The Quest for Music Miracles
© Copyright, Grantley Morris All rights reserved
The Ideal Musician
The Ideal Musician . . .
The ideal musician has so many special qualities that I doubt if I’ve covered them all in this book. Feel inadequate? Of course you fall short. There is no ‘ideal musician’. But there is a way to compensate for our deficiencies.
Consider David and Solomon. Though exceptionally musical, they were not Levites. This deficiency was overcome by their reliance upon others to perform such tasks as moving the ark and singing to the Lord in a full-time capacity.
It is universally accepted that of the two Wesley brothers, Charles was the greater hymnist. In fact, there is little original poetry we can confidently ascribe to John. Yet it is claimed that John’s ‘perfect taste’ significantly contributed to his brother’s greatness.
We need each other.
A finger, cut off from the hand and grafted directly to the head would be utterly useless. It must relate correctly to the rest of the body before it can function. Likewise, we cannot have a ministry worthy of Christ, unless we relate correctly, not just to Christ (the Head) but also to the rest of His body.
‘. . . holding fast to the Head, from whom the entire body, BEING SUPPLIED AND HELD TOGETHER BY THE JOINTS AND LIGAMENTS, grows with a growth which is from God’ (Colossians 2:19 NASB, emphasis mine).
Growth comes from the Head. But for this to be fully manifested in the individual body parts, each must be properly united to the other (see also Ephesians 4:16).
Whether we like it or not, we are each dependent upon the rest of Christ’s body.
Someone with a music ministry obviously must relate to the other musicians in his group. This, in itself, can provide fertile soil for the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) to grow. It usually proves to be a wonderful, God-given opportunity for love, patience and self-control to mushroom, as we teeter on the brink of mortal combat, squabbling over musical arrangements and the like!
It was when the trumpeters and singers were in unison, that the cloud of God’s glory filled Solomon’s new temple (2 Chronicles 5:13-14).
However, a musician also needs to relate properly to people with such diverse ministries as faith, prayer, theological insight, administration, financial support, encouragement, correction, cleaning, welcoming people, and so on. Even those who merely sit in rapt attention have a significant role to play. A musician’s contribution to a meeting must blend with every part of the meeting. This involves being in harmony with every other person contributing to the meeting.
But we dare not imagine everything revolves around the music ministry, or even around our particular church (1 Corinthians 3:3-4). Musicians should look for opportunities to assist other ministries, wherever they are. For example, would a tiny gathering of intercessors be lifted by the mere addition of your singing voice to their feeble attempt to sing?
Through love, serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
Relating closely to the body of Christ provides us with countless infuriating opportunities for growth. We need practice in learning how to draw upon the Spirit’s gentleness, kindness, self-control, etc. and the best practice-sessions occur when the going gets tough. Particularly useful are the times when people hurt us. Don’t worry – there’s usually someone willing to give us the experience we need. Even when things seem unbearable, we must not cut ourselves off from members of the body. A hard-won victory does more for a person’s character than a dozen instantaneous ones.
When the fur flies we should take seriously such Scriptures as, ‘Count it all joy when you fall into various trials’ (James 1:2, note also verse 12 and Romans 5:3 ff). Such an attitude can transform what would previously have seemed a nightmare into an exciting challenge to be an overcomer.
Although each of us has a unique place in the body of Christ, it will include three aspects:
l. Submitting to God-ordained authority.
2. Receiving the ministry of others.
3. Being positioned where we can most effectively minister to others.
Without these, we could never reach our full potential, no matter how talented or spiritual we think we are.
Not only must a finger relate to the arm, it must be in submission to it. Though direction comes from the head, it comes via the arm.
That’s fine – as an anatomy lesson. As a spiritual truth, however, it’s as welcome as toothache.
Submit to the Head? Sure! Christ is perfect. Disagree with Him and it’s obvious who is wrong. (Better still, pretending we did not hear is often easy.) But submit to a twit no better (probably worse) than you and me? We’d sooner eat glass.
