An Anointed Ministry, Part V
(con't from Part IV)
If it's true that a people cannot be saved from oblivion unless its music has been saved from oblivion, then this painting (photo) of unused hymnals gathering cobwebs pretty much says it all [See blog, Hymnals, Parts I-XII].
There are several priorities that can be expected to help organists who are involved in this ministry to keep first things first and to better enjoy their anointed calling. It's important to never forget that GOD is our audience. This means adopting a conscious and constant attitude to redirect ourselves away from an entertainment model where the singers and musicians are onstage to put on a show to impress the critics and the rest of the audience in their seats. As musicians living in utilitarian times we're constantly tempted to value efficiency and precision in performance over everything else, merely for the sake of our Art. Even if we happen to be seated on a platform front and center and our playing is helping to offer collective praise before hundreds of human onlookers and listeners, we're still performing to an Audience of One.
We need to ask the Lord to lead us rather than just bless us. Sometimes people are prone to build the house, finish what they created, and then ask the Lord to bless their efforts rather than to be a faithful worker under His direction all along the way. We can forget that God knows what will ultimately please Him far better than we do. In spite of what we plan, He's more concerned with the depth of our obedience than the magnitude or absolute perfection of our musical finished product. No matter how many times we've practiced a work, each time we perform it there will be a difference.
We need to practice reverence for the holy. Helping to lead worship can expose us to the dire consequences of spiritual pride, and there is an irreverent danger in becoming "too familiar" with the things of God. We recall that, in the biblical story, Uzzah was struck dead because he touched the Ark of the Covenant as David and his army brought it back to Jerusalem (2Sam.6:1-7)). Instead of abiding in God's instruction for the priests to bear the Ark on their shoulders on poles, David placed the Ark on a cart drawn by oxen in the care of people who weren't qualified for the job. He played fast and loose with holy things because he wanted to get the Ark home for a massive worship celebration.
People should be valued over performance. People are to be loved; things are to be used. We fail in our calling when we use people and love things. People have talents, gifts, and roles, but people are many more things than that, NOT JUST those things -- they are priceless individuals created in the holy image of God, broken by the Fall, and redeemed by the blood of Christ. Whether we're full-time, part-time, or volunteers, we need to constantly remind ourselves that our ministry is not music but people. Music is simply a means we use to express praise, thanksgiving, and the joy of salvation, to teach the message of Christ, admonish others, and serve the faithful, but the temptation is there to put our services first. We measure our effectiveness not just in terms of services conceived and completed; we measure it in relational terms.
We should rejoice in the privilege of doing music. God gave us music as the language of the spirit, and when we write, play, or sing music we partake in His nature as Divine Creator. Music helps us to see beyond ourselves and share our hopes and dreams with one another. It's highest calling, however, is to bring praise to God from Whom all blessings flow. It's so easy, when we're tired or anxious or frustrated, or when moments may come when we feel especially satisfied and proud of our contribution, to forget that being musical is a holy privilege. It's an amazing thing, to push a key, pluck a string, or sing a note, and hear a musical tone. How much more to do so in the service of our Lord! To remind ourselves of that is a profound joy.
(con't in Part VI)