Music is instrumental to true worship
Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals, by raising the voice with resounding joy.
1 Chr.15:16 (NKJV)
In my younger days, when I was trying to ‘make it’ as a musician, I had 10-15 trumpet students per week. This was a source of great enjoyment for me. I would work each student over for 30 minutes a week. We would practice arpeggios, lip slurs, etudes and other strange delights that were native to the foreign land of kissing a piece of metal and buzzing one’s lips to generate a pleasant sound.
I had at least one long-term success; one of my students went on to be the bugler for Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. A couple of others have become music teachers themselves. However, the overwhelming majority of these good musicians placed their expensive horns in cases, and sentenced them into the dusty attics of their homes after years of study.
The great tragedy of instrumental music in the United States is that after high school, unless you pursue music as a vocation, there is little outlet for adults to continue to express their creative spirit. We even tell young people that music is something that they can do for the rest of their lives, unlike sports. But I know of many more former high school athletes who play a pick-up game on the weekends, than I do retired clarinetists or saxophonists who pick up the weekend gig. This is a place that the church can step in. Your church may have instrumentalists who haven’t played for a while who are itching to do just that.
I have a really strange theory on the music of the local church. So far, when explored at its depths, it has checked out. I feel that every church, within its membership, has within the potential of leading worship musically. Now you may say, “That’s not true in my church!” If that’s the case, then share the Gospel with some musicians. Consider it fleshly, but I have on occasion needed an instrumentalist in a group, which led me to sharing Jesus with someone – who became part of the band.
Think of all of the training that the average high school musician has had, and find a way to tap that. The new LifeWay Worship Project has orchestrations with individual parts on CD-ROM. They are $75 apiece. If I had two flute players in my congregation, it would be worth $150 to buy them the means to lead worship for the rest of their lives. The key is to look at your high school musicians currently. Once the horn is put in the attic, it has a tendency to stay there.
Once, I had four flute players in my old church, who would simply take the hymnal – and play out of it in the foyer of my church as people were coming in to worship. What a breath of fresh air on a Sunday morn.
One needs to also understand the high school ‘band-geek’ – this is a name they give themselves. They love to play. Every town in Missouri has them, and if they have a good time playing in your church, they’ll tell others to come and play too. Isn’t that exciting? The funny thing is they may not be in the local church youth group because of band commitments, but if you tell them to come and play on a Sunday – they’ll be there, early usually and ready to play.
In an orchestra that I directed, one of my most loyal musicians was a young Polish Catholic man who played baritone. He simply came to play his horn. But what a thrill it was to see him put down his baritone one Sunday morning to walk the aisle and accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior!
I know that churches have different philosophies on having the unsaved playing on a Sunday morning – I understand that and don’t wish to belabor that point, but I remember playing alongside a trumpet player in a Baptist church orchestra in Tucson, and finding out he was Jewish (and not Messianic Jewish). However, last I heard, he is gloriously saved and leading worship in a Presbyterian Church.
Now if this is a daunting concept to you, don’t worry. I’m a phone call away, and I will come personally to help you get started on this exciting road of empowering worship leaders for Kingdom work. (John Francis is the worship specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention and produces MoWorship, a monthly worship podcast available at www.mobaptist.org/worship.)