My Calling in Music 

March 20, 2021

“Music is the universal language.” Whether or not you are a musician, I’d bet that you have heard that saying before, whether in reference to classical music or pop music, or maybe even on America’s Got Talent. Though various genres and cultures around the globe may offer a unique musical flavors, music has the power of communicating on an emotional and spiritual level in a way that language can often times fall short. I’m sure every one of us can call to mind a memory associated in some way with music and with that memory, something more than the lyrics or sounds stands out – how it made us feel, how it holds a special meaning because of the setting in which it occurred, how it’s tied to a particular person, etc. 

As a classical musician myself, some of the most meaningful moments of performance were when I have had the opportunity to play for someone who spoke a different language or who was on their death bed and didn’t have the physical strength for conversation. In those moments, the barriers presented nearly insurmountable challenges, yet when it came to sharing and enjoying music together, they made little difference. The music became a medium for understanding and communication that would have otherwise been impossible. Such experiences have become cherished memories for which I am so grateful, and have led me to think more deeply about what music is meant to be, especially to the Christian. 

Throughout the Bible, music is a powerful way for the believer to worship God and express his heartfelt awe, gratitude, and humility before the One who has given Him all things. It was through the blowing of trumpets that the walls of Jericho fell, it was through psalms that David poured out his heart before the Lord, and it was after Jesus had sung a hymn that He went on to walk the road of Calvary. God’s people are commanded to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise,” (Psalm 100:4). Thus all throughout Scripture, music is emphasized as essential to the walk of faith. 

Scripture tells the Christian that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31). And I truly believe that all things is exactly what’s meant. It’s not required for one to be specifically in ministry to bring glory to God or minister to people. God has given His children a wide variety of giftings and callings, and I believe that’s with a purpose to proclaim His name in every corner of the world, through vocation, service, volunteer work, outreach, tradesmanship, public service, and education. While music, and classical music in particular, might seem to sit in a neutral space in the human experience, I believe as a Christian musician that music is a powerful tool through which God can be glorified both in the giving and the receiving. Music is capable of facilitating deep emotional experiences, and such experiences tend to lead one towards contemplation of the significant questions that man finds in his heart – Who am I? What is the meaning of my life? Is there purpose to the pain of existence? What is beauty and why is my soul so drawn to it? As one of the most beautiful and universal experiences of humanity, the power of music invites us to direct our gaze upwards and consider something – someone – of greater scope and significance than we can fully fathom. Christian musicians as the ‘givers’ of music have the unique opportunity to draw the attention of their audience towards God as the Giver of all things good and beautiful. 

For some time, I’ve felt that God’s specific calling on my vocational ministry to be right here in the middle between performer and audience, between the giver and the receiver. In order for music to be given meaningfully and received gratefully, the understanding of its profound spiritual beauty must be introduced at an early age through music education in childhood. Through familiarity in childhood one is able to carry that knowledge with him for the rest of his life. Children have a special proclivity towards spiritual understanding, and it is the great honor and privilege of the music teacher to guide the young soul towards God using music. This is my calling, and through it I see my faith significantly intertwined with how I approach teaching children to play the violin. It’s not as much about simply learning the instrument as it is about using the instrument as a tool to draw closer to God and stand together in worship and praise before Him. It is in this way that music really can be the universal language, through which the Gospel is proclaimed to all who hear.

Biblical Values and Music Instruction

March 27, 2021

Every task we do as people originates from a specific motivation, whether that motivation is intentional or unintentional, conscious or subconscious. Rarely do we do something without having a single goal in mind, and more often than not we are rather very specific to identify what exactly it is that we desire. It’s interesting to think about this aspect of human personality as being so essential and foundational to who we are.

I believe that the necessity we have to work towards and pursue a specific goal in everything we do not only gives insight into the nature of our nature, but that it also clearly shows that we were designed by God to strive after some purpose. With this then, it becomes the duty of Christian men and women to understand what is the ultimate purpose of man according to the will of God and seek to pursue that wholeheartedly. Throughout Scripture, God revealed to man His will and provided specific instructions for the ways in which to walk that out. It began with His initial charge to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: 

” ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’…The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you ear of it you shall surely die.” (Gen 1:28; 2:15-16). 

This passage tells us that God created man for very specific tasks: To be fruitful and multiply, to subdue and have dominion over the earth, and to obey the commandments of God. Even in this early charge, God put forth a framework of values that could guide man in all his endeavors – a value for life, a value for work, and a value of God’s word. 

Based on those foundational values, a few key values have influenced the choices of ministry I have made, and the way in which I approach the work that God has called me to. I believe one way for me to play a role in valuing life has been to understand that throughout all of creation, God designed many ways through which we are able to pursue fruitfulness and live out the image of God bestowed upon us through our creativity and industry. Thus, it is important to encourage myself and others to cultivate as many means as possible to capitalize on such an opportunity. My particular interest lies in music and the arts, using those more abstract ideas and concepts to provide a different perspective about how we can relate to the world around us and to God Himself as the giver of beautiful things. 

