On Rehearsal Pt 2 (Mountains & Axes)

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Last time I told you about my friend Justin. If you didn’t read it, click here.

In that post I told you about Justin’s journey from wobbly to wizard (musically speaking) and how that affected how long our rehearsals were and how well we played music.

In my anecdotal evidence (the most unscientific of all the evidences), I noted the length and quality of rehearsal didn’t determined how well the band actually played once we were in front of our church.

Any guess what the biggest factor for playing well actually is? You probably already guessed it, but before I confirm your suspicions, let me tell you the story of who taught me this little nugget of wisdom.

It was either August or September of 2007. I think we were about an hour or two hours away from Colorado Springs, Colorado. By ‘we’ I mean the 2007-08 class for the New Life School of Worship.

Before any classes began, we kicked off the year with a retreat. We were up in the mountains. It was gorgeous. We were at a great facility and I wish I could tell you the names, but there were cabins and recreation halls. All of it was equipped with the 5 star view you can only get in the mountains.

Glenn Packiam was the director of the school and had arranged for a retreat for all 35 of us. So here we were, up in the mountains, where oxygen was just as scarce as city lights.

Glenn had arranged for Ross Parsley to talk on the first night of the two night retreat. Ross Parsley had just finished leading New Life Church for a season as their interim pastor. Brady Boyd had just been hired and Ross was back to being the worship leader for New Life. This was great news for us students. It meant Ross Parsley had more time to invest in us.

Ross is an excellent communicator. He’s wise, experienced, anointed, and could translate that wisdom well. It didn’t take long to figure out that when Ross spoke, we should listen.

Ross Parsley shared a lot that night. He talked about having the heart of the servant. He talked about being diligent. And he talked about being faithful with what God had given us. This is when Ross shared a little nugget of wisdom that changed how I would view rehearsals forever.

As budding worship leaders and musicians, God had given us something specific: musical talent. The talent He gave us was ours to steward. What makes for good musical execution during a worship service isn’t a long rehearsal. It’s the talent of the musicians. You can have all the long rehearsals you want and it won’t do much to improve the musical outcome.

There is a saying that gets passed around Twitter a lot. It goes like this.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.

Most of the time it’s attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but there is a chance he didn’t say it. Regardless, it’s a good point.

Think of it this way. The songs you and your team play are the tree. Your talent is the axe. How musically talented you are is the sharpness of the ax.

If you and your team aren’t very talented, it’s going to take a long rehearsal just to chop down one tree. Even when it’s chopped down, that doesn’t mean it will be chopped down well.

Time is a limited commodity. It takes time to sharpen an ax and it takes time to chop down a tree. Before you go chopping down the next tree, spend some time sharpening the ax. Both Ross Parsley and Abraham Lincoln would approve.


P.S. If you’re a worship leader and you’re interested in sharpening the axe, check out this post I wrote for worshipleader.com. It talks about the different areas of the axe that may need to be sharpened.


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