Music is a great distraction. Done strategically, it has the ability to alter our emotions and transfix our attention, even directing our thoughts, transporting us to a place beyond our personal situations.
Like fast food, caffeine, drugs, video games, sex and money, music, or particular styles of music can be addictive. The "wrong" style of music for a particular person may also be abhorrent or repulsive.
Being creatures of habit, and of acquired taste, we may develop a love for certain music styles simply by repeated or early exposure.The repeated exposure may be the result of the influence of others we admire or who have influence over us, including the musicians themselves, but also our peers, family and friends and contemporary media.
There is a mystery in the music itself. The combination of notes, chord progressions, melodic phrases, repetition, rhythmic and percussive elements, the combinations of various instruments, and other textures, the rise and fall of melodies, the contrasts in volumes, tempo, keys, dissonance and sweet harmonies, and so many other elements, when used effectively, enter a persons conscious and subconscious mind. The music can unify both performers and listeners, and there is the potential for rapturous levels of pleasure.
But the correct formula is itself a mystery. Yes, songwriters, composers, producers, and various other musical artists appear to find the secret recipe that has millions tapping their feet and longing for more, but that “formula” sometimes seems too simple, and other times, beyond the reach of ordinary people. And those who at one time appear to have the formula, later seem to loose it. Yes, expensive advertising campaigns flooding as much media as possible, help to bring certain music to people’s attention, but sometimes, a simple melody from very humble and obscure beginnings triggers an avalanche of addiction from the music craving public, defying all rules of advertising and promotion.
The truth is that we are creatures of music. It is in us, in our DNA. Before we learn to speak, we are bobbing to the gentle melodies of our parents lullabies, maybe even in the womb. And that soothing sound can calm a child in pain, in hunger, in suffering. And we as adults, can be soothed in the midst of suffering and pain by the sound of a familiar melody. The right music influences our behaviour in lots of ways that commercial industry has tapped into.
During corporate worship, when a body of believers joins in song, the words and melody can have a powerfully uplifting and unifying effect. The experience of being one voice amongst a choir or simply being surrounded by voices in harmony or unison can be strongly uplifting. Being one violin in an orchestra has a similar effect.
It is accepted that to some degree, music is almost always part of the gathering together of Christians.
The New Testament exhorts us to share in spiritual singing.
Today, music has become a powerful stakeholder in the western church. The commercialisation of Christian music has raised the stakes of Sunday worship leading, and added a dimension that is in many ways unhelpful, and certainly a trap and a frustration.
The music industry has led to wealth for many stakeholders, and this is attractive to many, including Christians.
The perception that great performances, great songs, and swelling crowds leads to some form of success, including financial success, may divide the attention of worship leaders, faith based musicians and songwriters, including myself.
Envy, greed, anger and pride can muddy the crystal waters of Sunday worship.
Promising amateur musical Christians can become disheartened..;
"Surely my faith is genuine, my gift in music from God, and my dedication to the art sincere.
But what separates me from the “successful” artists or song writers?
Is it my equipment, my church, my style, my abilities, my geographic isolation, my attitude, my lack of financial support, my age, my gender, my appearance, my cultural heritage, my denomination, my relationships (or lack of- with the movers and shakers) or something else?
Are others making sure that I don’t make it for financial or other reasons?
Or is what i do simply not that good?"
So many frustrating possibilities.
And what of the recurring dream that just when you have the opportunity to share a song with someone “important” something doesn’t work, like a guitar lead, or a speaker or a microphone, and the opportunity dissolves before your very eyes.
Meanwhile people who are younger, much younger, less experienced, and less mature in faith become megastars and icons in the "church".
It is such a frustration and a trap.
Could it be that God himself frustrates every effort?
Maybe, like Cain’s offering, our musical offering is not acceptable to God?
All this is truly within the realms of possibility.
God has every right to lift up certain songs and certain people, and allow others to remain obscure. Yet, in my reading of the scriptures, it seems the people of faith are subject to many frustrations and sufferings, that ultimately God uses in unexpected ways, significant ways, important ways, that do not result in financial security or wealth, but rather spiritual security and peace.
Maybe it’s OK to sing the popular songs and overlook the meatier ones. Maybe it’s ok to be an excellent artist or songwriter, yet to never receive accolades. Maybe accolades and “success” lead to dangerous departures from faith, at least temporarily.
And maybe our most useful function in God’s world, occurs in obscurity.
There is a mystery in music, as well as a trap and frustration,
Yet it is in our DNA, and is to be celebrated and enjoyed along with all other good gifts that come from above.
Ultimately, music is a free gift from God like oxygen and water. Yes it can be bottled, labeled marketed and sold, with great success, but it is also available free, in large quantities, and at high quality.
If people use our music, it is a privilege, and what is ours, is only borrowed from the Lord, and ultimately His.
Yes, artists have legal hold over their creations, and I am not here trying to justify illegal downloading. Stealing is a sin.
God knows how to provide for our needs, and in particular, for artistic believers. But he doesn't promise monetary wealth for anyone, in fact, the New Testament repeatedly warns against this trap.
What we as Christian artists of any form should be seeking is simply contentment, and the good use of our skills, as well as the appropriate honing of our skills, as well as right relationships with our circle of friends colleagues, family and church family.
If we are writing or choosing songs for Christians to sing, we should be sober, mature, thoughtful, and selfless in this role.
When Jesus asked Peter if he truly loved him, the outcome of this love was not to feed himself, but rather to feed Jesus lambs.
This is how we serve God with our various gifts.
And God himself is the source of all true music