Another biblical value that has shaped my ministry choices has been Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This emphasizes the importance of childhood education in instilling values, ideas, and beliefs that will last a lifetime. Early childhood is such a vulnerable time when children are incredibly malleable. It is the job of those of us more mature to take their instruction seriously so as to not only provide them with head knowledge, but also give them a solid spiritual foundation. It is incredible to realize that the things taught in childhood affect one in old age, and as a teacher, this is a value that I have to keep constantly in my mind.

And finally, one of the most important values that I desire to follow in my own life and in my vocational ministry is of course the message of the Gospel, which relates that though we are weak in and of ourselves, Christ is strong and victorious; though we may fall, He stands ever grounded in steadfast love; when we have lost our way, His grace is sufficient. Holding to the value of the Gospel as a central value informs and properly aligns the other two values to which I find myself constantly referring. If the work of my ministry does not point to Christ as King and stand in humble awe of His mercy, then the work I do is of no lasting importance. He must be made known through every value I pursue. This is how I can live in obedience to God’s word, and how I hope to live out the innate striving God created in my soul. Let all my striving be towards Him, and let me trust in His grace to bring me to the finish line, both in ministry and in vocation or whatever else it may be that He calls me to do. 

The Importance of Musical Education: The Biblical Principles

Many people believe that music education is beneficial for creative and artistic reasons. Others see it as a powerful means of emotional expression. Still others will focus in on the wide range of academic and professional results that follow a robust musical education. These are all valid praises of the positive outcomes of studying an instrument but even still, they don’t really touch the depth of significance that can come through a musical education and especially one gained in childhood. Both Biblical and secular sources demonstrate that music education at an early age carries significant benefits to the child and impacts not only the trajectory of their individual lives, but also has the ability to influence those around them in a multitude of ways. 

Musical instruction begins with an experienced teacher breaking down the process of music making to someone who has absolutely no prior experience or knowledge with the goal to gain progressive proficiency. Secular research has shown that the skills developed through years of musical study have life-long consequences and impact the physical makeup of the brain. National Geographic describes the impact like this: “Musical training can have a “profound” and lasting impact on the brain, [by] creating additional neural connections in childhood that can last a lifetime.” (Cole, 2014). The National Library of Medicine published an article that posted the results of a study concluding that people who play music for any length of time have increased auditory awareness and processing, increased brain plasticity due to constant work on very fine motor skills in performance and practice, and increased gray matter than nonmusicians.

If we examine the reasoning behind the importance of music education from a Christian perspective, it can be acknowledged that God has entrusted Christian parents with the duty of raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. While this is accomplished primarily through the teaching of Scripture, it is reasonable to also say that music is a crucial part of this development, since music is so closely tied to the practice of worship. Throughout Scripture, praise is a powerful means by which the believer communes with God, individually and collectively, and comes to understand and proclaim God’s nature. Colossians 3:16 encourages the believer to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” There is great power in the practice of worship through music – in communion with God, in an understanding of the truth of His nature, and in fellowship of the brethren. While musical education is obviously not required for participation in a church worship service, it does give an individual increased opportunities for ministry and service. 

This element of ministry and service is one of the most important and long-ranging effects of this issue and the key ministry practice on which to focus. While serving first as a means by which a believer communes with God individually, music also gives an individual increased opportunities for participation in worship and ministry. I myself have had countless opportunities to share my music as a form of service to others, and I know of so many other musicians who have had similar experiences and hold on to not only beautiful memories of serving others using music, but also cherish the capacity that they have to sit down at a piano or pick up a guitar to join in the song of praise, worship, and service so essential to the vitality of the Christian walk of faith and our outreach to others. As believers, we should always be asking the question, how can we worship God more fully, and how can we serve others to a greater capacity? We should pursue as many means as possible to achieve the end of glorifying God and loving our neighbor, and a strong case can be made that music is a very viable option as a means by which we can accomplish that.

This ties back to the theological basis of all ministry, and especially the ministry of music education – the Gospel itself. Christ says that He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many,” (Matt 20:28). As parents live out the call to train up their children in the way they should go, this is the way in which they are ultimately directing them – the way of life that exemplifies the sacrificial love and service that Christ had for others. Music can be given as service either through rejuvenating ministry or through focused worship. Music education unites the parent, child, and teacher in pursuit of a goal that can be a significant bridge between one’s personal relationship with God and how that translates to interaction with others. It can foster a unique space in which a child can learn how to carry out both of Scripture’s greatest commands through one simple action that shows love for God and a heart of service toward others. The ultimate end goal of music education is for music to become a powerful catalyst for an upward and outward focus in the heart of a young child.

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