Music Through the Eyes of Faith – Pt. 1

In 1993, Harold Best, emeritus professor of music and dean emeritus of the Conservatory of Music, Wheaton College, Illinois, and a former vice-president of the National Association of Schools of Music, wrote “Music Through the Eyes of Faith”, a book written to help Christians think biblically and critically about God’s amazing gift of music.

Every worship leader needs to read this book. Every musician needs to read this book. Every pastor needs to read this book. Really, every Christian should read this book.

My wife will vouch for how enthusiastic I am about this book. My shouts of “this is amazing!” or “can I read this to you?!?!” or “this is really amazing!” rose from the living room for the five or six nights it took me to read through it. What a remarkably rich, thought-provoking, Bible-saturated, well written book. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

I wish I could quote the entire book to you, but I’m afraid that might be illegal. For the next few days, though, I would like to share some of the quotes (some are fairly long – but they’re worth it, trust me) that I found most amazing.

Chapter 1: God’s Creation, Human Creativity, and Music Making
“God is directly and continually engaged with his handiwork. Natural laws continue to work because Christ is now saying so; the galaxies continue to speed away from each other because Christ is now saying so; we continue to live, move, and have our being because Christ is now saying so.”
God’s Names and Creatorhood, and Human Creativity, pg. 13

“Had God not made the creation, God would still be the Creator, self-caused, entirely complete. In a way that eludes us, the triune God can be eternally at work within himself, disclosing the fullness of himself to himself and infinitely rich within those disclosures. What does this mean to our creativity and music making? Above all, it means that we should not make music in order to prove that we are or to authenticate ourselves. God created in us the capability for understanding that we are authenticated in him, not in what we do.”
God’s Names and Creatorhood, and Human Creativity, pg. 14

“As glorious as the creation is, it was merely created and not begotten. A strawberry, a galaxy, a dolphin, and a sea lion are not in the image of God. They are handiwork, pure and simple, thus of an entirely different order.

The next point is crucial. Having made the creation and having created us in his image, God has given us particular assignment that could not have been given to any other created beings. In telling Adam and Eve to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground (Genesis 1:28), God was setting down a basic principle. Man and woman, created in the image of God… are neither the same as the rest of creation nor subject to it. While materially they can be outweighed by a mountain or overpowered by the force of the ocean, and while they are incapable of changing the speed of light, they cannot be morally, spiritually, or behaviorally overcome by anything in the creation around them.”
The Creator Is Not the Creation and the Music Maker Is Not the Music, pg. 16

“Let’s concentrate on something that almost never comes to mind: the music that Jesus heard and made throughout his life – the music of the wedding feast, the dance, the street, and the synagogue. As it turns out, Jesus was not a composer but a carpenter. Thus he heard and used the music made by other, fallen creatures – the very ones he came to redeem. The ramifications of this single fact are enormous. They assist in answering the questions as to whether music used by Christians can only be written by Christians and whether music written by non-Christians is somehow non-Christian. But for now, it is important to understand that even though we don’t know whether every piece of music Jesus used was written by people of faith, we can be sure that it was written by imperfect people, bound by the conditions of a fallen world and hampered by sinfulness and limitation. So even though we do not know what musical perfection is, we do know that the perfect one could sing imperfect music created by fallen and imperfect people, while doing so completely to the glory of his heavenly Father.”
The Fall, Creativity, and Music Making, pgs. 18 and 19

More tomorrow.

Quotes taken from “Music Through the Eyes of Faith” by Harold M. Best.

Put the Music Stand Away

music_standI have a confession to make. This past weekend I came to the sad realization that I have become addicted to the music stand. I’ve become more and more dependent on it, not merely using it as a back-up, but using it as a crutch.

While leading “And Can it Be” on Saturday night I stumbled for the right chords, forgot the lyrics, and was too distracted to lead it confidently – all because I didn’t have the chord chart on the music stand in front of me. Usually if I don’t know the words I can look up at the screen, but I was too busy trying to figure out which chord came next to remember to do that!

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a complete train wreck, and since I wasn’t leading all by myself, I was able to hide my blunders for the most part. But as I’ve thought more about it, I’ve realized that it was the result of a growing dependence on always having the music in front of me, leading me to become a bit lazy and unprepared. While I’m sure many people didn’t notice, some did, and they were too distracted at times by my lack of practice to focus on the amazing love of the Savior that the song talks about.

My guess is that most worship leaders struggle with this “addiction” to the music stand as well. It seems unrealistic to be able to memorize so many different songs’ music and lyrics, and risky to lead without both in front of you at all times. But what ends up happening is what happened to me on Saturday night – we sing songs off of a page, not out of our hearts. This is a problem.

It probably isn’t realistic to memorize every single song’s music and lyrics. Your brain can play funny tricks on you sometimes, and you can completely forget how a verse starts, what the chord progression is on the bridge, etc. Because of this, it probably is a good idea to have the chord charts close by.

But having said that, it should be a goal of worship leaders to lead songs from their hearts, not from a piece of paper. We will lead more effectively if we have spent time not only getting familiar with the songs we’re going to sing, but allowing the truth in them to effect our hearts. We can all tell the difference between when someone reads a speech from a piece of paper or teleprompter, and when someone speaks from their heart with conviction. It shows a genuine belief in what they’re saying. The same applies to worship leaders.

If I’m standing before a congregation, I don’t want to send the message that I’m just caught up in a piece of paper. Instead, I want to send the message that I am caught up in a beautiful Savior. To do this, I need to prayerfully and humbly seek God’s help, and devote time and energy to memorizing the songs I’m leading as best I can.

This week I’m going to try:

  • Devoting an hour or more to singing and playing through the entire service’s song list once it’s finalized.
  • During the services, only have the chord charts in front me for songs that I don’t yet know by heart. This way I won’t be tempted to look at them out of habit, even when it’s not needed.
  • Prioritizing memorizing the lyrics to all the songs. The music is less important.
  • Going through rehearsal without looking at the chord charts at all. This will show me what songs I need to work on harder.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:16 to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Memorizing the songs we lead is one great way to do that.

Video Clip – The Ineffectiveness of Some Tunes

I’m really looking forward to the Worship God conference that starts one week from today at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I’m bringing 11 worship team members to the entire conference, and several others are coming to the evening sessions after they got off of work.

There is so much good teaching, meaningful times of corporate worship, practical instruction, time with the worship team, and opportunities to enjoy being in the congregation and not up-front.

I always look forward to hearing from Bob Kauflin. He’s a humble, gifted, wise, and Godly man – and I learn something from him whenever he leads worship or teaches. Here is a short clip of him from last year’s Desiring God conference (hosted by John Piper) that gives one example.