I am not "musical". I can't play an instrument and I sing only softly in church. I'm not even especially drawn to listening to music. When I drive in my car I forget to turn on the radio and I don't own an iPod. Nine times out of ten, I decline an opportunity to attend a concert. I say all of this only to reveal how odd it is that I am the one writing what follows.
Recently I had a conversation with a good friend that prompted me to give this subject some thought. My friend asked me a couple questions... He asked me: "Who are a few of the greatest preachers in history?" I named a few. Then he asked me: "Can you recite any of their sermons? Of course I said "no".
Then he asked me: "Who are a few of the greatest Christian song/hymn writers in history?" I named a few. Then he asked me if I could recite any of their songs, which of course I could.
All of which illustrated for me the importance of music and good lyrics. Sermons are quickly forgotten, but music lasts and penetrates the culture sometimes for generations.
Pastors spend hours each week carefully preparing sermons to be true to the text. We're careful about what we say because we are proclaiming the Word of God! But then we often give only minutes of thought to the selection of the music we sing or we roll the dice hoping that the music leaders will pick selections that suffice. And yet, as my friend helped me to see, it is the music that is more easily learned and likely to be remembered for years to come.
As a Lutheran pastor, I have a great love for the depth and richness of our theology. I love how Lutheran thought embraces the Law and the Gospel, a theology of the cross instead of a theology of glory, the many wonderful mysteries and paradoxes of the faith, a rich understanding of how we as believers are at the same time both saint and sinner, a belief in Gods presence and work in the means of grace, etc...
Do you sing that?
In your church, do you have a good selection of singable songs that reflect that rich theology? I'm not saying that they don't exist or that there aren't good songs being written today. But I am saying that there aren't enough of them.
We need good theologians and musicians to produce more good music for the church. Perhaps you aren't musical like me, but maybe you can write lyrics that a song writer can use. Perhaps you aren't a savvy theologian but you can put music to a well thought out set of lyrics. I hope you both get together soon.
"Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us." - Martin Luther