Music has tremendous power to influence people. For instance, music can trigger memories. A few notes of “Just as I am” can transport people back in time to a 1950’s altar call or a Billy Graham crusade. Specific tunes can remind a person of certain people or places and hearing the music resurrects the person like a ghost. Music is great at eliciting feelings too. A movie producer can get an audience to feel a certain way no matter what shows on the screen by manipulating their feelings through the background music. Music not only triggers memories and feelings but it instructs and unifies too. Church folk get as much theology from the music as the preaching. When a congregation melds together singing a song it can produces a kind of gestalt out-of-body unifying experience that is more then the sum of the parts. Because music has so much power is why we dedicate so much of our worship services to it… and maybe why so many church complaints are about the music.
Everything I described above is accurate for almost everybody. It is not true of me. I know, confessing music isn’t important to me is like admitting I don’t care for chocolate or ice cream. But I’m telling the truth—music plays a minor role in my life. I have tried to make it more important so I could be normal and be more like my wife and sons but it just doesn’t take. I even went so far as to buy an iPod a year ago and load it up with all the songs I ought to love. I use my iPod to read email and to listen to lectures and sermons. And only twice have I ever used it to listen to music.
I’m not normal when it comes to music. I experience all those qualities mentioned above through a different avenue. I experience triggering memories, feelings, instruction and unification through words not music. What I look forward to in church isn’t the singing but the call to worship, the prayers (the Lord’s prayer especially), the responsive reading and especially the sermon. Te most meaningful part of the Lord’s Supper to me are the words of institution and the ritual words the minister repeats. I sound malformed to normal people. Maybe you’ve never met a person like me, but we are out here...if only a few of us. We can take or leave music—it really isn’t that important to us. It is like oatmeal to other people. We don’t hate it and we don’t love it. We can have some from time to time and it is OK or we could go without it for a few years without missing it. People like me can listen to Todd Guy’s chorale sing the Halleluiah Chorus and what moves us isn’t the music but we will intently and get blessed by the lyrics! Ok, I’m different. My church offers a variety of worship venues with different styles of music but that doesn’t matter to me. What my church has done though is target one venue for the marginal group of people like me—people who love words. In that venue we sing one song a cappella but the rest of the service is about words. Ahhhhhh. I love that service… because words are music to my ears.
Have you ever met someone like this?
So, what do you think?
The discussion of this column is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=161502633
Keith Drury February 8, 2011