This month: 193 - All Things New
Exploring the Heart of Restoration

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Bob Turner

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In November Disney+ released Get Back, a look into the recording sessions that produced The Beatles’s album Let it Be. Director Peter Jackson obtained the 60 hours of video and 150 hours of audio that was recorded for the1970 Beatles documentary Let It Be, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. That original documentary was 80 minutes; Jackson’s Get Back goes for 468 minutes. The original debuted to mixed reviews; this one is a masterpiece. This is not a documentary of talking heads and the Ken Burns effect on old pictures. Instead, Jackson has cut and pasted the original 1969 footage into an omniscient, third-person view of a day in the life (ahem) of the world’s most famous musicians. I loved it. I couldn’t help but take away some observations about leadership while watching the most prolific artists of their generation. Here’s a few:

With a Little Help From My Friends. The Beatles constantly play the music of others. In their sessions they show an interest in Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Chuck Berry. We could imagine these guys having a pretty insular experience, since for the past decade they were musically untouchable. Not so. George Harrison admits that he cannot play guitar as well as Eric Clapton. Lennon and McCartney admire the work and marketing of the Rolling Stones. It’s hard to play our own music if we aren’t in awe of the music of others. Yet leaders do this all the time. I know church leaders who rarely attend a workshop or other church to get ideas. Some elders never ask other elders for help or advice. Some preachers struggle to find the good in sermons they didn’t preach. Some leaders never bother to call a friend in human resources to ask about a hiring matter or an acquaintance in finance to ask about a budget issue. We need to get out. We need to see what others do. We need to ask good questions, listen, and learn.

With Love From Me To You. I heard the Lennon/McCartney dynamic soured toward the end. Maybe. But it’s not apparent in Get Back. Sure, it’s strange that Yoko Ono awkwardly inserts herself into scenes as if she’s the fifth member of the Fab Four. But Lennon and McCartney’s relationship seems solid during the recording sessions. Sometimes when they riff, they lock into each other’s eyes and just laugh; genius respecting genius. We can all be a bit cynical, and we are drawn into apocalyptic tales that show the worst in others. Remember the Fyre Festival? Or the political scandals? Or celebrity divorces? Or the pastor’s downfall? People love watching the meltdown. Get Back invites us into the mutual admiration between the songwriting savants. Our love for our coworkers and partners in the Gospel is more valuable than what we gain by publicly airing our differences. I suppose some artistic geniuses and church leaders can temporarily flourish while being openly hostile (like Mark Driscoll) But most of us aren’t geniuses and most of us cannot lead when such dysfunction rules our hearts. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4)

I’ve Got a Feeling.  In graduate school, Evertt Huffard would repeatedly remind us that “Ministry flows from burden.” His point was that we devote our energy to the things about which we feel most passionate. In Get Back, McCartney clearly feels the most burden to produce the album. The other three are there, but not in the way that he is. He takes the lead on most of the songs (like “Get Back” and “Let It Be”), while also spending the most time grinding at the piano to tweak the music. At a moment when the others seem content to move on to their own individual careers, McCartney is the one who thinks the Fab Four have one more album left in them. He keeps pushing. This is probably where many church leaders find themselves. God distributes gifts to everyone in the church; the same is not true for burden. Some people care more. There are seasons in our ministry when we need to push others and there are seasons when we need to give them room to breathe. It’s been a delicate balance during the pandemic to discern which season we are in. Do people need to be hugged or prodded? Are we providing necessary space or are we enabling bad habits? The person who thinks about these things all day is the Paul McCartney for the church, the one who just can’t imagine this project failing.

This documentary was the perfect encouragement to leaders who find themselves grinding in an office by themselves. It’s a reminder of craft and discipline. But it says even more about working with teams and leading communities. God’s work through us often happens to us first.

Bob Turner is the Senior Minister at White Station Church of Christ-Iglesia de Cristo in Memphis, Tennessee.

As a theological librarian I get to work with the best resources from the leading publishers. Theological libraries are great, but most preachers don’t live near one. I’m also a preacher, so I’m always on the hunt for illustrations and fresh ideas. Sure, there are new books published every day. But since your compensation package doesn’t have an unlimited book budget, you’re probably looking for cheap ways to get the best resources. I’ve got a few ideas.

Academic Journal Databases A few years ago Dave Bland and I surveyed over 500 Church of Christ ministers to learn more about how they did their sermon preparation.[1] Over 50% of the ones who used journal articles in their prep accessed these articles through a seminary-sponsored platform, such as Atlas. This means articles in full-text, anytime, on any device, anywhere with Wi-Fi. If you aren’t a graduate of a school that offers this service, there might still be hope. The Society of Biblical Literature now offers access to JSTOR to members. Get a public membership for less than $100 and get JSTOR for the year. That’s a pretty good deal.

Social Sciences Research Network. You know some of those crazy studies Malcolm Gladwell uses to make his points, like how Canadian hockey players are more likely to have January-February birthdays or how rap and hip hop are the genres with the least number of repeated words? Where does he find that stuff? Much of it comes from the Join for free and browse the highest-rated articles in their database. My favorite for preaching? Check out Francis-Tan and Mialon’s “A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration.” You’re loaded for your next talk on marriage, relationships, and values. Give it a shot. Machine/TV News Archive

Since the earliest days of the internet (remember those AOL discs in the mail?) the Wayback Machine has been capturing images of websites on a daily basis. Their goal has been to create an archive of the internet. Think of it as the Library of Congress for dot coms. There is an incredible research value to being able to look at old versions of relevant websites. The Wayback Machine captures images of sites, but it doesn’t always get all of the content. You’ll have better luck on the front page of a site than on deeper levels. You aren’t going to have any luck with password protected sites, such as Facebook. As you’ll see, only the sites with the heaviest traffic (CNN, ESPN) get captured every day. The number of captures is driven by the traffic of that site: more traffic=more captures. My favorite aspect of Wayback is not necessarily its websites but instead sister site TV News Archive. Type any keyword into the search box and you can find places where that word has been used in a news broadcast from around the world.

Public Libraries. Most major city libraries have really strong collections of journal databases. This is one area where electronic has passed print. For instance, in 1990 it was unlikely that a public library system in Phoenix or Charlotte would have a deep collection of the journals relevant to sermon preparation. They didn’t buy them, bind them, or shelve them. But in 2019, they probably have access to a major database like JSTOR, Gale, AAtlas, and others that have really deep collections of full-text articles, often in theology and religion. Not a member? You still might be able to walk in and use a public access computer to get into these databases. Wait, why aren’t you a member of your local library?

[1] “Luke, Luther, LOGOS, and Libraries,” in Summary of Proceedings, Seventieth Annual Conference of the American Theological Library Association, ed. Tawny Burgess (2016).


Bob Turner is librarian at Harding School of Theology. HST is one of our sponsors this month. They provide many quality resources that we want our readers to be aware of. Check out their website.

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