We began this series hoping to define the call of the Christian musician. Ultimately, a Christian musician is called to make music faithfully, in any context that reflects a grateful servant's response to the gospel. Last time we saw what that looks like in the context of the church.
But what if a Christian musician feels called to minister beyond the local church? How do we deal with the increasing number of bands and artists who see their role as affecting the broader culture with their music?
It's certainly happening. When I read through my monthly issue of CCM Magazine, I'm amazed at how well received Christian music seems to have become in the secular marketplace. I'm also often struck by the significance we seem to place on worldly success. Somehow our favorite Christian artists seem more important, more relevant, more fruitful when they've rubbed shoulders with secular stars.
I'm glad that Christians are being recognized, but should we automatically celebrate when Grammys are being presented to Christian artists and born-again bands are a regular part of the MTV rotation?
I'm not sure. Certainly, God's idea of success is starkly different from the world's. Worldly success is achieved through different means, and not always for the right reasons. Some famous crossover Christian artists are vague enough in their lyrics to minimize any impact.
Others have lived a life of compromise in direct contradiction to the uncompromising message of their songs. In the end, worldly success is no sign one way or the other that the gospel is being preached and the Kingdom of God is transforming our culture.
Certainly, some musicians will be called to serve the church by using their music outside the church. They will present a clear, compelling argument for a counter-culture called the Kingdom of God. Their lifestyle, perspectives, and actions will all point to another Kingdom and another King. And because they know their need for the local church, they will remain involved in a church that will bring them accountability, support, encouragement and oversight.
Most Christian musicians, however, will discover their sphere of ministry to be the local church.
In the midst of the cries for Christian musicians to fill the marketplace, I have another vision. What if Christian musicians everywhere began to flock to the church to sing, to play, to lead, to write, to create, to serve? What would happen if the ranks of contemporary Christian music shrank to one half, one tenth the size? Would God's work be hindered? Would the positive impact on the world really be that much diminished?
I believe that within local churches today are men and women with the gifting of a Bach just waiting to be encouraged, trained, and deployed. I believe there are Christians writing songs today for the purposes of self-glorification, financial greed, and idolatry, when God has actually called them to write and play for the glory of our Savior.
Dream with me for a moment. What if millions of Christian musicians, in response to the gospel, caught a vision for writing creative, varied, thoughtful music that enabled congregations to worship God more profoundly and depicted all aspects of life from a biblical perspective?
What if they believed there was no greater goal than serving God's people, wherever that might take them? What if Christian musicians devoted themselves to handling the word of truth as effectively as they handle their instruments? What if they gave themselves to training, studying, practicing, learning, teaching, all to serve God's purposes of edification, worship, and evangelism?
What if the world started coming to the church for ideas?
The success of the Christian musician is not based on number of units sold, size of concert halls played, or number of awards received. There is only one standard: in view of God's mercy, am I living a life that upholds the reputation of the Savior, and using my gifts to serve God's church in humility? Am I being faithful to the gospel?
This is my prayer for every Christian musician: that God may be glorified not only through our music, but through our lives.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:20-21, ESV)
That's it for this series. Next week, we look at some of the issues associated with Christian musicians operating outside the context of a local church.
P.S. -- Though I've focused on musicians, this message is applicable to every Christian. If you're a young adult who wants to develop or increase a passion for your church, I invite you to attend the New Attitude conference this January. Hosted by my fellow pastor, author Joshua Harris, New Attitude is for anyone age 18-29. I'll be teaching a breakout session there this year. We'll also have the privilege of having Louie Giglio from Passion join us as a main-session speaker. For more information, please visit www.newattitude.org.
Do you like Worship Matters in print? Try the audio experience, too. Bob's first two volumes in the new Worship Matters audio series are Theological Foundations for Worship and Practical Foundations for Worship. You can order them online 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.
Visit Sovereign Grace Ministries at www.sovereigngraceministries.org.
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