Last time, we began to enumerate ways in which Christian musicians are to be different from the world's musicians. Obviously, it's more than a matter of dressing differently, or refraining from using offensive language. The call of God on a musician's life begins with the inner attitudes and desires that lie behind our thoughts and actions. The first distinction we looked at was making art for God's sake rather than art's sake.
A second difference is that Christian musicians see music as a means of serving rather than self-promotion.
There are many musicians who seek the "life on stage" in no small part because of the self-glorification, pride, money, and other self-oriented benefits that can accompany even limited fame. A good friend of mine who happens to be an outstanding synth player, and is part of our Sunday music team, recently e-mailed me these thoughts:
"Looking back on my own life in my pre-Christian era (long time ago), I know I was consumed first of all with playing. Playing was like a drug to me. I could play by myself for hours and didn't need anybody to listen. Still, always in the back of my mind was the idea that one day there would be that audience that would listen and love me."
Yeas ago, when I was in the contemporary Christian band GLAD, I remember countless nights drifting off to sleep picturing my songs being sung to crowds of thousands. It took time and the grace of God to help me see that any godly motives I had for writing and singing Christian music were tainted at best.
I was driven by a lust for recognition and fame, even while pursuing "ministry." When our thoughts of performing are associated with our own praise rather than a desire to humbly serve others, we've allowed the world to "press us into its mold."
Christian musicians are different from the world in another way. They view music as a servant, rather than a god.
In 1995, the pop artist Sting shared these thoughts at the commencement ceremonies for the Berklee School of Music.
"If ever I'm asked if I'm religious I always reply, 'Yes, I'm a devout musician.' Music puts me in touch with something beyond the intellect, something otherworldly, something sacred...I never tire of hearing Samuel Barber's 'Adagio for Strings' or Faure's 'Pavane' or Otis Redding's 'Dock of the Bay.' These pieces speak to me in the only religious language I understand. They induce in me a state of deep meditation, of wonder. They make me silent."
While many musicians share Sting's perspective and will forsake jobs, money, relationships, recreation, and their faith to pursue musical success, Christians are called to enjoy and make music without worshiping it.
Finally, a musician who worships the Word made flesh understands the limitations of the subjective emotions music can elicit.
The world wants us to believe that reality exists in the moment, shaped and controlled by the musical vibes that are being produced. How can anyone argue with the effect that music has on all of us? But Christian musicians realize that those feelings, while intensely personal, can be deceptive, temporary, and shallow unless they are associated with or reflect biblical realities.
Music moves us in powerful ways. But only Scripture can give firm boundaries and definition to our profound but vague emotional experiences.
Next time we'll look further at the call of the Christian musician.
This column is based on a message that Bob gave at the annual “A Passion for the Glory of God” worship conference. If you’d like to listen to the full message, you may order it from the Sovereign Grace Store.
One of Bob’s songs is on the latest Sovereign Grace release, I Stand in Awe: Worship Favorites from PDI Music. You can listen to song samples or download a free song on our website. To order, visit the Sovereign Grace Store.