Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Purpose of Songs in the Church

I attended my very first songwriter's conference in 2008, the Write About Jesus, Nashville Edition.  They advise all newcomers to take a certain series of courses, so I dutifully, with a fluttering heart, took their advice.

Every. Single. Class that they suggested was for uber-beginnners to the songwriting craft. "This is a rhyming scheme.  This is how verse structure works.  This is how a chorus should sound." zzzzzzz......I could have *taught* most of those courses.  By the end of the day, I was so frustrated that I'd even bothered to make the trip, and wondered if the whole thing was a waste of my money.

(Plus, I was incredibly pregnant with my second daughter, and not a bit emotional.  Oh no, not me.) 

Then, in my last class, a white-haired gentleman walked in who looked a bit red-eyed, like he had either spent some time crying, or spent some good time worshiping.  He smiled, looked at all of us eager beavers in the desks in front of him, and said, "Are you all good songwriters? Really good?"


(I got a little nervous, wondering if we were about to be pop-quizzed with flying rhyme schemes and music theory.  Plus, like all pregnant women, I really had to pee.)

"Cause if you're not good," he said, "I can think of a lot of better ways you can build up the Kingdom." 

He went on to describe dozens and dozens of ways that songs he'd written had genuinely touched people's lives, both to deliver the gospel and deliver healing to a person's soul.

 What he didn't know was that just the concept of songs being of service to Christ was illuminating *my* soul, like a bolt of lightening.

I was constantly (shamed? attacked? lied to?) accused of being self-absorbed when I was singing, or writing songs.  I did so many things to try and *keep* from being self- absorbed. ("Don't move around.  Don't make a lot of facial expressions.  Those distract from the message of the song.  Don't use words that would distract from God's glory.  Yes, that word you just thought of is distracting...")  Now, here's Some Guy (who's name I never got) saying that if we have the gift of writing a song, we have an obligation to use it for the Kingdom of God.  That singing and writing songs is Service.  It's Kingdom Building.  

I still had a lot of hurdles to overcome to my own songwriting, but now, four years (and more kids) later, I'm coming back to the beauty of this truth: Songs are service. 

As I was trying to get back into the rhythm of regular songwriting, I was praying and asking God, "How do songs serve Your people, and what guidelines can I keep in mind as I write?"  Here are four concepts that came to mind, and they fit nicely into "Four M's:

  1. Memory.
    1. According to “Music for the Soul,” a we remember
      1. 10% of what we hear spoken
      2. 40% of what we read
      3. 90% of what we hear set to music

        NINETY PERCENT!  There's a reason why it's hard to memorize the first chapter of Second Timothy, but we remember every line to the entire play of Les Miserables.
    2. This means that songs can be a mechanism for remembering God's word, God's Truth, God's Direction, and God's Calling.
  2. eMotion: 
    (Yes, I know it's not technically a "M", but I can claim artistic license here.)
    1. Songs give us a structured, logical way to express intense, and often illogical emotions.
      1. Worship, praise, adoration, exhultation
      2. Repentance, sorrow, grief, pain
  3. Motivation:
    1. There's a REASON why we work out with an iPod, why music is played in every retail store, and why it's in the background of every commercial: Music touches our memories and our emotions at the same time, which our minds can chanel into action.
    2. Do you want to call a congregation, or a generation to repentance? To missions? To worship? To giving? Let a song imprint God's word in their memory, connect with their emotions, and stay ringing in their ears throughout the week—it will have an impact on their physical behavior!
  4. Ministry:
    1. Once memory, emotion, and motivation are activated in a person's mind, songs can minister (aka, “serve”) people in a huge variety of ways:
      1. Comfort. Songs can remind a congregation of God's healing power, forgiveness, friendship, Fatherhood, etc.
      2. Accountability. An earworm that rings in someone's mind throughout the week can remind someone to refrain from sinning, one day at a time.

         What other ways can music serve people?