His eyes were earnest as he looked at me and said: "It's obvious you have an amazing program. But I know what my senior pastor is going to say! He'll say, 'How are music lessons going to benefit the church and our membership?'"
We were sitting in the church lobby near a sign-up table holding two huge banners touting the church's basketball program.
The irony of it struck me.
I was meeting with the Worship Pastor of a large congregation. Like me, he was a second generation creative, his father being a figurehead in church music with a powerful Kingdom legacy.
And yet, here he was, asking me how he could answer his boss who he knew wouldn’t get it.
It was the early days of the Annie Moses Foundation, and this was my third meeting with a church in search of space to rent for our growing Conservatory program.
Our school was homeless at the time, floating here and there on the whims of churches who would only give us one or two rooms every now and then.
But the number of families wanting to join the program, and the breadth of classes required, made it impossible to continue in that manner.
We needed a home.
The natural solution was to find a church to partner with us, a place that would recognize the Scriptural mandate and cultural necessity of musically training children. We needed a partner who could discern the critical nature of our cultural moment, the need to raise up a new generation that was not Biblically ignorant, artistic suckers - naive victims without a compass to guide them through the maze of MEDIA.
Instead of that epic call, I was being asked to explain how this church could get more members (translation: more money) out of a partnership.
I thought about it while I looked at the basketball sign-up banners. I wondered if the preacher had asked the basketball directors how many members their program would bring the church or if they had completed a biblical word study of how many times the words “sports” or “basketball” or “athletics” appear in the scriptures.
It’s not that sports can't occupy a healthy place in society. I just get fatigued with the unnecessary competition between the two.
The pursuit of excellence in any field is of great value, and exceptionalism is a God-given quest He planted in us. No one can doubt that God is glorified through Eric Liddle and Tim Tebow, and many people have been saved through the work of outreach programs.
But the double standard is unmistakeable.
This senior pastor did not understand the difference in the two: basketball is a game while music is a spiritual discipline and a command of Scripture.
To quote my mother, Saying a child doesn’t study music, but they play soccer instead is like saying, “We don’t pray. We go bowling instead.”
Scripturally speaking, all Christians are singers and all Christians are songwriters. The scriptures tell us all to “Sing to the Lord!” Not just the good singers, but everyone who has breath! We are also commanded to sing a "new song." In other words, we see the Lord's work in our lives, and we put it to words and music in order to tell others about it.
God is serious about who serves as His instrumentalists and artists. Just go back and find the passages about the building of His tabernacle, or the Temple. The musicians were to be the best of the best, and they played continuously!
Right now in the heavenly realms there are instruments playing and voices singing before God’s throne.
In our touring of churches all over this country, we have seen youth departments rife with X-boxes, pool tables, big screen TVs, foosball machines, basketball courts, decorated with cereal box logos (you read me right!), and cartoon images of hit streaming shows but never have we had a music minister show us his closet of instruments for the young: tiny violins so they can learn to "praise Him with the stringed instruments" and "play skillfully" and "make His praise glorious" (Psalm 150).
God sings. And He sings loudly! That's what Scripture tells us. The ancient book of Job indicates that the worlds were created to a musical soundtrack ("the sons of God sang for joy"). God chose a heavenly choir to announce the birth of His Son. Jesus sang a hymn with His apostles before departing the Upper Room for Gethsemane. Jesus quoted from His hymnal, the Psalms, more than any other book. The poetry there was more than pretty words, it was prophecy. Jesus likely sang Psalm 22 while dying on the cross.
Musical skill gives us a powerful voice with which to "make His praise glorious." The fact that our parents wrote an award-winning song using that title fills me with joy. It is the clarion call for our times because the enemy has claimed the market share on the world of the arts. We must take it back, and occupy the airwaves, the stages and the screens, for the glorious praise of God.
Back to my conversation with the music minister. As you can imagine, all this flashed through my mind in a moment. I thought about saying, It is going to bring whole families into this building every week, not just the kids. Some may join the church, but the program itself could collaborate with the worship program here, and young people from this congregation could be trained and eventually you could have some amazing instrumentalists, maybe even an orchestra, involved in the artistry of the church. People from all around could come to witness the majesty of your musical offerings to God.
But I knew it didn’t matter what I said. His mind was closed, and his question had taken the wind out of my sails.
Thankfully, after several years, God has given us a wonderful location for the Conservatory to grow. But to be frank, in today's inflated market, the lease for such a location is heavy, and we continue to pray for a long-term place of our own where we can teach a new generation to "play skillfully" and "make His praise glorious."
On October 6th we will be hosting the first Annie Moses Vision Dinner. The event will celebrate the breadth of the work God has waiting for us in the next season of the Annie Moses Foundation.
Our prayer is that He will unite us with those who understand the spiritual discipline of the highly-skilled artistic voice that extols His glory.