by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

August, 2022

One night about a month ago, I heard a profile of musician Carol Kaye. While not a household name, she contributed immensely to American music. She began playing guitar in jazz clubs when she was only fourteen. While still in her teens, she became a sought-after studio musician, over the years playing on recordings by everyone from Bing Crosby to the Beach Boys. One day in 1963, when she was in her late 20’s, the bass player didn’t show up for a recording session and someone put a Fender Precision Bass electric bass in Carol’s lap, saying, “You can do this.” And she did. While she continued to play guitar, Carol found herself “at home” playing the bass, and soon began playing it most of the time. She became the only female member of a group of session musicians who came to be known as “The Wrecking Crew.”

Naturally, listening to Carol’s story recalled a Person-2-Person from way back in January, 2008. Maplewood UMC’s praise band, which was in its early days, had received a special donation of an electric bass. The issue became one of trying to find someone to play it, since I couldn’t play both bass and guitar at the same time. As you’re probably aware, I decided to approach Larry, our current bass player, because he was already a musician—playing the trumpet—and had a good grounding in music.

Larry’s initial response when I handed him the bass was essentially, “Okay.” He then took it home to figure out how to play it. It seems amazing that all this happened fourteen and a half years ago, so long that it took me a while to find the story in the Person-2-Person archives!

Carol Kaye’s response when someone put a bass in her lap was like Larry’s, except that she didn’t have the luxury of taking it home and learning. Fortunately, as a guitarist, she had a grounding in what was required. She knew her way around a “fretboard,” the part of the neck where the strings are. Carol was also fortunate that she was given a Fender Precision Bass, considered by many professionals to be the standard for an electric bass. She had both the proper knowledge and the right equipment; what musicians sometimes call “gear.”

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote that Christ appoints people with special gifts to “equip God’s people” to do the work of the church (Eph. 4:12a New Living Translation). Paul wrote that “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers” are “gifts” given by Christ to build up the church (vs. 11a NLT). That means, in case there was ever doubt, that Pastor Kim is a gift from Christ. (Are you reading this, Kim?) Some translations render verse 12 as “the equipping of the saints,” and that means us. If we have the right knowledge and the right “equipment,” we can be God’s saints and serve as God intends.

Just as the person who handed Carol Kaye an electric bass said, “You can do this,” Paul wrote to the Philippians, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil. 2:13 NLT). The person had heard Carol play and seen her talent. Otherwise, why tell her to play? Just as we believe in God, while it’s not strictly biblical, I think God believes in us. If not, why would Jesus tell the apostles they were “‘more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows’” (Matt. 10:31b NLT)? Why send Jesus to die for our sins? Why send apostles, prophets, evangelists and more? None of this is for God’s benefit. Paul told the council in Athens, “‘human hands can’t serve [God’s] needs—for he has no needs.’” (Acts 17:25a NLT). If God doesn’t need us or anything we can provide, the only explanation is that God is doing it all for us.

God loves us and wants us to spread that love to others. God gives us the resources to carry out the work of the church., because when we do, the message of the gospel can be spread, lives can be transformed, and people without hope can have it. All we must do is believe that, with God’s help, we can do it.

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” (Eph. 4:11-13 NLT)

Copyright © 2022 by David Phelps