Focusing the thing I love most towards the One I love most
One of the biggest challenges I faced in my first year studying music at university was the way in which I think about music changing constantly. At university, I have been bombarded with the philosophies of so many different musicians, most of them secular, which have forced me to reconsider the role of music in my life as a Christian.
Secular philosophies of art claim that music is something that can be used for pleasure, or to make a political statement, or to express our inner selves. But nowhere in my degree have I had the opportunity discuss how music was created through and for Christ, and how I can focus the thing I love most towards the One I love most - God. It has become very difficult to separate what I do in church or in private from what I now study 24/7, which is why the question ‘what is worship?’ is so relevant to me.
Normally during university, a busy rehearsal schedule would have prevented me from gathering with Christian music students across the UK for the Music Network’s Autumn Gatherings, but a two-week quarantine earlier this term had the unexpected benefit that I was able to join online. Having had to empty my calendar after not being expecting to be available, I had Tom Chevis’s Zoom link sent out a few hours before the meeting as notice and logged into the meeting each time feeling disorganised and a little unmotivated. But the joy of talking through such an important topic for me with other people as passionate about it as I am definitely made the Zoom fatigue worthwhile!
We began, rather than addressing debates surrounding how we should use music to worship, with what the Bible has to say about what worship is and why it is so important. Now more than ever, it is so tempting to see our musical worship as a performance, or at best an experience that could point us towards God. But
the Bible says that our worship of God is literally bowing down before him...
...both (1) in specifically praising his works and character, and (2) by doing everything in our lives towards him. Seeing my whole life as worship really helped me this term when I have felt that some aspects of my degree are less relevant or useful, because if all the music I make and even the way I study and write essays can be worship, there can be nothing more valuable.
Joe Smith and Becky Chevis looked, respectively, at specific acts of worship through music and how we can focus our worship on God, and then at how in our lives as musicians we can honour God even when we aren’t in a specifically 'worship' context. It was really helpful to separate these two ways of worshipping God, as in corporate church worship I sometimes feel my instincts for perfectionism as a musician taking my focus off God. In other contexts, however, this same perfectionism can be a good thing, because God has given me the gift of music to cultivate and enjoy, and when I do, I am worshipping him.
Finally, Tom helped us to think through how our worship is a witness to non-Christians, and how worship and witness are intimately intertwined. When we worship, we are focusing our love and attention on the God we worship, and that should overflow into wanting others to love him too. I was challenged that if I am genuine in my worship of God, others should see it in all areas of my life.
As well as thinking through worship, joining in these meetings with other Christian music students has been really encouraging, and I hope to be able to meet many of them in person at next year’s gatherings!