As Connie Lane blogged today, tonight is the last choir rehearsal, tomorrow is the last Thursday Business Lunch (c'mon Lacy, no anchor tag?), Saturday is the last choir concert, and Sunday is the last worship service where Mark Edwards will be leading worship at First Baptist Nashville.
When Mark started in 1977, Fleetwood Mac was at the top of the charts, the Toronto Blue Jays had just come into existence, no one had ever heard of Star Wars, Andy Warhol had just visited the Grand Old Opry, and Elvis was still alive. I was in the first grade choir at First Baptist Richardson, TX, in the old building, mind you. Still, it only took me 2/3 of Mark's tenure to end up in his music ministry for the last ten years.
When the choir met last week to honor him and his wife, they recounted lots of stories from the past thirty years, but interestingly, hardly any of them were about music. Story after story about him being there at the high school graduation, or when the staff changes happened, or late one night on a choir tour, or whatever... the impact that Mark has made on the people of First Baptist Nashville and beyond isn't solely about the music. It's about the ministry.
I think that the memory of Mark's ministry at First Baptist that will always be the most present for me was when Lydia and I were facing a deadline to sell our condo and we had to deal with squeaky floorboards. Mark helped us pull back carpet and screw them down with hundreds of drywall screws. It was good, hard fun, but it was also an investment in our lives as a young couple in the church he served. His response to our need was a living out of his response to God's call on his life - an act of worship.
Mark's approach to ministry at our church has had two additional results: it has drawn like-minded living-a-life-of-worship people to lay leadership within the ministry, and it has made everyday participants within the ministry feel connected and that their contribution has mattered, both to the church, and to the living out of the will of God.
That's not to minimize the excellence with which he's executed the music at First Baptist Nashville, but it is important to show it in its proper context. Too many times, a casual observer thinks that the effectiveness of a worship ministry is based solely on the notes that are sung or played. Too many times, church leadership tries to unlock a formula for "making it work" and tries to focus on worldly talent or a musical style overhaul. Mark Edwards demonstrates that the effectiveness of a worship ministry is based on its leadership living out a life of worship, and inviting the church to join.
On Music City Bloggers, one of the comments asked who Mark's "successor" will be. I like the idea of a "successor" simply because it has the word "success" in it. That measure of "success"will be how well First Baptist Nashville executes its mission of loving God and loving people. I hope we won't look for a follow-up, or a next-in-line, or even a carbon copy. I also hope we won't look for someone "who can get us to the next level" or "who will take us in a totally new direction" or "will really shake things up," unless that's what God wants for us. My prayer is that the church chooses someone who will make our ministry most likely to succeed, and finding that worship-filled worship leader is going to take lots of prayer, time and discernment.