Don’t get me wrong, I love music and the potential it has for emotional connection. However, the number one thing I love is Jesus Christ. He will always occupy the first place position in my life. Therefore, there is another potential for connection within the music that I write.
Throughout the Bible there is a connection between worship and proximity to God. Alters were often built in places where man met with God. In addition, God often told men to take off their sandals in His presence. In ancient Hebrew tradition a person would remove his sandal as a sign of relinquishing his rights in a given situation. In Ruth 4, the rightful kinsmen redeemer gave his sandal to Boaz, relinquishing his right to marry Ruth. When men take off their sandals in the presence of God, they relinquish their rights of self-lordship to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This is an act of worship.
James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (ESV).” When we worship God, we acknowledge the attributes that make Him God (His goodness, holiness, love, majesty, etc.). When the reality of these attributes is revealed to people it compels them to repent and grant Jesus lordship over their lives. This is the ultimate act of true worship. This experience is difficult to describe. It extends far beyond any earthly form of emotional experience that can be expressed through regular music.
The concept of drawing near to God through worship is reinforced in Matthew 6 where Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray. Verses 5-13 say:
5And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go into you room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us this day our daily bread, 12and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Prayer is communication with God, which implies drawing near to Him. In the example of prayer that Jesus provides, He starts by worshiping God in verses 9 and 10. Verse 9 exalts the name of God and verse 10 acknowledges His lordship. This is the same pattern mentioned in the last paragraph.
As Christian musicians, if we only seek the earthly emotional connection we are missing out on the opportunity to spiritually connect to God. If we are honest, all entertainment is about promoting ourselves. We can debate about whether or not artists genuinely care about connecting with their audience, or only connecting with their wallets. However, it is clear that many of the artistic choices they make are also to draw attention to themselves and their talent. Just like the hypocrites in verse 5 of Matthew 6 they perform to be seen by others. Also like the Gentiles in verse 7 they “heap up empty phrases” in an attempt to connect with their audience and be noticed. I am not criticizing this. I am merely pointing out that it is a regular part of musical performance.
Christian musicians often end up emulating these same performance tactics in their music. By doing so, they are limiting the band and scope of connection that their music can achieve. Since the words to our songs extend beyond the topics of earthly songs, we have a distinct advantage as Christian artists. We have the opportunity to draw near to God through an experience of true worship, and allow others to share the experience with us. Our songs are not constructed with mere words. They contain truths taken out of the Word of God. Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” in John 6:68 (ESV). These are the words that we have access to in the art of Christian music. Merely using these words does not automatically cause our music to connect with God. In the same way that earthly artists connect with the lyrics on an earthly (human) level, we need to connect with our Christian lyrics on a spiritual level. This type of connection cannot be faked through performance. God sees past that, and looks into our hearts as we sing. In John 4:23-24 Jesus said, “23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (ESV).” In this passage, Jesus explains the difference between counterfeit and true worship.
I understand that earthly fame, possessions and power are enticing. I also understand that music is an art form that naturally brings out pride in all of us. However, as Christian musicians we need to constantly remind ourselves that we are working with the “words of eternal life.” Using these words to merely “connect to the wallets” (or Facebook pages) of the Christian community is wrong. When I perform Christian music, I strive to connect to God through an act of true worship. My intent through this public display of worship is for others to witness the power and beauty of the connection between God and man, and then desire to experience that connection personally.