One of my favorite spots on Earth is the Fountains of Trevi, in Rome, Italy. These massive fountains were completed about 250 years ago and take up an entire city block (at the intersection of three roads, hence named Tre Vie) in the heart of downtown Rome. I spent a lot of time there a decade ago on a study abroad, and just recently, I was able to go back for a few days.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with my pastor, Buddy, a while back. He said something Iʼll never forget. We were talking about the students that live in my house, these worship leaders who weʼre trying to disciple. He was making an observation, and he said, “Aaron, when your guys lead at Grace when you’re gone, they do a really good job. Theyʼre prepared, they lead well, and they lead with the Bible.” Encouraged, I said “Thanks,” and then he dropped this on me: “But itʼs not the same. Theyʼre doing all the right things, but theyʼre like concrete fountains.”
“Huh?” I quizzically grunted. “Concrete fountains. Like little statues with water coming out of their mouth. You can see that thereʼs water, but thereʼs no taste.” “Hmm,” I grunted again. “Theyʼre thoughtful and using the Bible even, but there’s no taste yet, no life in their words.”
One of the exercises I do with my students is to have them list ten verses for each song they lead in worship. Even without any expectation of them actually using the verses, I want them to have meditated on the verses relevant to their songs, prior to the set. So if one wants to lead “How Great Is Our God,” heʼll have to provide me a list of verses that support that song. (Itʼs a great exercise for any worship leader wanting to think more biblically when leading a set!)
What I realized, though, as I listened to Buddy speak was that getting a list of verses onto a sheet isnʼt enough. Itʼs a start; donʼt get me wrong. Iʼd rather have you get some verses into your thinking–even if only for the sake of an exercise–than not have any thought to biblical considerations whatsoever, but still itʼs not enough.
The Bible isnʼt something weʼre supposed to take in and spit out like answers to a test. Itʼs not even something weʼre supposed to memorize like elements on the periodic table. At one point in my life, I could fill out an entire periodic table from memory. I had it memorized; I passed the chemistry test. But it didnʼt mean anything to me. And so, here today, I couldnʼt get past the second row if my life depended on it.
As good as it is to lead worship with the Bible–and please donʼt misunderstand me, this is a giant step forward from simply leading with clichés and cutesy little truisms–it still does not suffice. We need men and women who havenʼt just memorized some verses, but men and women who have ingested and digested those verses! Men and women who have wept over, rejoiced over, repented over, and acted upon the verses theyʼve been reading, so their words arenʼt merely tasteless and lifeless, but their words become authoritative, even the very words of God: Living water, seasoned with salt, never returning void.
Iʼd still recommend that exercise, only now Iʼd insert a lot more time, prayer, and meditation between the seeking, searching out, and studying of those passages, and the singing of those songs.
The fountains in Trevi are stunning; theyʼre gorgeous, calming, and they attract a major crowd. But for all the time Iʼve spent there, Iʼve never seen anybody drink the water. I hope we as worship pastors in this generation wonʼt simply be pretty faces who can attract a great crowd. I hope we wonʼt just go through the right motions because we know itʼs what weʼre supposed to do.
May we drink deeply of the Living Water ourselves and consequently become a river of his Holy Spirit for the parched people in our lives.
Jesus has invited us into nothing less.
Aaron Keyes is a worship pastor at Grace Fellowship in Snellville, GA. His second album, Dwell, releases June 21 on Kingsway Records. For more information on Aaron, go to www.aaronkeyes.com.