This summer, in county fairs all over America, people will flock to see tribute bands.
With names like Unforgettable Fire (U2), The Fab Four (Beatles), Heartache Tonight (Eagles), and Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd), they can give us a fun evening, seeing a band that looks and plays like one of your favorites.
But it’s a lousy way to do church.
If you’re a new pastor or a church planter, perhaps the best word of advice I can give you is not to be a tribute band, but to be a great cover band.
What’s the difference?
While a tribute band plays the hits from one band, even taking on their look, a cover band picks great songs from several bands and plays them all.
A great tribute band can give you a nostalgic evening, but it will never stretch the abilities of the musicians. It’s just paint-by-numbers for them. But being a cover band – especially when you’re starting out – is a wonderful way to learn how great music is written, performed and received by an audience.
Learning The Craft Of Pastoring
In the early years of pastoring it’s tempting to be a tribute band. You find a church and/or pastor you admire, read their books, attend their conferences, sing their music and voilà!, you have a church just like them – only … not.
What if, instead of paying tribute to a church you love, the new pastor took the cover band route instead?
Don’t copy one church. In addition to your own time in prayer and the Word, take look at what’s happening in a whole bunch of churches and ministries you respect and admire – ministries that have a similar passion and calling to the one God is giving you – then drop the best parts of each one into your spiritual and pastoral blender and see what comes out.
More Sources = Greater Wisdom
It’s been said that if you borrow from one source, it’s plagiarism, if you borrow from 5, it’s research, and if you borrow from 10 or more, it looks something like originality.
I think that’s true in church work as well. The more good sources you take ideas and inspiration from, the less you’re copying them and the more you’re discovering the unique ministry God wants to form within you.
So yes, it’s okay to do what others are doing. Especially when you’re new in ministry, it’s essential. But if you limit your learning to just one or two sources, you’ll be nothing more than a pale imitation of the real thing. And you’ll be far less likely to discover the real thing God wants you to be.
Also, when you’re deciding who you want to learn from, resist the temptation to only learn from churches that are cool, relevant or promise to put the most butts in your seats. Add a few small, consistent but unspectacular churches and pastors to your list of mentors.
With a variety of churches to draw from, you’ll get a more well-rounded picture of what the church is, and your ministry will be deeper and stronger for it.
Like a great cover band, don’t just draw wisdom from the hits. Play the deep tracks, too. What we used to call the B-sides. That’s where the real musicianship is learned. And where you pick up how to write a great song or two yourself.
Eventually, it may look something like originality.
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