Posts Tagged ‘styx’

Well it was a retro kind of morning this morning on my way home from the gym, so I popped in one of my favorite CDs, a compilation CD of classic songs by one of my favorite bands, Styx. Styx was one of those bands that rose to popularity during my formative years and I loved them. Still do. In particular this morning I heard the song Blue Collar Man. What a great song, and it set in motion this whole train of thought. What we really need today, especially in the church, are blue collar artists. What do I mean? Work with me for a moment.

For a large percentage of the population, the word artist is a synonym for weird. They expect us to be eccentric, odd or maybe just plain nutty. A lot of people will excuse us because they come to like our work, but I’m not sure they like us. At best they tolerate our quirks, laugh off our tardiness, doubt themselves when they don’t understand our latest weirdness, etc. but I have to imagine we can be frustrating. I’ve never wanted to be that way. I’ve often felt I’m a little too blue collar for my own good in this field, but I have no desire to change. Some artists seem to revel in being misunderstood. I’ve always seen art as a communication medium, and I want to be understood. Many artists expect their real value will come after they die. When I die, I’m going to a place far beyond my wildest dreams where I suspect I will do my greatest work ever, so I want what I do (not to mention who I am) to make a difference right here, right now, to the glory of God.

Maybe it’s because I was raised by a union steelworker, but I’ve always valued showing up on time, doing a good job and delivering what people expect, at the bare minimum. I know that’s very blue collar, but I’m okay with that. I just want the work to be worth the effort. Maybe that’s why I resonate with this song so much. In my day, the music artists who made it and lasted for the long haul, had a couple things in common. They were true to who they were, and they created things that their fans loved. They didn’t go after the people who didn’t like them. They knew the people who paid the bills (their fan base) and they over delivered, and then after they made their art, they went to work. They hopped on the buses and toured hundreds of nights a year. In other words they did the work. That’s what blue collar artists do. This is still the formula for success. Do your best work. Find the people who love it and over-deliver. It’s great to have dreams, but what really matters is doing the work.

We need less weirdness, and more blue-collar artists.


I was listening to this song the other day. Styx was among my first favorite bands. This piece was from the later part of their career (which is still going). As I listened to it, I realize it’s a prayer. I don’t know if they saw it that way, but it is. Admittedly it’s a prayer from someone who is struggling with faith, and uncertain, but I’m also honest enough to admit, I’ve been there. And I will also admit as I do more and more leadership, I become increasingly aware of how many parts of my own prayers, start out with “Show me the way…”

The song brought me to a couple of questions.
How many people do I know who are feeling this way? They want to believe but they’re not quite there. How can you show them the way? How could you point the to the one who said I am the Way? and finally, if you would be as vulnerable in your art as Styx was, who would be helped and blessed and would God be glorified?

Something that has been increasingly on my heart is sometimes I think we in the church are a little too concerned with showing people how strong we are, when maybe we need to show them the one who holds us in our weakness.

Maybe we all need to ask God to show us the way.

There are times where doing what I do gets a little frustrating, specifically the speaking part. It’s not the speaking itself, that is amazing beyond words and I love it. No, it’s the getting to speak part that is really hard. Some days I feel like, “How long do I have to be doing this before some people will take it seriously.” It’s like for some people my artist pedigree is not enough. For others, it’s that I’m not from a traditionally artistic denomination and of course within that denomination there are even obstacles, I’m not this enough or that enough. Some places still view the arts with suspicion. For some people I haven’t been to enough big churches yet or I’m not well known enough yet, the list goes on and on. I know this sounds pretty fleshly, but again, I’m being vulnerable. So let me tell you why I do what I do.

A favorite song from my teenage years was Styx’s Superstar. Here are a few of the lyrics:

You’ve read about me in the papers
You’ve seen me on the movie screen
You know everything about me
I’m your late night fantasy
But don’t think I can’t hear you calling
From the shadow of the 14th row
Cause I’ve had the same dreams you’ve had
A few short years ago and that’s why I know…

Now before you think my ego has gone out of control and that I think myself a superstar or want to be a superstar, nothing could be further from the truth. Oh I want to speak in front of multitudes, but that’s not about being a superstar, it’s about taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth and reaching as many people as possible, making the most of every opportunity in these “evil” days.

No, this song resonated with my teenage heart because of that 14th row line. There was a time before I understood my call that I wanted to be those guys up on the stage. The songwriter is saying in essence, “I was there, where you are. Now I’m here. Maybe one day you will be here, too.” Of course lacking the ability to sing or play an instrument made it impossible and yet that 14th row line gave me hope. It still kind of does.

I don’t dream of being a rock star anymore, or any kind of star, but I’m an artist and in some ways as an artist in the church, I’m a stranger in a strange land. There are still a lot of churches who don’t know what to do with artists. But here’s what I know. My life was radically changed because a pastor found my gift of art and showed me how I could use it for God and so now every chance I get to go into a church, my first and foremost cause is proclaiming the Gospel and advancing the cause of Christ, but there is also always an underlying theme. When I stand in the pulpit, I feel a call to the 14th row—to that person who is still trying to figure out where they fit in the body of Christ—that person who’s gift doesn’t fit the traditional molds. I want them to see me. I want them to realize God showed me a way to fit, a way to use this wonderful gift He has given to serve Him. “I see you and He sees you. I was there, where you are. Now I’m here. Maybe one day you will be here, too.” Not because I think I am great, not because I am a superstar, but because God is great, and He loved me enough to show me where I fit. If I’m called to the 14th row, that is enough for me. If God can use me to do for others what has been done for me, that is enough.

And so when I speak of my frustrations, about all the people who for one reason or another feel that what I do is not worthy, or whatever, there is some flesh and some pride there and I fight that every day (so do most of you), but there’s also the 14th row kid that can’t seem find their fit. That burden weighs heavy…

I don’t want to be a Superstar, I want to help as many people as I can to shine.

By the way to all those who have brought me in and to those who will, thank you. You bless me more than you will ever know. I promise with God’s help, we will get to that person in the “14th row” and show them the awesome things God has entrusted to them.