I must apologize to Lincoln Brewster. Here’s why.
For those unfamiliar with that name, Lincoln Brewster is one of the leading worship artists in the modern Contemporary Christian music scene. I was in attendance at his concert at the National Association of Music Merchants convention, popularly known in musician circles as “NAMM”. NAMM is considered the gold standard of the music industry for business networking and new product offerings. Attendees find themselves side by side with seemingly every important musician and artist on the planet. Getting an invitation was a big deal.
After a day of being totally overwhelmed by the sheer size of this event, I decided to attend the “Night of Worship,” a concert for the Christian community which was being headlined by Brewster and Latin worship leader Marcos Witt. After all, it was one of the few places where I knew I’d feel at home in the sea of musical overload.
I sat patiently through the preliminary announcements, sang loudly with hands raised during the opening worship sets, and waited for Lincoln Brewster to come out. His first two songs hit with a powerful, polished presentation, and Lincoln looked every bit the cool rocker that happens to love Jesus. Nothing in his set made me question my attendance.
Then he said something that struck me. Let me be clear: there is nothing Biblically or relationally wrong with the next statement I heard. He was making a perfectly valid point. But it stirred up an internal spiritual dialogue which led to a surprising decision – and a powerful revelation.
As he spoke between songs (killing time as he tuned his guitar, he admitted), he mentioned how many artists and musicians were all over the convention center and hotel, and remarked how special it was that the Christian musicians had a place dedicated to worship in the midst of so many other influences. That’s certainly true. Being a first-time visitor to NAMM, I was amazed by the confluence of musical styles represented by the people who played them – from R&B to classical, from death-metal to EDM. Clearly it was a testament to the power of the Christian musical community that a 1000 seat ballroom could be packed out in the middle of an industry conference.
But it didn’t feel right to me.
Immediately I felt something within me say, “You shouldn’t be here.”
When you consider yourself a worshipper at heart, that’s a startling thought. I tried to push it away, but it wouldn’t leave. Something about the image of thousands of musicians milling around downstairs while the Christian community congregated upstairs felt like the exact opposite of what I stand for. After all, I wrote a book called God and Gigs, not God or Gigs.
After two more minutes of internally rationalizing why I should stay, I realized I was battling conviction, not convenience.
Unbeknownst to Lincoln and the rest of the worship audience, I slipped out.
Rather than feeling obedient or spiritual, I felt silly. I was already pretty much on my own at this conference. Now I had deserted the one environment where I was in my comfort zone, and was aimlessly wandering in the lobby with hundreds of musical strangers. I think I had wandered around for about 10 minutes when I heard a voice behind me call my name. I had met a few people from my hometown that day, but it was still a shock when someone knew me. I turned around.
Coming toward me was a tall, smiling gentleman whom I immediately recognized. Carlos Hoyos, who everyone calls “Fido”, gave me a hug and enthusiastically welcomed me. Carlos is a great bass player who has played for worship sets at my church on several occasions. Next, he introduced me to his friend Diego, a guitarist from Montreal. I asked what they were up to, since I really had no plans and hoped I could hang around with them.
“We’re here trying to find a place to stay. Someone cancelled our accommodations here in L.A.”
And suddenly, it all made sense.
When I was offered the chance to attend the conference, I had no roommates and no plan for sharing the hotel costs for the 3-4 day stay. So I booked a double bed room about 15 minutes away from the convention. I expected to be there all weekend by myself.
I offered the other bed in my room and said they could stay there if they wanted.
Problem solved. They laughed and said it was a miracle. We spent much of the rest of the conference together, learning about each other’s families, talking about experiences in our industry, and meeting amazing musicians. It was a connection I probably wouldn’t have made had I stayed in my convenient spot in the worship breakout session.
I’m certainly not saying that Christian artists shouldn’t congregate and express their faith among other groups of people. We need each other, and we need opportunities to worship God wherever we are. But in this particular circumstance, God showed me that he doesn’t want us to hang out in the upper room too long. He wants us to step out of our Christian comfort zone and give other artists a place to call home.
That is exactly what God and Gigs is all about.
So, here’s the apology I promised:
I’m sorry, Lincoln Brewster, for walking out of your worship set. I’m sure it was anointed and blessed a ton of people who needed to recharge spiritually at NAMM.
But I’m pretty sure that you totally understand.