The 3rd Element

Bruce Springsteen said that a song requires three things: a lyric, a melody and a 3rd element. “Unless you have that and touch that, you have not created something special, something real, something lasting.” (in a live interview with Elvis Costello on Spectacle April 2010).

What is that 3rd element missing in most songs?

Could it be that which scratches the surface of something anointed, something supernatural, something transformational? Every song writer I know would want to channel some of that.

Springsteen claims he has spent his entire life, as he puts it, “trying to write his way out” of the staunch religious worldview of his upbringing.

In some ways, I resonate with that. I’ve spent a good deal of my own time playing religious games. Religion is an addictive cyclical pursuit of human quest. I try to work harder to become a better person entirely through my own effort.  And it leads nowhere.

Religion also robs me of creativity. I keep doing the same things I’ve always done. My “songs” all sound the same. My programs look like they did 10 years ago. What I write or think about has a familiar feel to it. Productivity wanes. Religion pickpockets that 3rd element from right under my nose.

How do you reverse the effects of religion? How do you get close to having a 3rd element in your life? What is it anyway?

Craig Groeschel said, “I believe that God makes “IT” happen. It is by Him and for Him, and we can’t create it, manufacture it, put it in the bottle and study it. Someone can bring it, and another could kill it. It’s not a system or a model. (speaking at the Leadership Summit 2008).

Don’t settle for fancy lyrics and sweet melodies…don’t go anywhere or do anything until that 3rd element is a part of the design.

Create some space for God to work that 3rd element magic in your Sunday school class or home group bible study or youth worship band practice. When He shows up everything changes.

Do you know someone who does this well? They appear unusually aware of God’s presence and confident in God’s ability to handle any setting. On top of that, they quite effortlessly recognize and facilitate for others powerful transformative moments.

Treat these people like gold; employ them, get coached by them, have them speak at your events, listen to them and learn.

What do you think? Tell us.


10 Responses to The 3rd Element

  1. Thanks for the thoughts, Sam.

    I think for me, the phrase “When God shows up everything changes” is problematic. It gives the impression that “when I really want Him to, or when I really try hard at something, or really pray about it, God will show up.” I know what you meant by it, but we hear it a lot and it creates this dichotomy of God is here/God’s not here yet.

    Since God is always with us, I find it’s less ‘me waiting for Him to show up’ and more ‘me being aware of Him being present in the process.’ When I am aware, then words like “confident, effortless, transformation” tend to characterize ministry.

    I love your thoughts on creativity and breaking out of a mold. When I read my old journals, I sometimes think: “Will I ever change?!”

    • Kara, thanks for the great critique. I agree with your concern with “God’s here/God’s not here yet” thinking. I would NOT want to encourage this dichotomy for anyone.

      However, I find some people are more able to facilitate a transformational experience than others. Simply put, they have an ability to get people’s eyes off of circumstance and onto God. To connect the dots in hearts, demystify, or even explain the importance of God’s transforming presence, in every setting where “two or three are gathered.” Matt 18:20. How much value should we put on this ‘intangible” criteria when considering pastors in our churches or resource teachers on our discipleship programs?

      • Yeah, another great entry, Sam. I agree with not wanting to foster the “here/not here” thing, but scripture also shows the “God showing up” stuff in significant ways too (“the Spirit came upon them…”) Another example of “Both/and”, as many things seem to be…

        I write this more as a reminder to myself, since I’d much rather just stay in the “He’s here all the time” camp, and not have to deal with this idea that He sometimes does “show up” in pretty amazing, hard to explain ways too. (I put “show up” in quotes, since like Kara I do find that phrase problematic! :-)

  2. Great thoughts, Sam. I love your challenge to look beyond ourselves with people who we know have got it. That’s what I’ve spent years doing. Just last night I went to see a man who’s currently at St. Paul’s in Vancouver. I used to do coffee with him once a week in Prince George…. anyway, even a hospital visit turned into him encouraging me and me gleaning new wisdom from his 4ish decades of ministry experience. It’s crazy that I went to pray with him cause he’s ill, and yet he couldn’t stop oozing that 3rd element.

    Great thoughts! Let’s leave room for the Spirit to work his 3rd element among us!

  3. God is here all the time, but He does give out His Spirit in measurements, and we are called to increase in our faith, in His grace and His love. There is definitely a pattern of maturity in scripture, and of Christ increasing as my life decreases;

    John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
    Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
    Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end
    II Corinthians 10:15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged,
    II Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

    It is the desire of my heart to decrease as Jesus Christ more and more becomes my all in all.
    (and I know that that is probably all of your desires as well) As we go out to serve Him, may we recognize where our Father is at work, and pray that He would INCREASE in our lives and ministries… even unto the level of the apostles, constantly praying, going to their deaths with joy, and seeing thousands come into the knowledge of Him. :)

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