I was listening to a podcast recently where they talked about how rare it is to find bands that are able to stick together for more than a few years. They noted that music groups that can stay together for 10-15+ years while remaining relevant (the U2’s of the world, for example) are the exception, not the rule. Most bands have much shorter shelf lives. Since that amount of time is as long as our mission team has been serving together in Mozambique (!), that got me thinking about potential connections between the longevity of bands and mission teams.
After doing some poking around on the internet, I found that back in 2015 Dave Segal wrote two pieces on bands from Seattle that either stayed together or didn’t. While unfortunately these articles have some bad language, I did find a few interesting quotes from the pieces that seemed relevant to the lasting power of mission teams as well:
From “Why Do Bands Break Up? Seven Now-Defunct Seattle Groups Share the Stories of Money, Ego, Bad Luck, and Audience Indifference That Made Them Call It a Day” (click here)
“Bands are fragile, fraught things. They're like families, except even more combustible, because art is involved. So many things can go wrong in a band: Egos can spiral out of control, personalities can clash, drugs and alcohol can be abused, sexual intrigue can ensue, digestion issues can wreak havoc. There could even be skill envy. But sometimes the reason things end is more mundane, if no less emotionally wrenching.”
From “Why Do Bands Stay Together? Seven Veteran Seattle Groups Share the Secrets of Their Longevity.” (click here)
“If you think it's easy to hold a group of unstable egomaniacs together while creating music that everyone in said group can stand playing over and over, well, you've probably never been in a band.”
One of the band members “attributes punk and hardcore's ethos of egalitarianism as another key factor, ‘where everyone has an equal stake in publishing and money.’ Having no leader…, ‘helped keep any weird, out-of-control ego fights at bay.’"
“Dunn and drummer Don McGreevy cite communication and mutual respect as integral, too. Beyond that, Dunn says it's key to understand "‘what each member is good at within the context of the band. Everybody in this band has so many different skills. No one person is being satisfied 100 percent of the time. We try to play to each other's strengths instead of alienating people.’"
Nokes stated, “‘Like any healthy long-term relationship, it's about patience and knowing each other's quirks so you can approach conflict without a meltdown. Being in a band is absolutely insane and ever-changing, so I guess it's about finding comfort in what can be really uncomfortable and/or sharing the best moments of your entire life with people you actually like.’ Further, Nokes states, Tacocat are ‘democratic to a fault... We each excel at our own corners of band biz, but no one really wants to be 'the leader.' We're each 25 percent of this thing, and that is that.’"
“Not all bands can be the Stones or Rush. The center usually cannot hold. Dunn puts band dynamics into perspective: ‘We're all… dysfunctional, semi-nihilistic maniacs just to do this… anyway.’"
There was a lot in those pieces about the longevity of bands that I resonated with (from structure, to leadership, to buy-in, to basic human nature...). In the context of a mission team, it can be a challenge to have to keep on playing the “same songs” and using the “same instruments” and to feel like you are always “on the road together.” I have heard a number of long term missionaries say that some of the best and hardest parts of mission work came from the context of the team.
I just finished reading Patrick Lencioni’s The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues. He talks about how the most important qualities for an ideal team player are that they are hungry, humble and (people) smart. That is certainly true in the context of a mission team and my hunch is that it is true in the context of a band, as well. For a good summary of Lencioni’s book click here.
It is good to recognize that some band members may need to express their creativity outside the team’s ministry and do something akin to a “solo album.” Having an outlet for a different kind of expression can be really, really helpful.
The basic truth, though, and the reason we’ve been at this so long in Mozambique, is that if a mission team can work effectively, the synergy they create allows them to make beautiful music together – producing something even better than what we could each accomplish alone.
Grace and Peace,