Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Power and the Glory

Some thoughts from two conversations with two of my brothers in Christ,
one an accomplished musician, the other a non-performer who loves music.

We read of the "worship wars" over which music is most suited for worship. I
shared with these two my own outlook, as one who made a modest living for a while
as a musician. I came to be convicted of my own failure to focus completely on God
as I presented "special music" during worship service. Indeed, it began to seem as though I, not the God I sought to honor, was being made the object of attention
during these performances. With my lips I was giving praise, honor and glory to the
God who created me and redeemed me, but in my heart something else was occurring.

"What do you think,"I asked my fellow musician. I was not surprised to hear that he
too had experienced conviction over the secret thoughts of his heart during his own musical offerings. He had come to the conclusion, as I did, that individual performance during worship was not appropriate for him.

"What do you think," I asked my non-musician friend. Having grown up with bluegrass and southern gospel in the church, he found such music joyful and uplifting and conducive, in his experience, to worship. "I like special music," he told me.

The Reformed congregation where I attend church has adopted the view that every aspect of the worship service should be directed toward God alone (vertical worship) and that any "blessing" received by the worshiper should stem from having worshiped "in spirit and in truth." In other words: no special music.

So what's the big deal? Here's what I think: music is a gift from God to humanity. There is a power in music. It heals, it lifts up, it calms the savage breast. Music can make you want to dance. It can make you want to cry. It has the power to transport the listener to a specific place and time, to evoke strong memories. Have you ever attended a live musical performance? Then you can attest to music's power to move the hearer.

Having stood on a stage before an audience, I can testify to the fact that some of music's power attaches to the performer. I don't even have to be all that talented. I just have to know how to "work the crowd." Believe me, it's an almost godlike feeling to be able to move people with the skill of a performance. What a rush! There's no wonder that old, worn-out rockers return to the road time and again for a taste of the adulation. "We love the music," they say. Right.

Being fallen, we turn God's gift of music to our own ends. The music that lifts the believer's heart up to God can be used to the personal gratification of the performer. Music accompanied the child sacrifices that the Canaanites made to Molech. The Germans nearly conquered the world to the beat of several really snappy marching tunes. Rick Warren requires 72 beats per minute, the rate of the human heart, for worship music in his church.

Music is powerful stuff. I will sing with the saints in heaven. But for now, I'll be content to sing the congregational hymns. I won't attempt to bind anyone's conscience here but my own. Power corrupts, as Lord Acton once said, and I'm corrupt enough not to need any more.

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