Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Classical Music for the Church Musician (Should we Learn it?)

At youth camp this summer, one of messages preached was on music, and how it was created to glorify God. Afterwards, one of my students came up to me and asked, "If music is for God's glory, what about classical music?" It made me stop and think, because that is a question that I had battled for years. I'm not about to say that all of these classical composers were Christians and wrote the pieces for God's glory. So, if music is to be for God's glory, why do we learn classical music? Or go through lesson books, for that matter?


I can't answer this question for others, but for me, I have a total peace about using classical and lesson books. The ultimatum is the goal. I never learned classical music with the goal of becoming a classical musician for the world's applause. Classical music was but a tool to help me better use my music for God's glory. Just like I didn't use only the Bible to learn reading and mathematics, I didn't use only hymns to learn music.

In Bible times, Christian musicians were the maestros. Sadly, Christians are not the top musicians of our day. Look at the contemporary Christian movement. All you need to know is a few simple chords and you can be part of the praise and worship team. Excellence in praising God is no longer our standard, like it was in King David's time (read 1 Chronicles 15:16-22).

While I do not judge beginning musicians as they learn to worship God in song, and I fully believe that God can use musicians of any level, is the attitude of "I don't have to put in effort" God's desire? Are we willing to work to multiply the talents that God has given us, so that we can better be used for His glory?

Not at all do I think of myself as the prime example, but looking back, I can clearly see a few things. Because I learned classical music and secular theory, I not only can arrange at a higher level, I can write it down for others to use for God's glory as well. Because I learned classical music, it has equipped me to teach. Because I learned classical music, it has given me many more opportunities to use music for God's glory.

Are there downfalls to learning classical? For sure, yes. I personally believe it goes back to our motives and goals though. Are we learning classical to "one-up" our fellow musician and become top dog? Or are we learning it to master musical techniques that cannot be found elsewhere?

This is definitely an issue that each musician needs to determine in his own heart as he seeks the Lord.

What do you think about this issue? Is it okay for the church musician to use classical music in training and musical influence?


Beau Roberts said...

This is a very controversial topic for Christian musicians. And I think that it all comes down to what God gives you peace about. Before I started classical, I was thinking,"Wait. But, I'm supposed to be glorifying God with my music. Why am I playing this?!". But as you said, it's a tool to further my knowledge so I can further glorify God. You just need to pray about it and ask if it's HIS desire that you learn classical.

Kimberly Snyder said...

Wow! What a thought-provoking post!

In my opinion, doing anything "to God's glory" ultimately comes down to the spirit and attitude behind it. I think even about Bible study; it's not often talked about, but studying, yes, even the Bible with a rotten spirit and rebellious heart is NOT glorifying God!

I have no problem playing classical music. Just have to watch the attitude behind it. :)

Just my thoughts! I really appreciated this post today!

baroquemk said...

I appreciate this post! I have had the same ponderings and there are certain classical pieces I do not listen to because I do not feel that their spirit is God-honoring. But I love classical music, especially the baroque masters. This type of music elevates the mind above, as you said, the raw worship team style. Thank you for this post! ---Libby

Wyn Galpin said...

You ask a legitimate question. It's always worth examining things in the light of Scripture and taking care that we do things thoughtfully and intentionally. I had a fairly traditional music education with several teachers over many years and I was exposed to a variety of genres. I love classical music but I realise that I need to pay attention to the underlying spirit and message of any one particular piece. Scripture enjoins us that "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord..." (Colossians 3:23) so my attitude has to be correct - submissive and God honouring - and I should be offering the best quality I'm capable of. A training in classical music, with it's rigour and discipline, helps me to do that in my Christian music. A greta post, thanks. Wyn

Amanda T. said...

Wow, thanks for all of your comments and feedback! I should have replied sooner, but things have been busy. I loved reading your comments and hearing your thoughts!

@ Beau - Focus and motive is everything. And, from what I've experienced, has to be prayerfully checked often!

@ Kimberly - Agree about the heart attitude. Great points!

@ Libby - I agree about certain classical pieces not being God-honoring in spirit. Baroque music tends to lean more towards "Christian" than the others, for sure.

@ Wyn - Thanks for sharing about your journey! Very, very true! I appreciate your points.

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