A new vision for the rest of my life in music

Last week, a huge door closed. [see this post for more details.]

And in the days that have passed which have served as the (entirely necessary) processing time, it has become very clear that this is indeed the way forward. It is not that I will never once work with members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in the UK on anything musical from henceforth. I never said that and it could not be further from the truth. However, the standard of music making – and indeed, musical praise – in which I am involved cannot drop below a certain level and there is no way in which I will continue to be spiritually and emotionally blackmailed into facilitating levels of musical praise where the actual music-making is totally and inexcusably sub-standard.

If the musical praise is in fact genuinely musical, there is always a chance that the actual truth about God can be told. But it is impossible for an act of music ministry to be musically substandard and still be spiritual. Somehow, our church (and we are not alone) have now almost made a new spiritual gift (a type of ‘virtue’ for those who don’t know) out of what I will now call ‘anti-musicality’ and this is something that I will resist forcibly for as long as I have breath.

It has not been easy to express these things, as one has no real desire to talk about all the things that do not work in one’s church. But I have been trying to gloss over these failings for nearly twenty years, and that in and of itself has been damaging. The truth really does matter – even when it hurts – but better honest pain than dishonest coherence – because it is precisely this ‘dishonest coherence’ that is hurting our evangelistic witness as a church. I love my church and I am serious about people becoming part of our community. I do not believe because I get what I want. I do not believe because I am loved and respected. I believe because my own intellectual and spiritual convictions have led me to the conclusion that the teachings of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church are true. And all these sorts of ‘ecclesial’ problems are not going to be a good enough reason to leave for a church community (or any other) in which music is respected more honestly and taken much more seriously.

While in other Christian churches music can at times be much, much better, I have been involved in interdenominational musical activities for twenty years. I have been shocked to find that even in the matter of a gospel choir, secular people are often more keen to sing this music to a really high standard than church-goers of all stripes. So for those who think that I have the right religion but the wrong denomination, I do have news: I see all types of sacred music – from Palestrina to liturgical jazz to contemporary gospel music – being sung and played to a consistently higher standard by secular people than by Christians of all denominations – be they evangelical Anglican to ragingly intense Pentecostal as well as Roman Catholic. Seventh-Day Adventists have a huge amount of work to do, but we’re not alone on this one, folks.

I want to place on record my gratitude to those UK Adventist music ministers who have been willing to work with me to a real musical standard as well as a spiritual standard. It is not a big number, and each one of you has something to do for God in this world. Those of you who are still working with me, we’re only just getting started.

I also want to place on record my thanks all those who are not of my faith, but who have been part of my activities in sacred music-making for the entirety of my career to date – whatever the reasons for your saying ‘yes,’ it has been really important that we respect music as something bigger than all of us and that we have found – and continue to find – a place of true common ground in the process of making music together as honestly as possible.

In the last two months, I have spent a great deal of time with a certain book called The Path by Laurie Beth Jones. I would like to wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone and everyone. It has enabled certain pieces of my life to now begin falling into place with shattering force as I now continue to take the necessary difficult decisions to ensure that the reason for which I came into being actually does get fulfilled in my life. It is for both my benefit and others who would like to understand why I am as ferociously driven as I am that I now publish the following two statements.

What I thought was my mission statement for life and ministry came at the end of a period of fasting and prayer in early 2011. But now in July 2014, thanks to Ms Jones, I now have a much deeper  mission statement. With the help of other thinkers and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I can see that what I have now found with the help of Laurie Beth is in fact a vision statement. And she has also taught me that I also need a goal – which in turn written down.

~

Personal Vision Statement:

My vision is to understand, promote and inspire true worship to a holy God.

~

Personal Mission Statement:

My mission is to share Christian faith and the (Seventh-Day) Adventist message to the highest standard of my ability using both words and music.

~

For the rest of 2014 I will be working out how the ‘goal’ side of this will work in real life and how I can express it clearly, simply and accurately in my first language of English. The practical applications of both my vision and mission need to be carefully tracked so that my decisions are all congruent with both vision and mission. But those huge decisions of the last week are all a consequence of recognising and accepting the two statements that you have just read, and realising that my goals have to be reconsidered in order to ensure that I stay on track with who I am, how I have been designed and who God Himself has called me to be.

May God be with you as you work out these things for your own life and ministry in Jesus’ Name.

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3 comments on “A new vision for the rest of my life in music

  1. I am honored that my words and calling have impacted yours with helping you find your Path.
    May the Lord continue to bless and guide you in all ways, in all things.

    Onward and upward always,
    Laurie Beth Jones

  2. Rhythm is the part of music that bypasses the part of the brain which discerns “right and wrong.” Whether some or all pagan religions acknowledge the part syncopation plays in their rituals is irrelevant. What is important is that music is not ammoral. It can influence for good or evil and seldom do the words alone determine the music’s influence. You may have a great gift but if it is delivered in unsuitable packaging, it can become damaged and dependent upon the gift may then, inflict harm.

    It was the command to bow down and the music playing on the plains of Dura that prepared the people to bow and worship Babylon’s golden image and it is much of today’s contemporary music that is playing a major role in preparing people to worship the beast by ministering to the emotions and flesh alone; instead of ministering to the heart and mind.

    • theomusicologist says:

      This comment has so many problems it almost requires a short book to refute. The first sentence should start alarm bells ringing for anyone who has actually studied any form of musicology, or who has any real knowlege of the work that has been done in music cognition or similar disciplines.

      The second paragraph is indicative of the kind of reasoning that ensures that churches of all descriptions will remain emptier rather than fuller. It does not constitute an argument in any sense of the word. Contemporary music has never been a barometer of theological perspective – indeed, the wider Christian church (and that includes the Seventh-Day Adventist Church) is full of people whose aesthetic preference is as proto-European as it comes, but whose theology is as liberal as it comes. I know that I have joined the right church, for daily I must contend with statements like these in which a person is sure that ‘they are rich’ – in your case, Beverley, you believe that you know something – but if you knew anything about classical music – you would know that you do not need syncopation to seduce people away from God.

      This blog contains much that makes it abundantly clear that I see myself as work in progress. Laodicea believes that it has arrived. The more I have learned, the more I know how little I know. Beverley, this comment has nothing to do with the post above – it would have been more fitting on another post – and that is a sad indictment.

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