Connecting the Dots in an Unconnected World

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Ignace Jan Paderewski, the famous Polish composer-pianist, was once scheduled to perform at a great American concert hall for a high-society extravaganza. In the audience was a mother with her fidgety nine-year-old son. Weary of waiting, the boy slipped away from her side, strangely drawn to the Steinway on the stage. Without much notice from the audience, he sat down at the stool and began playing "chopsticks." The roar of the crowd turned to shouts as hundreds yelled, "Get that boy away from there!" When Paderewski heard the uproar backstage, he grabbed his coat and rushed over behind the boy. Reaching around him from behind, the master began to improvise a countermelody to "Chopsticks." As the two of them played together, Paderewski kept whispering in the boy's ear, "Keep going. Don't quit, son...don't stop...don't stop."

What are the lessons Baptists can learn from this story?

1. There is the danger of the piano not being played at all. If we wait for the experts to play the piano it will for the most part remain silent and ineffective. Further the experts cannot be everywhere at once.
2. There is the risk of finding fault with those who are playing the piano now. Those not playing the piano easily criticize those that are playing the piano. Particularly when it is not being played to their liking.
3. Those who play the piano expertly are prone to criticize those who play differently than they play. It is safe to assume that there were many self-professing expert pianists who “heckled” the boy.
4. The loudest critics are often those who prefer the limelight of being a soloist rather than what is often perceived as a mundane participant. The prima donna does not understand the need for cooperation.
5. There is value when the expert joins in with those currently playing the piano. The melody becomes not only more appealing it is more effective.
6. The perceived expert need not stop what is happening to make it more effective, he simply needs to add his skill to the melody.
7. Cooperation is a much better impetus for success than criticism or removal. We still best what we do together.
8. Cooperation is not dependent on total agreement or compliance. The master in the story had years ago moved beyond chopsticks and certainly had not planned for a concert that included chopsticks.
9. I fear that often the question is “cooperation” versus “control”. Those that seek control seldom understand the concept of cooperation.

The genius of Southern Baptist life has always been our cooperation within the context of theological consensus and missional commitment. If we lose the commitment to cooperative ministry we will lose that which has made us the most effective and far-reaching mission effort in the history of Christianity.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation.”
~ William Arthur Ward


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