The Spiritual Life of the Church Musician
"As far as your person is concerned, you must not get angry with anyone regardless of the injury he may have done to you. But where your office requires it, there you must get angry, even though no injury has been done to you personally." (Matthew 5:26)
As I meet and talk with church musicians from all backgrounds, our conversations inevitably turn to some of the difficulties of working in the church. And we usually agree that the root of those problems is less of a musical one than one that is spiritual. In preparation for this class, I have tried to zero in on what the spiritual difficulties and challenges are for those of us who work as musicians in the church. I believe that working in the church is probably one of the most spiritually challenging jobs anyone can have.
First and foremost is the heightened contrast (and hypocrisy) between the law of God and our fallen natures. While we work in an institution that shines God's light on a fallen world, it first shines on ourselves, showing our own sinfulness and how far we fall short of God's perfection. This creates inevitable conflict in us and in others.
Secondly, the true church is a great threat to Satan and therefore is under constant attack from within and without. The "battle within" takes place within the staff and congregation and certainly within ourselves.
Thirdly, people often get away with things that would never be allowed in the secular world. Many times people say or do wrong in the name of Christ. This can be very hurtful, spiritually confusing, and very damaging.
How do we grow spiritually so that we may leave these hindrances behind? How can we be more effective in our service to God and our congregations?
Firstly, we need to continually grow in our understanding of who God is. This is a life long process. In our business it is easy to lose sight of for whom our worship is intended. In today's church, worship services have become more and more focused on the congregation. This is done under the guise of reaching, teaching, challenging, convicting amongst many other reasons. Many times the worship service is aimed at attracting the unbeliever for evangelistic purposes. Evangelism is very important, however our worship services are intended for the worship of believers - the unbeliever cannot worship. However, under the best of circumstances we all tend to lose sight of the fact that our worship services are meant to worship God. God (not the congregation) is our audience. Therefore we must continually remind ourselves of who God is. The God who told Moses to take his shoes off because he was standing on holy ground has not changed.
Isaiah 6 gives us a glimpse of God, how awesome and fearful he is indeed. Here Isaiah has a vision of heaven.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim...And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for."
When we begin to understand who God is, we will also fear him in the right sense of that word. We will be much more thoughtful as we prepare and participate in our worship services. So what are some of the challenges and solutions of being a church musician?
Being Spiritually Right with God
We must first be spiritually right with God. No matter how great our God given talent is, no matter how fantastic our postlude is, no matter how wonderful the choir sang the anthem - it all means nothing if it was not done with a heart that is pleasing to God. Cain presented God with wonderful fruits and vegetables - all beautiful things that God had created - but they were not offered in accordance with God's requirements, and therefore were not pleasing to him.
Proverbs 15:8 "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him."
The unrepentant Israelites of the Old Testament continued on in their elaborate temple worship. But God looks on the heart, not the outward appearance.
Isaiah 1:12-15 & 18 "When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations - I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen ..."Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land."
This may seem severe to our modern sensibilities, but scripture also tells us that God is unchanging - the God who Isaiah saw, is the same God in 2013. Malachi 3 says, "For I am the LORD, I do not change." So how do we enter the presence of this fearful God - by being clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Only the imputed perfection of Jesus Christ is sufficient. Once we have received that forgiveness and salvation we are then able to come and worship God. Our offerings are now acceptable and pleasing. Then as we begin our Christian walk we must come each day for a spiritual cleansing. This is of course not for salvation, but for forgiveness for the sins of the past day, and for grace and direction for the new day - our "daily bread."