When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come …
I love music. I wonder if I love it too much? Like St. Augustine in chapter 10 of Confessions, I have a tendency to get wrapped up in the artist, the vocalist, the compilation and the performance. I begin to think, “Wow, these guys are really good,” or “I love this song!” Augustine wrote,”I fluctuate between the danger of pleasure and the experience of the beneficent effect….”
The danger of pleasure is that it is self-focused. We can become so focused on seeking the experience, the pleasure, that we miss God Himself. When Redman’s pastor, Mike Pilavachi, saw this problem in their church in Waterford, England he literally pulled the plug. The church removed the sound system, packed the instruments away and song leaders took a seat with everyone else. Redman penned “The Heart of Worship” as instruments and PA were reintroduced six months later. “I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself, is not what you have required … I’m coming back the the heart of worship … it’s all about you, Jesus.”
I have friends who are worship leaders. I love these guys. I know their hearts. I know they want to point people to Jesus and see their music serve as a bridge connecting people with the heart of God. I appreciate their humility and their desire to be real. I also know what a struggle it is for them when sound equipment malfunctions or things do not go as planned. I know their desire for excellence. But, if I could give them a gift, I would give them freedom to grasp that the Lord is more concerned with their desire to make a joyful noise rather than a perfect noise. I would invite them to unwrap the truth that the Holy Spirit will take their offering and do His job. All they need do is lay it on the table, give it to Jesus and walk away.
I have never been much of a fan of Chris Tomlin’s music. I mean, it’s good but it wasn’t on my iPOD. Then I attended one of his concerts at a sumer festival. Chris led a crowd of 10,000 or so people in worship music. I was a surprised worshipper having expected just another show. Chris became invisible. The Lord moved me to tears. I went from singing loudly to not being able to sing at all. Chris is now on my iPOD. Each time I listen I am not transported back to thinking about what a talented musician he is. I am brought to worship.
Lately I’ve become a music critic. Regardless of the format, traditional or contemporary, I have fallen into evaluating the performance, the sound, the song selection and the delivery. I even notice the font size and backgrounds used in Powerpoint slides. But, I don’t notice Jesus. To be clear, this is entirely MY issue and not a representation of the leaders or participants. It is my heart issue. I am distracted.
This morning I decided to fast for a bit. I am fasting from music. It was strange showing up halfway through the service but I adjusted. My first impression was that I was better focused and enjoyed paging through Scripture on my Blackberry.