The apostle John hit us hard when pointing out that we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love those we do see (1 John 4:20). Painfully, the same could be said about submitting to the unseen God.
Since God is the ultimate authority, disrespect for authority is therefore at least logical in our godless society. But not in the church.
In the jungle of Western civilization, obstinacy is a virtue; submission is a dirty word; Biblical standards are outdated. Few, if any, of us have escaped this pervasive influence from the world. So it is not surprising that submission within the body of Christ is resisted by many fine Christians. To our distorted thinking, submission seems humiliating, archaic, and even unscriptural.
Thankfully, Scripture lavishes musicians with clear examples of submission.
‘. . . these were UNDER THEIR DIRECTION OF THEIR FATHER for song in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries and harps . . . ACCORDING TO THE KING’S ORDER to Asaph, Jeduthum and Heman’ (1 Chronicles 25:6 – see also verse 2).
‘. . . when he [Jehoshaphat] had consulted with the people, he APPOINTED singers unto the Lord . . .’ (2 Chronicles 20:21).
‘. . . Hezekiah the king and the princes COMMANDED THE LEVITES to sing praise unto the Lord . . .’ (2 Chronicles 29:30).
Early in 1 Chronicles 25 the prophetic responsibility of the musician is emphasized, ‘Meaning,’ says Wilcock, ‘that they are open to whatever unexpected ministry the Spirit of God may put into their mouths.’ Yet these same verses three times affirm that they are to be under the direction of leaders. ‘The freedom,’ comments Wilcock, ‘is within a framework.’
Holy singers and instrumentalists of old yielded themselves, under God, to human authority.
If, like me, you have problems with this subject, I urge you to consult Appendix, Note 8.6.)
I was touched to read of George Beverly Shea’s reaction to his first offer of a recording contract. In that stage of his life, not only was it a great honor to be approached by RCA Victor, it was a tremendous opportunity to cement his ministry. Most of us would have seized the offer with vice-like grip. But not this man. Though his service to the Lord extended far beyond his association with the Billy Graham team, he sought Billy Graham’s approval. Not content with this act of submission, he delayed his decision for almost a month after receiving Billy’s enthusiastic response. He wanted to be absolutely certain it would create no disharmony with other members of the team.
Like love, submission is an act of obedience to God, not an indication of inferiority. The person submitting, like the one loving, is often displaying the greater virtue.
A person may be obnoxious, but that is no excuse for not loving him. Neither is a leader’s foolishness a legitimate reason for disregarding him.
Only if told to disobey God’s clearly revealed command should we not submit to human authority (Acts 4:19-20; 5:28-29; Daniel 3:10-12; 6:7-10; Deuteronomy 18:18-20) and even then, we are still obligated to obey the authority on neutral matters.
Sadly, a beautiful truth wrenched from its Biblical checks and balances, becomes hideous. Scripture records the tragic consequences of a man of God mindlessly submitting to an old prophet who lied when claiming to be giving divine guidance (1 Kings 13). This may be a rare occurrence, yet it shows we each have a personal responsibility to seek and obey God on matters related to ministry and guidance.
Furthermore, those of us in authority should constantly remember that only the heathen lord it over each other (Luke 22:25-26; 1 Peter 5:3). So, ‘obey those who have rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch over your souls, as ones who must give account’ (Hebrews 13:17).
In the beautiful words of the Paul the prisoner, the one way to lead a life worthy of our calling is ‘with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:1-3). ‘. . . in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves,’ thus modelling themselves after the exalted Lord (Philippians 2:3-5).
What a beautiful consequence of snuggling into the exact part of the body God has chosen for us!
In a particular Passover celebration highly commended by Scripture, (2 Chronicles 35:18) singers were released to minister in music because other Levites prepared the Passover for them (2 Chronicles 35:15). Had the singers proudly refused ministry from their brethren, their own ministries would have been hampered.
Ephesians teaches that Christ has set in His body apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to perfect us for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). So musicians cannot expect to be perfected for ministry without being so positioned in the body that they can receive these uplifting ministries.
