Instead, the conference opened last night on a somber note, with Tennessee pastor Steve Berger reflecting on the pain of having to bury his 19-year-old son just two years ago. For the keynote address, Berger exposited Psalm 40:1-3, one of nine Scripture passages that use the phrase “new song.” The psalm is a narrative prayer that begins with the psalmist’s experience of despair—of being in “an horrible pit” and stuck in “miry clay.” But by waiting patiently upon the Lord, the Psalmist says, he was taken from the pit and the mire and had his feet set “upon a rock” and had “a new song” placed in his mouth.
Berger stressed the pit as the location from which we learn the “new song” (which Berger defined as “a fresh experience with an ancient truth”). Those who want, with the apostle Paul, to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection had better be prepared to suffer with him. “Nothing gets resurrected until it dies,” proclaimed Berger.
The pit is God’s place for renewal—not just a renewal of worship experience (“In the pit, my hallelujah didn’t get stolen!”) but also for renewal of life ("Many will see it ... and trust in the Lord," says the Psalm. “New Song needs to be seen as well as sung,” says Berger).
Gerber’s deep spiritual realism has laid a solid foundation and provided focus for three-days of renewal and learning.
The National Worship Leader Conference is presented by Worship Leader magazine and hosted by the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. The conference runs July 19-22.
Steve Berger and his wife have written about their experience of “the horrible pit” in Have Heart: Bridging the Gulf Between Heaven and Earth (Thomas Nelson, 2010).