"There is something about this song that makes me uncomfortable. It is a good song, and I think that we could play it, but there is a level of discomfort." This was the response of one of our New City musicians after listening to a song that I really like. I'm pretty sure that he could see my confusion expressed facially. "I can play that. I think all of our musicians could play that... but... I mean, I play stuff like that with our band (not the church band), and they do as well. We are capable. But This is church." After a few minutes of me stumbling to understand and him stumbling to explain, I began to get it.
Our musicians are holding back! He explained that this was fairly common. He had talked with other musicians about the same feelings and struggles. Essentially, they play so as to draw as little attention to themselves as possible. The discomfort with the song wasn't the lyrics; they were rich with theology. It wasn't for fear of lacking the ability. The discomfort stirred because the song highlighted excellent musicianship. This was something I never considered. I have spent some time since that conversation pondering this.
It is noble to have such a desire. In fact, I love the heart in it. I believe that our musicians earnestly desire that God is glorified every time they play - I love that! They are uncomfortable with the thought that they would be center-stage and not Him.
It is certainly biblical that God's glory should be our goal. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 10:31, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Eating, drinking, anything and everything that we do should be for the glory of God - including singing and playing in our worship services.
How do we glorify God by playing music on Sundays?
- By using our God-given talents and skills to the best of our ability.
Consider the Tabernacle built and described in Exodus 35. The finest skilled craftsmen worked together. Their work was incredible and beautiful. They didn't hold back in fear that someone might look at the curtains or the ark of the covenant and say, "Wow Bazalel is amazing." They built and constructed so that what they did reflected the beauty and glory of God. They worked to the best of their ability with the gifts and talents that God had given them. And when they were finished, a great cloud came down, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle!
- By doing what we do with prayer and thanksgiving (I Timothy 4:3-5, Colossians 3:16-17).
We pray for God's glory. We pray for God's people. We give Thanks to Him for the abilities and talents that He has given us, even for the very breath that we breathe.
- By playing for the good of others.
I Corinthians 10:33 - "Just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved." Play for the good of those present, that through you they may be pointed to Jesus and in Him find their hope, joy and salvation.
- By playing in faith.
Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please Him. He is pleased then, when we live by faith, when we work by faith, and when we play by faith. So play and sing believing that you do it by His grace and for His glory. Play and sing trusting Him to draw people to himself for worship and for salvation. Play believing that it matters.
If these things describe our heart in whatever we do, then when we do it, God is pleased and glorified. It is the heart that God is concerned about, not the level of skill that we might possess or demonstrate when we play.
So, to our musicians, I say, seek a heart that humbly loves Jesus and seeks His glory and the good of His people. Then play and sing to the best of your ability, with joy! Play like what you do is for Him. Sing like your voice is a gift from Him. Enjoy the talents and abilities that He has given you.