How Can the Church Make a Musical Impact
I was on my own small town Facebook page this morning and someone new to the town stated that they finally found a church that sang out of hymnals. How she phrased that was interesting to me, because I am a musician. I mean, for me, that is like saying, finally pianists that play out of binders. Music is music, yes there are styles, but it was a song in someones heart before it hit the page. This just shows how people see music in the church and why the things that are happening are moving it to a downturn. We all know the reality that people are walking away from the institutional church, it is all over the blogs and Christian magazines on the internet. What's interesting is that before the big exodus, musicians were leaving. Christian labels were being sold to the main stream conglomerates and musicians decided to leave the Sunday morning experience for the paying gigs of festivals and bars. This is all interesting to me. In my experience as an artist and promoter, I have seen so many people blame the people exiting rather than trying to figure out what went terribly wrong with the community that people wanted to leave and maybe they just didn't know how to govern. So, let's go back and explore what really happened and how we may govern our area of influence to bring some life.
I remember when the church first started bringing in band and orchestral instruments. Maranatha, Integrity, and Vineyard Music Labels were on the rise and people were flocking to learn the music craft. There was a fresh move of the Holy Spirit that was forging new expressions in response including music. It was a season of the call of the musician. Before this season, there were many churches with choirs and a leader standing at a podium waving their hand to the beat of the music and leading the congregation as the organist and pianists played out of the hymnbooks. It was a bit more vibrant in the black gospel churches, but still one's experience was pretty much the same from week to week. Now, the area of music expanded to percussion, strings, horns, many different kind of guitars, electric synths and keys, and so much more. Singers were coming forward with songs of inspiration during an instrumental interlude and it brought the creative to the forefront and new songs were being written by the bundles. It was new. It was fresh. It was participatory. I remember how many musicians flocked to the church to participate. People were taking lessons and studying music again. They were coming together exploring the new richness of music in the church.
The 90's rolled in with marketing plans on church growth and how to create programs for the community. It was the mentality of keeping it going. It almost became a business as a pastor as it's CEO. The music department became a marketing ploy on drawing people and keeping them happy, which resulted in the feeling of underpaid and under appreciated instead of an experience of the Heavenly Father. The emphasis on relationships and community was a faint memory and works to build buildings and program structures took it's place. Church staffing teams would now be looking for that good looking front guy, with a degree in ministry, who had a rock sound, a bass player, drummer, and guitarist to produce a modern sound for the modern crowd. When walking into some churches, it seemed like walking into the Walmart of music that was underdeveloped yet you could tell they were trying to mimic the sound on the latest mp3 release and other churches were like the Neiman Marcus of music, because they could afford to pay a staff of musicians to actually perfectly mimic the latest mp3 release. Either way, it was just canned music for the sole effort to draw people like a downtown pub concert just with no beer. So why are we here anyway? Might as well be at the pub where there is beer, because my life is in a box and there is no life here, and at least there I can be myself and have friends that give me room to grow.
Governing our area of influence is not a picnic, and it takes being committed to one another and diligence. If every group dynamic is different, and everyone is bringing their own gifts, and there are new songs, why is every church becoming the same? I guess it's just easier. Why should we press in? Why should we work for anything? Why should we go where no man has gone before and actually be creative? Just follow the formula and it's easy. No. It's not, and that is the formula for failure of governance! Every gathering is supposed to be unique to itself with the best interest at heart for the people in that said group. It is a place for people to thrive. It is supposed to be a place for people to go and figure things out in their life, it's a place to innovate and create, it's a place for community and deep relationships you don't leave. What it isn't is a place to go to help build a Kingdom for a guy that sits prominently at the top of the hierarchy adding notches in his belt of people sitting in seats.
I wonder if we are not thriving as a music community in our gatherings, because as artists and even as people, we have to be able to explore our world and who we are and be able to authentically express ourselves in our communities. This is not an easy quest. It means seeking truth, guess what, Jesus is the truth. It means making an effort to govern your own life before you can speak into someone else's. It means working hard to see what God is doing and partnering with Him to help it thrive. It means humility. It means relationship. It means leading a quiet life and a tolerant one. It means Love that goes beyond comprehension and can only be found in the deep parts of our prayer life and community with God, and being aware what we are capable of in evil and in good and that we daily have a complete dependence on someone other than us for the answers. It means getting into the Word and really knowing the truth. It means having the hard conversations to get to the truth. We have easy access to concordances, and even Hebrew and Greek meanings of Words right on our phones. It means finding people that want the same thing, an authentic wonderful intimate relationship with God, themselves, and others. This is what makes music have an impact, because then when it is expressed, there are new songs, new depths of relationships, and new truths to write about because we bedrocked. So, we go out into our world and surround ourselves with people that want us to authentically thrive in truth and not pressing us with every critique, letting us go to Jesus for our answers, because He is the only way for each of us.