I've spent part of my time in the last week or so reflecting on what I have learnt from the recent season of touring on Third Day's 'Make Your Move' tour. The Lord drew my attention to these verses which have helped immensely in my reflections:
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15.5-6
My thoughts have centred around 4 themes: Endurance, Encouragement,Unity, and Glorifying God.
'Endurance'- the Greek word here literally means patience and perseverance, and to survive 7 weeks on a tour bus with 11 other guys these qualities are definitely needed. Over the nearly 12 years of being on the road with Third Day I have always aimed to finish a tour with as much enthusiasm, energy, positive attitude as I started with, but I have to admit that it is not always that easy! When I used to come out for just part of the tours, I tried to be around at the end of the tour to help drag the guys over the finishing line and make sure they finished strong. Nowadays I have to apply that principal to myself before I try to do the same with others. I often say that God isn't as much interested in how we start the Christian race as how strong we finish it- and there are many sad stories of believers being injured, disqualified, or simply dropping out of the race. A tour of 28 concerts over 9 weeks, with a couple of breaks thrown in, does cultivate endurance, patience, perseverance, and challenges me to maintain physical, mental, spiritual fitness during the whole of the tour. I want to be as enthusiastic about prayer and about reading the Bible together on the night of concert 28 as I was on concert night 1.
'Encouragement'- the Greek word here means encouragement, comfort, consolation, appeal, and is the root of the NT word for Holy Spirit as comforter, counsellor. There is a famous picture which shows a ruler 'comforting' his troops by prodding them into battle with his sword. That picture is a real help in recognising what encouragement often is! Part of my role on the road is to be an encouragement, a comfort, a prod to say 'you can do it!', to the guys in the band but also to Lott, the tour manager, and others that may come to me for an encouraging chat. Paul writes in Romans 15 that endurance and encouragment are really God-given gifts, and I often come to a place on the roadwhen I realise that I simply don't have enough of these humanly speaking and desperately need an outpouring from the Lord. A constant thrill over the last year has been to see hordes of Third Day fans each night responding to me 'prodding them' to sponsor a World Vision child, and to see one or two fans in the VIP reception each night being prompted to buy a painting from the Gateway School in India. These servant-hearted and sacrificial signs have been a real encouragement to myself and to the guys in the band.
'Unity'-touring life can sometimes make a person very selfish, or withdraw into their own little world. Other people's idiosynchracies become overblown and annoying, and sometimes issues that need to be dealt with go unaddressed. I've consistently tried to emphasise our unity in Christ, the thrill of ministering together as a band of brothers, and the privilege of uniting God's church in worship each evening. So I fight hard to keep the guys in Third Day unified with each other, with their fans, and with the Lord Jesus.
'Glorifying God'- being on tour is also a place where you can gain an overgrown sense of importance about yourself. You are driven from venue to venue on a luxury tour bus, flights are booked for you, catering provides you 4 meals a day, runners drive you wherever you want to go during the daytime, fans want a photo or your autograph ( Yes! even from me!), and applause rings in your ears. I suggested to Tai when we were chatting together towards the end of the tour, that he had received more public adulation across just one Third Day tour than Jesus ever did in his whole public ministry! So deep down we musn't get conceited or arrogant, but remember that the whole of our ministry isn't designed per se to glorify the band Third Day, or anyone like me who is associate with them, but to glorify God. It is right to honor people for hard work, for faithful ministry, and for a lasting legacy, but ulitmately the glory goes to the Lord. That's why the most special moment of every concert is when it changes from an audience of thousands watching Third Day to an audience of one- God looking down on musicians and audience alike simply offering their praise and adoration. Most nights, tucked at the back of the crowd, or leaning on a wall at the side, or standing next to the monitor desk just offstage, will be me with my hands raised singing 'My Hope is You' or 'Agnus Dei' or 'Creed'.