The Music Exchange
A musician's evangelistic responsibility
Coming out of the end of carol service season (yes, I’m writing February’s article with four out of 17 carol services still to go), I’m reflecting on how easy it is for us musicians to become lazy in our evangelism. We love putting on or serving at evangelistic events, but we’re not so keen to do the hard graft of talking about Jesus to those who come to those events.
As musicians we know that we can make or break an evangelistic event (notwithstanding the sovereignty of God!) — certainly the case with carol services, which would be slightly dull without music. The trouble is that we musicians tend to kid ourselves that we don’t really need to be involved in evangelism because we ‘do the music’. In fact, sometimes we even like to think that our music is our evangelism.
Done my bit?
There is some truth that if we are providing music that serves to support gospel preaching and proclamation, then, if there are unbelievers present, we could indeed say that we are involved in evangelism (unless, by some lapse of theological discernment we got everyone singing about Good King Wenceslas). But I sense in my own sinful heart that playing for 17 carol services ticks my evangelism box, and I can relax on Boxing Day having done my bit. However, my invitations to people who I wanted to hear the gospel at these services were pitifully few, and my only non-believing guest who actually turned up was invited by someone else. My excuse? Too busy organising and providing the music.
Another excuse is the perfectionist in me — I never think the music is going to be good enough for the people I want to invite. Most are from a background that would expect a highly professional choir, and I tell myself that they wouldn’t be satisfied with the quality of music I provide. That’ll be pride then. And yet every year I look back and kick myself at the missed opportunities that would have been just right for my unbelieving friends, and I promise myself to work harder at inviting people the next year.
Opportunity to abdicate
It’s not just carol services that I back-pedal on evangelistically. Any event where I play music to help people listen more responsively to a gospel message is another opportunity for me to abdicate my own evangelistic responsibility. Now I have actually managed to bring people to events at which I’ve been providing the music. It’s never tidy (once, I had to ask someone else to sit next to my friend as a kind of surrogate!), but evangelism is never tidy. However, even though I know that there’s always a way to get round problems, I find that it’s a lot less work to hide behind the piano. What’s more, it’s much more pleasant to get thanked by those who’ve brought guests than to answer the atheistic objections of my friends.
It looks like I’ve been navel-gazing, but I know that I’m not alone in being a reluctant musical evangelist. In fact, I once asked someone else to play in my place at one event, because I wanted to bring a guest. He was very glad to be asked because he knew that he wouldn’t have to feel guilty for failing to invite anyone.
Where is our confidence?
What’s our problem? As musicians the ambient atmosphere of an event is in our hands to a large extent, so if we’re worried about the cringe-factor, we’re the ones who can wield the anti-cringe axe. We’d also say that we know that our confidence is in the Word of God to convict people of sin, not the music. Not only that, but we’re always working hard to make sure that in our church meetings our congregations are singing the gospel. Therefore, we do believe the gospel… don’t we?
This is a call to all of us musicians to play our part, not just in the background simply as creators of atmosphere and colour, but as members of the body of Christ which is called to go collectively to the nations with the good news of Jesus. It’s not enough to be satisfied with the compliments of others who have put their friendships on the line to present Christ to them. What’s more, we have opportunities that many don’t have to reach people who maybe think God’s gift of music is more worthy of honour than the Creator of music itself. Who will challenge our musician friends if we’re not at the forefront of standing for Jesus in front of them? Despite our ‘sensitive musician’ outer skin, are our hearts cold to the realities of judgment and salvation?
I’m sure we’ll all be busy organising evangelistic events this year, and we musicians will be first in the queue to volunteer our services. As musicians, let’s make this a year of putting the eternal destiny of our lost friends at the top of our agenda and music a bit further down. It may be untidy, even uncomfortable, but we need to put our heads above the music stand to remind us that we do indeed believe the gospel of which we sing.