Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Getting our needs met--a story (i)

[Out of town again for a couple of days, so I thought I'd run another old story, this one from a magazine titled Reformed Worship, years ago. I know its genesis well--I can remember the very moment of the story's birth. I was in a meeting with a kid, a drummer, and we were talking about worship. He said he needed contemporary worship because he wanted to worship in a place where "he got his needs met." I didn't think I was all that old at the time, but I guess I felt like an old fogie because I thought that line to be very strange. That line is the heart of the story--and its title.] 

He calls himself "Pedro" even though he's not Spanish but Anglo, from the John Lennon tin-rims, to the half-baked goatee and turtleneck, to the gray felt fedora he's never without, even in church. But I can live with that. I'll grant you there are some in Riverside that can't, but I can live with a hat. Our own kids have been sporting caps for a decade.

Some of our kids picked him up from a Christian rock concert or a weekend rally somewhere. He's a convert--and I know I should say that with more emotion. He's been saved--there, that sounds better. He's found the Lord--but I'm not so sure the Lord found him. To me, he's strange--and terribly pushy.

I know this: what he's found at Riverside Church is kids who fawn over him and his wicked (their word) body piercing. Pedro's the guru of our youth group. And he wants change--and he wants it now.

"When I got converted, man, I got saved because I walked into a church and saw a set of drums. Once I saw that, I like knew--you know, that this was a place for me."

Behind him, our kids smile.

"We're a generation raised on a beat, see? We don't respond to this old slow stuff you play. I mean, our music is our life, man. I mean, every kid I know is plugged into some kind of show."

I remember the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. The Stones' "Satisfaction" was the theme song for my high school football team. Years ago, I danced twenty minutes straight to the Iron Butterfly. Don't tell me about rock music, man. That's what I wanted to say.

"I got to use my talent for the Lord, see? I mean, I got to use my gifts--you know what I'm saying? My generation's got needs, and I don't think Riverside's meeting them right now. We got to have a place in the worship is what I'm saying. I got to use my talents in worship."

He plays the drums. His buddies play guitars. I think what he wants is a gig.

"Organ?" he says. "That's no problem. Lots of bands got good organs. We can use them right in the music."

And I'm thinking, "Alma Draayers in a rock band--now don't that beat all?"

"And we can do things, too--I mean, your stuff. Like 'Amazing Grace.' Shoot, we can do that stuff."

Stuff, eh? What I love about youth is their reverence.

"I mean, what we do doesn't all have to be rock. We're willing to compromise, you know," Pedro says, Pedro of the big heart. "But the bottom line here is that we're not getting our needs met."

The youth group had asked the members of the liturgy committee to talk to them about changing our worship style. They're not alone, of course; even their youth group leaders are taken by Pedro and his band. It's not that we're Neanderthal in our worship. I'll admit we're not Willow Creek, but then--my goodness, we're not Willow Creek. Does that make sense?

"That's what we're saying," Pedro says, "--We're not getting our needs met."

There were times in that meeting that I would have liked to take the kid on. I even thought seriously about returning to an era when the church allowed no instruments whatsoever just to starve him out and send him somewhere he could, for all I care, get his blessed needs met.

I'm sorry, but I thought the kid arrogant, and even though I'm hardly retirement age, I didn't have a clue where this idea of "getting our needs met" comes to play in the nature of worship. "Getting our needs met" sounds to me like a frustrated husband--or wife. "Getting our needs met." That's the language of doper in need of a high. "Getting our needs met"--what about Alma Draayers' needs?

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