Here is a recent newsletter from SoundForth Music. Operating under the umbrella of Bob Jones University, they magnify the good news of salvation through the production of God-focused music.
Colorado, where I grew up, is known for its snow-covered mountains, but with that beauty comes roads covered in snow and ice. One thing you soon learn to avoid when driving is landing in the ditch. Over the last fifteen years of ministry, I have watched many in the music profession wind up in the ditch by chasing trends. The inherent danger with following trends is seen in Isaiah 53:6—“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Because sin is natural to us, we quite often go our own way and make choices according to our own foolish pride, influenced by our own opinions, the opinions of others, and our own circumstances.
Avoiding the ditch is not as easy as it seems, however. Overcompensating will land you in the ditch on the other side of the road—also not a pleasant place to be. Conservative musicians have the tendency to overreact to trends, which only lands them in the ditch on the other side of the road. Some overreact with a love of form, others with a love of beauty and aesthetics. Some are passionate about technique, while others overemphasize ministering from the heart. But whether in one ditch or another, they each are still in a ditch and out of balance. Moreover, they each are convinced that their ditch is where they need to be. They proudly articulate their points, trying to get others to join them in their extremes.
In recent years, Christians have become enamored with the numerous, modern hymns available to the church today. Even though many of these texts are exceptional, Christians must guard against the pitfall of misguided affections—idolatry, in other words. The Jews had a tremendous respect for the Scriptures, but they were in a ditch. Despite their intense studies in the Word, they had become militant defenders of the letter of the Law but had grown completely blind to its spirit. They were fascinated with the text and the form, but they didn’t know God. So what were the Jews doing wrong? They were studying the Word of God as if the love of Scripture were the end itself.
The Christian musician can be guilty of the same extreme today. The use of art or form in worship can become an extravagant substitute for the true worship of God. A routine or superficial approach to the worship service can distract the Christian from the necessities of renewing his mind and deepening his relationship with Christ. He can feel righteous and holy after participating in a well-crafted worship service yet never experience the true joy of abiding in Christ.
Regarding the entrance of all the wonderful new texts and hymns in the Christian community today, I wonder if one ditch to avoid is that of following those who worship and serve the creature (or creation) more than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). As you minister in the days ahead, emphasize the importance of Scripture as the source of all truth but also remember that nothing can take the place of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ—the source of true life.
Kurt Stephens Operations Manager of http://soundforthmusic.com/