Monday, December 15, 2008

Don't Let the Music Stop Ya

I live in Music City. I work in the industry that gives this place its name. I went to a college full of musical know-it-all's (at least we thought we did). I spent a couple of years being a jerk, thinking I knew all that was cool and hip about music. Fortunately, I was snapped out of that mindset (before spending too many years in misery).

My friend (we'll call him Jacob, not his real name) has every reason to be a musical-snob. He has a master's degree in piano performance and has worked on some pretty prominent albums. I used to see him during church service singing his heart out. No matter how "crappy/silly" I thought the "shallow" song was, he was completely and utterly into it. Then I learned he had had a near-death disease some years earlier. Then it all made sense. That was the beginning of the end of me being a self-proclaimed "music expert." 

From then on, I started to support artists and songs that before would have been worthless in my mind. I started to encourage pride in my friend's musical interests. Here's proof that I'm not kidding, and I don't even care what you think. I love Meat Loaf. Not the food (I'm a vegetarian). The singer! There's a song on Bat Out of Hell II called "It Just Won't Quit." I can't quit playing that one, and many others. He's sold 60 million albums. I have umpteen friends that would give their left foot for a tenth of that kind of sales success.

I'm getting way off point. 

Music nearly kept me from a church-home. A couple of years ago, I started looking for a new church to call my own. Whether I realized it or not, the church's musical style and content during the service was still weighing me down. I'm so excited to share that my beautiful bride and I have found a church-home, and we are so excited to be part of a much bigger family. I was reminded of just how NOT-important some aspects of church are, after reading the following two items.

My buddy (I never actually knew him) Rich Mullins, helps to bring the point home beautifully. This is from the book, An Arrow Pointing To Heaven, by James Bryan Smith (Broadman & Holman, 2000)....

"Most of us choose a church based on the quality of its service, but for Rich, the most important ingredient was not the dynamism of the leaders but the devotion of the people. Eric Hauck recalls being with Rich in a worship service held in a barn only a few days before Rich died. 'Some friends wanted to have a gathering for praising God. They encouraged everyone who had an instrument to bring it and play.' Eric recalls that because they were not professional musicians, the music sounded awful. Even those who led the singing sang out of tune.

Someone asked Eric and Rich to lead the group for the rest of the evening. Rich went up to the microphone and said, 'I love to be in the church. I love to listen to people sing and play with their hearts. In my profession we worry a lot about being in tune and sounding good. But this music is the music that is the most pleasing to God because it is so real, and it comes from the hearts of the children of God.'

Eric concludes, 'As he said this, he got choked up. It was the last time I saw Rich cry'."

And, to seal the deal in (at least) my own heart, here's a quote from C.S. Lewis.

"When I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my room and reading theology, and I wouldn't go to churches and Gospel Halls;...I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nonetheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren't fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit."

The church can not be perfect. The church is us.

Don't let the music stop ya. 

Find your home. I promise it's out there.

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