Karate Kid Worship

When I was fourteen years old, my piano professor left me.  After having bounced around from  teacher to teacher over the course of seven years, my parents found a legitimate, classically-trained  instructor to mentor me.  Professor Kraus was a big German man with burly hands and a friendly accent who didn’t just teach me—He challenged me, focused me, inspired me, and taught me to love music.  He was like Mr. Miyagi, and I was the Karate Kid.  But after a few years of intense Bach Paint-The-Fence and Mozart Wax On-Wax Off, he left for a position in Germany.  I no longer had someone to play to, play with, play for.

This was a great period of self-discovery for me, as it would be for any teenager. I had to learn to love music on my own, apart from the challenge of learning a curriculum or impressing people.  And I also began composing music on my own, which in itself was an expression of my self-discovery.

After a few more years of this, my parents decided it was time I cashed in on my talents, so they encouraged me to begin teaching.  They put the word out to several people, and before I knew it, I had a half a dozen five and six year old piano students.  At the age of sixteen, I had become a piano teacher.  And I took it seriously.

I studied the piano books and learned—beyond playing—how to communicate the language of music.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Basic concepts like quarter notes and measures can be difficult for children who don’t yet understand the concept of fractions or subdividing.  And try teaching the concept of a “rest” to a five year old!

Two things.  It gave me a great appreciation for those whose vocation is teaching.  And it also forced me to understand music theory in ways I couldn’t have gotten any other way.

In a few weeks, I’ll be leaving for a trip to the Philippines to teach a two-week intensive on worship and the arts.  I’ll be teaching at the Bicol Center for Christian Leadership (BCCL), a bible school supported by our denomination, the North American Baptist Conference.  So over the last month, I’ve been developing the curriculum for eight 3 hour sessions.  And I find myself back again—like I was sixteen—relearning the things I’ve learned, so I can teach the things I do.

Trinitarian worship, dialogical worship, Levitical worship, sacramental worship, defining and designing worship, lifestyle worship—I find myself diving into the deep end of the concepts that have molded me over the last 21 years of ministry.  Because I need to know it well enough to communicate it to people who haven’t ever received any formal teaching in worship theology.  And I’m finding myself being refreshed and re-ignited in the coolness of these deep waters.

So in two weeks, I’ll be setting up a little worship dojo, teaching to worship deeply with both passion and theological understanding.  In the words of Mr. Miyagi, “Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good, everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home.”  I’ll be blogging while I’m there, so stay tuned.  And if you’d like to support my trip, please contact me.

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