I’m writing this post on the slimmest of chances that it gets to its intended reader.
I’ve recently arrived home from the recent National Training Event run by the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES). I have nothing but unreserved praise for the conference (it was my 9th and I don’t think I’m alone in saying it was the best ever – and not just because Don Carson was speaking). It was really great to celebrate what God is doing among the 1500 students who were all there.
One thing that did annoy me though was at the end of one of the evening sessions we finished with Amazing Grace (the new, hip Chris Tomlin arrangement).
Chris Tomlin’s version finishes with the verse:
The Earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God who called me here below
Shall be forever mine.
But just as we had finished singing this verse someone sitting near me decided to shout out a heckle! They called out “One more verse, the gospel is for eternity”. The mood of the room turned and people shuffled out annoyed. What I gather (this person made a similar heckle last year when they shouted out “one more verse”) that they are disappointed that the Chris Tomlin arrangement doesn’t include the verse referring to being there for ten thousand years. Two points:
– The verse that they were concerned wasn’t being sung isn’t original to the song. I own a copy of Olney Hymns, which is a collection of the three hymnbooks penned by Newton and Cowper. In the Amazing Grace entry, it contains 6 verses (one of which I had never heard of) but none of them were the verse being heckled about.
– Putting historical gripes and humanist demands for ad fontes aside – the last two lines of the actual last verse do communicate the eternal nature of our relationship with God.
It was a pretty disappointing display by this heckler. It was disappointing that he was willing to make his personal preference the focus of the night. The talk, the video, the performance, the music were all meant to be drawing our attention to the task of gospel proclamation. To be perfectly honest with you, I’m struggling to remember a single line of Don’s talk that night but I can sure remember the heckle! I imagine I’m not alone.
It was disappointing because he knew that his protest wouldn’t actually achieve anything (the tech guys can’t just whip up a new verse and the musicians just play it).
But mostly I’m disappointed because if indeed the heckler feels any remorse over his actions he can’t possibly apologise to the 1499 people he annoyed.
Were you there? What did you think?