The (Christian) Music that Shaped Me – Conclusion
(In this series I’ve been sharing music that has been influential to me, personally. My hope is twofold: First, that some of my younger friends will be able to appreciate “from whence we’ve come” and to be encouraged to continue to seek fresh ways to communicate their faith through music. Second, that those of my generation will enjoy looking back a bit, but more than that, I pray that we will continue to recognize and encourage the creativity of today’s Christian musicians. Here’s where you can find the Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.)
Lighten up, it’s only music.
I’m finally wrapping up a 10 part series on The Christian Music That Shaped Me about some of the music that has had a profound affect on my life, my faith, and my ministry. Because of that, it may seem odd for me to say something like, “It’s only music.” Especially when you consider the fact that I’ve spent nearly 45 years of my life serving the church with music in one way or another.
So, yes, I realize that music can be a powerful and even mystical thing for people. But if we’re not careful it can begin to occupy a place in our hearts that should be reserved for the Creator of music…and I’m not referring to a composer.
If you look back over the series you’ll see a pretty diverse collection of songs and musicians. Naturally there are styles and forms of music that I enjoy more than others, but I think I have an appreciation for all music. Believe it or not, I’ve even heard some rap and hip-hop that resonates with me. Like this one, for example: Make War by Tedashii.
I suppose this is why I’ve never really understood how musical styles and preferences have become so divisive in the church.
I served as a Minister of Worship and the primary worship leader in two churches over a period of about 30 years. During that time, I doubt there was a single week that went by that didn’t include at least one “discussion” with someone about the music in the church.
“I hate these new songs. The old songs were the best. I miss them.”
“Have you heard this new song? We should do it sometime!”
“Why do we have to sing so MANY songs?”
“We should have a longer worship time.”
“You always change the arrangements. Why not just do the hymns like we used to?”
“It’s too boring and old-fashioned!”
“I can’t worship with the drums.”
“I LOVE these new songs!”
“It’s too loud!”
And on and on and on and on and on and on and on…
Everybody has an opinion, and everybody has a preference.
I’ve read lots of different books and articles and blog posts about musical worship in the church. Many try to make a case for which “style” of music is most appropriate for a worship service. Each will attempt to make a deep theological argument for why the music they prefer is the music that honors God the most, and how the music they don’t like is shallow and artless.
In my opinion, they all fall short.
Because when you strip away all the religious sounding talk, the snooty aesthetic critique, and the faux spiritual maturity, it always comes down to one basic thing:
“I like this and I don’t like that.”
It doesn’t sound as mature when you put it like that, does it?
This is why I say that the church (you and I) needs to…
Lighten up, It’s only music.
It’s not really what we go to church for anyway…or it shouldn’t be.
In Matt Redman’s church, the pastor, in order to reevaluate the place of music in the church, decided to discontinue ALL music in worship for a time until he thought they were getting back to what worship was really all about. It might seem a little ironic, but it was out of this experience that Matt’s song “The Heart of Worship” was born.
Ever since I first heard about that, I’ve wanted to attempt leading a group of people in worship without any music whatsoever. I’ve done it a few times in a small group setting, but never in a whole church worship service. I still think it could be a valuable experience for a worship leader, and for a congregation.
Music can be a wonderful addition to a worship service. It can stir our hearts. It can embed important truths in our minds. It can give voice to our soul’s deepest longings.
It can also become an idol.
My dear brothers and sisters, I say this from the depths of my heart, with all the passion I can find: if the church is ever going to be the presence of Christ in the world, we need to lighten up about this. Seriously. It’s only music.
It’s worth noting that scripture says nothing about God’s preferred style of music. Not one thing.
But here are a few things it does say:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Does this describe how you approach the issue of music in your church? Have you considered the time and dedication of those who serve you week after week? These people volunteer their time and talent. They learn music whenever they can at home, they come to rehearsal on a weeknight after work, they show up early on Sunday morning and stay through all the services, simply to give you and God the best that they have to offer. Have you gone to the sound booth or the platform after the service and expressed your appreciation? Not often, I suspect. Sadly, I even know of some church members who have threatened to withhold their offerings until the music changes. This is the exact opposite of the attitude described in the above passage.
Scripture also says:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…
(1 Corinthians 13: 4-5)
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
So, what do you do when your church continues to use music that isn’t your preference? Consider this: There is a reason for the musical choices made by your church, and it’s not just to annoy you. What do you think that reason could be? I mean, why would your church use music if absolutely no one liked it? They wouldn’t. So, if the only people you ever talk to are people like you, who don’t like the music, I suggest it’s time to get to know some of the people who do. I guarantee that there are people in your church who are there because the music speaks to them. If you get to know a person like that, you will likely find someone who is excited about what God is doing in your church, and it would do you good to be around them. Plus you would do what the above scripture says: “not insist on your own way” and not be “irritable or resentful.”
And for those of you who absolutely love the music in your church, please know that there are some who don’t. Oh, they love Jesus and the church just as much as you do. They just have a different taste in music. What is your interaction with these people? Do you “outdo one another in showing honor”? What can you do to express love to them? If you do these things you might be surprised at what you could learn from these folks. Plus you would begin to, “so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.”
My dear friends and fellow worshipers, regardless of what you like or what you don’t like, I implore you:
It’s time to lighten up, it’s only music.
But let’s get serious about what’s truly important…
Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)