Too many years of my life I would have said that I could not have heard the voice of God speaking through the best gay drummer I know! And not because I didn’t think God spoke through drummers. Or women, for that matter.

Most of my life as a Christian I would have said I felt really sorry for people who identified as LGBTQ. Most of my Christian years I would likely have only used the word, “gay” to refer to anyone who was not a heterosexual. I had no idea the vast and beautiful of array human sexuality but would still have felt sorry for anyone who didn’t have it as easy as I did, just being a “straight” guy.

I didn’t think it was fair that some people were seemingly born with such a disadvantage. I thought it was akin to being born with a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism. I thought it meant something that many people enjoy can only be destructive in some other people’s lives. Whether it was alcohol or sexual relations; these were not available in any God-honoring manner for alcoholics or, so I thought, people who weren’t heterosexual.

But now I am at this point in life being profoundly impacted on a regular basis by Jenny Morgan who, to let the cat out of the bag, is both a kick-ass drummer AND gay. (She prefers that term for herself)

One of the earliest and most impactful ways I heard Jenny as the voice of God was when she kind of “sat in on” our first church retreat where we were discussing what kind of organizational structure we would use at Highlands. The gathering was being facilitated by some good-hearted volunteers who were excited about creating a version of a hierarchical structure that in every way disregarded how God has wired me and my leadership style.

Jenny was an observer at that gathering but she saw Rachael pulling away from it and me falling asleep during it. She knew it would be the death of the early beginnings of Highlands Church if we went with what was being proposed, or at least if we went forward with it intending that Rachael and I be part of it.

I don’t remember the step-by-steps of what happened in the weeks after what was a very depressing retreat for me but soon after Jenny wanted to run an idea past Rachael and me, and it might as well have been from the mouth of God.

She observed that Rachael and I lead collaboratively, not hierarchically. We would never fit in the system that was being created. She used an analogy that still sings to me. She was fair in saying that there are many ways to organize and structure things and none are inherently better than the others but some types fit certain people and organizations better.

Her example was contrasting a symphony and a jazz band. A symphony consists of skilled instrumentalists who’ve got chops, know how to read every note on the score, and will play precisely what is written under the direction of the conductor. Symphonies create beautiful music when the hierarchy is working well.

But jazz bands get their in a completely different way. Good jazz bands require talented musicians who’ve got good chops but they absolutely have to have good ears to hear what the others in the ensemble are playing. There isn’t a conductor keeping everyone on the same page. It’s not always easy to tell who is leading because sometimes it’s the piano but then along comes the guitar coasting on a riff, developing it and taking the lead. Then the bass or drummer has an interpretation. Jazz bands create beautiful music when there isn’t true hierarchy but shared leadership.

God spoke through the best gay drummer I know to help Highlands find the structure where many of us flourish and do our best without having to shrink back, but can lead by listening well.

Nothing but love,

Mark