A vast number of hymns have been written as a direct result of the writer being moved by a sermon. The writers were first ministered to, then they were able to minister to others. Frequently, the hymn writers had a far greater impact upon the world than the original sermon, but they owed it all to preachers.
It is said that Charlotte Elliott’s ‘Just as I am’ was inspired by the Christian counsel she received by a Dr. Caesar Malan of Geneva. Other songs have been inspired by testimonies. Mrs. Joseph Knapp wrote a new melody and played it to a blind friend. As a direct result, Fanny Crosby wrote, ‘Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine’.
A young servant girl, seeking spiritual counsel was told all she needed to do was to pray and read her Bible. In tears, the illiterate girl lamented, ‘I canna read, I canna pray!’ Then, in a moment of desperation she prayed, ‘Lord, tak’ me as I am.’ The story reached Eliza Hamilton. She was so moved that she wrote what became a popular hymn based upon that simple prayer. That wouldn’t be the first time an illiterate has inspired a gifted hymnist.
Most Christian songs are probably the product of amazingly intricate chains of inter-relationships between members of Christ’s body. Dr. William How was moved to write a hymn after reading a poem he came across. The poem, in turn, was inspired by a sermon Jean Ingelow heard in an English fishing village. Probably the full story is far more complicated. Perhaps, for example, it was the way Jean was welcomed by a deacon at the door that caused her to be in a receptive frame of mind when she heard that sermon. And one wonders how many people ministered to the preacher to enable him to give the sermon.
The full background to the writing of just one hymn may be too complex for the human mind to cope with. But at the heart of it is Spirit-led relationships within the body of Christ. We cannot resist such relationships without our ministries suffering.
‘And the singers the sons of Asaph were IN THEIR PLACE, according to the commandment of David, and Asaph, and Heman, and Jeduthum the king’s seers; and the porters waited at every gate; they had no need to depart from their service; for their brethren the Levites prepared for them’ (2 Chronicles 35:15).
As a result of submitting to human authority (David, Asaph, etc.) and receiving the ministry of their Levitical brethren, the singers were released to minister. They were united together in one specific location. And you can be sure that location was the exact point from which they could most effectively minister to God’s people. This is the final joy of being correctly integrated into the body.
Let’s persistently seek God’s face until we are sure that our position in the body of Christ is the exact one God has ordained for us.
No mid-wife would joyfully deliver a healthy baby and then leave it to die. Yet the spiritual equivalent seems to happen.
Like new-born babes, new Christians require constant attention. Few would thrive, some would not even spiritually survive without the self-sacrificing support of other members of the body. They need continual prayer, encouragement, counselling, Bible teaching and ensuring they are fully integrated into a caring body of believers. It is not sufficient to merely tell them what to do. They need living examples. They should be brought to church regularly, introduced to Christians and welcomed into members’ houses until they regard the church as their home and the place where their best friends are.
A mid-wife’s duty is not complete until she knows the infant’s welfare is assured. As part of a team, she does her part and then entrusts the newborn into the care of responsible and adequately trained people. When Christian musicians are part of a team – a properly functioning body of Christ – the new-born Christian will be expertly nurtured.
When someone comes to Christ through our ministry we must not rest until that ‘baby’ Christian is adopted by Christians who will fully care for him/her as their very own. Otherwise, we must take the full responsibility upon ourselves.
We should not consider bringing babies into the world without ensuring the necessary means to care for them are in place. So whenever you are invited to perform, you need to confirm there is adequate preparation for follow-up.
Under all ministries there are likely to be apparent converts who are actually still seeking salvation. This is particularly true of the music ministry, where people can easily be moved emotionally without the experience going deeper (cf Ezekiel 33:32). Such results should not be despised. Becoming an active seeker is a vital stage in becoming a Christian. However, we need to be aware of the situation, and endeavor to bring such people through to salvation during the ‘follow-up’. No doubt, the Lord will have touched them, but it is irresponsible to glibly assume from this that they have genuinely experienced salvation.
