November 20, 2015
For 21 years Mercy Me has been recording hit after hit and then taking to the road to play almost as long as people would stay. You would think by now they would just be mailing it in; playing with detached disinterest, in smoky casino lounges, with bad lighting, next to the kitchen. Tiny rooms, usually reserved for acts like the “Paul Revere and the Raiders’ Reunion Tour,” featuring the lead singer’s ex-bass player.
But I had the privilege to spend twelve concerts with Mercy Me. They still play arenas and still love it. The audiences are still overwhelmed, in loud and grateful joy. The band still has incredible camaraderie. They ride buses together and stay up late into the night, sharing music, God, movies, and all manner of junk food. The tech crew is nearly as integral and connected as the band. They have all become family.
I got to speak each night. A truncated version of the Two Roads talk, delivered in two parts. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating-but I was like what paprika is to deviled eggs. You appreciate that it adds color to the dish. And you’d have to admit it’s probably better than shredded jicama would be on eggs. But truthfully, if you were blindfolded, you might have a hard time telling which of two egg halves had paprika on it. Folks enjoyed my talks, applauded at the right spots, but were probably thinking, “Who is this guy running around the stage, acting out something about Santa and several roads? And where is Mercy Me?” And “He seems so old. Someone should stand near him to make sure he doesn’t fall into the audience.”
I say all this only because Mercy Me is no longer just playing great songs. They are winsomely expressing a way of life. They are reclaiming a message as old as the apostle Paul. As old as the beginning of time.
In every city, audiences from three to eighty-three stood, or danced and sang each word as though they had written them. It was stunning, humbling and overwhelming to watch it all from the side of the stage.
It was sacred to meet Facebook friends in every city; dozens who came out just to encourage me, bring me pie and shampoo, and express the impact Truefaced and all our resources have had on them.
Now I am home; a civilian again. I miss them all. Mercy Me. Joel, the road manager, Daniel, Matthew; the merchandise handlers, all the sound and light crew. Tim Timmons and his band. Phil Wickham’s band. All my friends from Ambassador who helped get me there and back home again.
But mostly I miss getting to be part of what Bart, Mike, Robby, Barry and Nathan are carrying. Each night they sang and unashamedly declare a reformation of justification and sanctification of grace by faith. They are calling out the new natures of hundreds of thousands, and encouraging many to trust Jesus for the first time. They are also influencing other musicians, worship leaders, promoters; even security crews, ringing the auditorium.
I do not miss the sleeping berths built for Sherpa’s. I do not miss averaging four hours of sleep a night. I do not miss performing in hockey arenas the temperature of Jupiter. Jupiter in mid-winter.
But I might steal collection money from paperboys to get back there again. All my life I wanted to be famous, on tour, in the middle of loud, cheering fans. I no longer have the energy or health to care much about such. What I want is to always be in the middle of where grace and identity is being proclaimed and understood. I have had the privilege for the last thirty years, to be part of such a movement. For twelve shows I got to see it being passed to a singer and a band and a crew who are now carrying it around the world.
Thank you my God. Thank you for hearing me. Thank you for not forgetting me. Thank you for blessing those pioneers, my heroes, who have painted word pictures, written to, given voice, transferred, trained and shed light on this message for such a time as this.
…Thank you for your sense of humor.
…Not a bad gig, for a man with bad feet and thinning hair.