This is the 15th in a series of Friday posts on congregational song.
No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, NIV)
Music is inherently appealing. Musicians, desiring to please their audience, tend to try to maximize that appeal. The more favorable people’s response to the music, the more the musician’s ego and/or pocketbook are fed.
So what has happened? Music is increasingly guided by the present tastes of the audience or congregation. Freshness and innovation are set aside. What is worse, the musician’s motivation, which at the beginning was perhaps to serve people for their good, is now to appeal to people for the musician’s own good. Sounds like a description of the popular music industry, doesn’t it?
We Christian musicians face the same temptation. We too want to please people. We too can become self-serving in our ministry. Instead of offering them what is valuable and lasting, we feed them temporary pleasure. Instead of communicating what is timeless and true, we simply stimulate their emotions. Instead of giving, we take.
How do we resist the pull of such temptations? Should we ignore the musical preferences of the people to whom we minister? Is that the answer?
No, it isn’t. As in all temptation, the key is to stay focused on the Father. That was how Jesus resisted temptation in the wilderness. Satan tried to turn His eyes away from the Father to look to His own needs. Jesus kept His attention on the Father. His connection with the Father was His strength. It is ours as well. Spend daily time with God. Keep your heart fixed on Him so that He is your guide, your inspiration, your enabler, and your only motivation. Stay tuned to His Spirit, and use all your energies to glorify only Him.
When we seek to appeal to people, we are easily sucked into fads. Our focus turns to the current taste, whatever it is. Such fads are a quick fix in the perpetual human search for true life with all its stimulations. Fads cannot touch the deeper, more lasting, more pressing needs. Their goal is pleasure. Their desire is to feel better, not to be better. Their focus is other people, not God.
This is not a condemnation of any particular style, be it contemporary or traditional. We all face this same temptation, whatever our style. We are all tempted to appeal to people, to entertain them rather than to minister to them. What begins as a means to a good end so easily becomes an end in itself, and a selfish one.
Stay tuned to Jesus Christ. Spend enough time with the Shepherd that You recognize His voice (John 10). As you listen to Him and live in Him, the Creator will create through you.
Innovators, and those who build to last, are not so much ahead of their time as out of their time. They are more free from the tyranny and narrow blindness of now. Instead, they are often driven by the most powerful creative force in our world: love. God’s love working through us. Love leaves no room for fear, pride, or selfishness. Love longs to serve. Love gives itself completely to meet other people’s needs.
Live in Christ, and His love will grow in You—love for Him and love for people. His love will energize you and focus all your God-given abilities on life’s greatest goal and highest privilege: to glorify our Lord and draw people to Him.
Love never ends.
But as for prophecies, they will come to an end;
as for tongues, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
and the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:8, 13, NRSV)