With the invention of recordings and electronic media, musicians have been tempted to abdicate their responsibility. Just because we cannot see those we are ministering to, is no reason for being unmoved by their need for personal counsel. I’ll leave it with you and the Lord to determine how to overcome this serious problem. Urging people to write or telephone is one possibility. Certainly, the task is not complete when we come to the final note of our song. And the total ministry God requires is best accomplished not by musicians in isolation, but by a properly functioning body of believers.
Controversial band Petra has received so many knocks over
the years from other Christians that you might expect them to
flee their persecutors and try to exist alone. Yet the band’s
principle songwriter and guitarist, Bob Hartman feels dependent
upon churches, even when it comes to attracting non-Christians
to Petra‘s concerts. He stresses that the band wants to
‘act under accountability’. ‘If churches don’t want to support
us, won’t get behind us,’ he told a magazine interviewer, ‘then
there’s no reason for us to exit.’
Even musicians can slip into the mentality that music is little more than pandering to human inabilities to take large doses of the ‘real’ ministry of preaching. Many churches seem to imagine the sole prerequisites for Christian musicians are musical ability and confession of faith – anything else is a welcome, but optional extra. We could fill a book with the qualities expected of pastors, yet in many churches, highly skilled musicians would be given prominent positions, irrespective of their newness to the faith, or how much they hide behind the label of temperamental artist to excuse their resistance to the Spirit’s yearning to fashion their character in the image of Christ.
Let’s draw together some of the reasons we have discovered for taking a much higher view of music.
1. Music originated in the heart of God.
2. Music is of eternal significance. Unlike most ministries, it will continue in the age to come.
3. The Lord’s estimation of the music ministry is revealed by Him assigning it to some of the holiest people in the holiest tribe of the holy nation. They were personally selected by God and financially supported by the holy tithes given by God’s people. So crucial was this service that they needed to be released from all other duties, free to minister day and night.
4. Our Lord has ordained that music fulfill an enormous range of vital functions, from ministering to God, to ministering to His people, to saving the lost.
5. The Bible’s songs, the model for all Christian music, are some of the deepest, most precious parts of holy writ. They are filled with lofty theology, amazingly precise prophecies, beautiful prayers, exquisite praise, and heart-wrenching confessions. They thrill the theologian, inspire the poet, instruct the wayward, comfort the crushed, uplift the pray-er, and lend words to lips trembling with inexpressible joy.
6. God has mightily used music in past centuries and He yearns for us to appropriate from Him still greater things.
Flowing from our conviction that music is so important, is the conviction that to be involved in its production is a high calling. If music really is a holy ministry unto God; if people can daydream through a sermon and yet be gripped by a song; if they can forget a sermon but have music permanently engraved on their minds; then the selection and spiritual preparation of musicians demand much prayer.
Christian musicians need special qualities, far beyond the ability to emit pleasant sounds, just as much more is expected of an evangelist than the mere ability to speak. There have been evangelists with rough voices who could hardly put two words together and yet have been spectacularly used of God. The world saw a poor orator; heaven saw a great preacher. I wonder if there is much similarity between the Lord’s list of the world’s greatest musicians and our list.
Robert Douglass says that most Christian musicians are essentially musicians who use their gift in a Christian setting. In contrast, he says Southern Baptists typically view a musician as ‘basically a minister, whose particular field of service lies in music’. It takes little thought to realize which concept is more Biblical. Had musical ability been paramount in the heart of God, Levitical musicians would have been chosen not on the basis of birth, but on the basis of native talent.
We dare not exalt sound above character, music degrees above spiritual insight, or worldly acclaim above God’s anointing. Progress in the ministry of music is as dependent upon pouring over Scripture as it is upon pouring over music sheets. If one’s preparation for the music ministry consisted of practice alone, then even twelve hours a day would ultimately achieve nothing. Prayer makes practice perfect. Spiritual music comes from spiritual musicians.
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