 14:6 and a few others.

Thereís something only You can do/ I canít do it without You/ Iím just a child in human skin/ Only You can keep me from sin

Chorus: Providing the way of escape/ Lord You are the Way/ The way to resist [alternate: The way to defeat] the enemy/ Is to listen to you and obey

The devil has no place in me/ Lord Youíve given me authority/ When I stand against Him in Jesusí name/ In Jesusí name he must flee (alternate chorus)

The blood of Jesus purifies/ So I can see things with Your eyes/ receive Your faith and righteousness/ To press on toward the prize (chorus) (alternate chorus)

Late in October of 1996, I received a call from the Lord that radically changed my life. We were getting ready to move to a town closer to my new job selling books for Whitaker House. It was a Saturday and I was lying in bed meditating when I sensed the voice of the Lord. He gave me specific instructions and I wrote them down. The instructions were to contact six other men. I was to offer this proposition to each man:

I will pray for you at least once a day from Monday to Saturday, and lift up specific requests to the Lord that you want me to. You will do the same for me. We will choose one day a week besides Sunday to commit to praying for one another throughout the day.

I asked the Lord who He wanted me to contact and soon I had a list of six men. Two were pastors. Two were men around my age who were both engineers. Two were younger and both a little shaky in their walk.

I told Jo about it and she bore witness that this was a call from God. I started calling the men on Monday. I got a hold of three and left messages with the other three. The first one I called was a friend who had been my pastor in the early nineties. He liked the idea. I said Iíd call him back in a couple of days to get his list of prayer requests, and I asked him to choose a day where he especially wanted my prayers throughout the day. He chose Monday.

Next I got hold of one of my engineer friends and offered the same proposition. he thought it was a wonderful idea and I said Iíd call him in a couple of days to get his prayer needs and give him mine. I asked him if there was a day in the week where he especially needed prayer, and he told me Tuesday.

The other engineer was next. He loved the idea and we made a date to swap lists. Asked to choose a day of the week for extra prayer he chose Wednesday. I didnít ask him to choose a day besides Monday or Tuesday. I just asked him to choose a day and he chose Wednesday.

The next day two more men joined up after returning my call. The first one chose Thursday and the second chose Friday. Again, I gave no indication that any days were already taken. On Wednesday when I caught up with the last man who was also a pastor, I shared the concept and we swapped prayer lists right on the spot. Then I asked him which day he needed prayer the most, not telling him only one day was available. He chose Saturday. So each man chose the first available day of the week. The odds of this occurring by chance are one in 46,656 (6x6x6x6x6x6). I thought it was pretty cool!

At that point in my life I had been a sporadic prayer. Iíd pray a lot for a while, and then hardly at all for a while, and go back and forth. Because of the commitment I had made to six men to pray for them six days a week, I was continually being reminded by the Holy Spirit to pray for these men. Because I had given each of them four or five areas in my life that needed to be strengthened, I knew my needs were being lifted up daily by as many as six different men. I also knew that as I was faithful to pray for my friends, the Holy Spirit would remind them to pray for me.

This went on for quite a few months, and I began to sense after about six months that some of my prayer partners were getting tired of praying for me, so I "signed up" replacement prayer partners for the ones that I thought were becoming slack, and by the end of a year I was praying for eleven different men every day. Eventually I called all my prayer partners to release them from our covenant and they were all relieved having grown tired just praying for one friend daily for a year. I was far from tired, because I had found there was tremendous refreshing and encouragement in praying for others, and that my many desperate problems were falling by the wayside as I continued to "Feed my Spirit" and "Starve my flesh."

Since that first group, I have done this six partner covenant four other times, but always with an agreement to go for 60 or 90 days. That way, no one feels trapped and gets worn out. When not in a group I usually have one prayer partner who I lift up daily and my partner prays for me daily. Often, itís one of my partners from an earlier group. My prayer life has stayed consistent for more than six years even though I am definitely a grasshopper and not an ant. But prayer is not tedious or ultra-serious like we see it being done in church anyway. Itís just having conversations with God. He is a brilliant conversationalist, you know.

Jesus said His sheep hear His voice and know His voice (John 10:3-4). I believe that and I sure hope you do, too. Some in the church look at you like youíre nuts if you say God told you to do something. If you donít hear His voice yooze in trouble, mon! We need to hear His voice:

When Godís talkiní/ Iím gonna listen/ Heís got so much to say/ When Godís talkiní/ Iím gonna listen/ Heís gonna show me the way (2X)

When I listen/ He sends His wisdom/ He sends His wisdom/ What a deal!/ His wisdom fills me/ And His love thrills me/ Got to pinch myself/ My God is so real! (repeat chorus)

Now for a little review or summary or maybe some things are finally sinking in (I hope). God has a lot to say. He spoke to a lot of people who are in the Bible. They heard Him. No, they didnít read the Bible as it stood up to that time and say God was talking through His word. They heard directly from God. We can in these days of a better covenant hear directly from God. He could speak through His word, and He could speak through His prophet, and He could just speak to you through His Holy Spirit that lives in you.

Well, guess what.

He loves to speak to you through new songs. He gives you the words and he gives you the tune, and you will receive one very soon. Yes, He gives you the words and He gives you the tune. Receive His song. Itís coming soon.

You ask me how I know. Because my Daddy tells me so. Heís not a man that He should lie. Heís the well that never runs dry.

We covered a lot of ground. So next time around, Iíll show you where the truth is found concerning what a psalmist is and how I know that I am His. Hereís a hint: II Samuel 23. Read verse one and you will see. You will need to meditate. And the truth will come. Heís never late. Think of how much God loves you. And give Him praise in all you do. I hope youíll ALWAYS be my FRIEND. And now this letter has to end.

Your fellow musician,

David Benrexi

You used to share your baseball (Barbie) cards, back when sharing wasnĎt hard. Share my message, too. Please do. If they get mad at you, donít be blue. Itís just a phase theyíre going through.

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