A LEARNING WEBSITE CREATED BY LITHUANIAN ORGANIST, RECITALIST, COMPOSER, RECORDING ARTIST, BLOGGER, AND WORLD RENOUNED TEACHER
DR. VIDAS PINKEVICIUS
His educational programs of study, compositions, and videos are a treasure trove of instruction
what you don't know
is holding you back
This website supplies you
with critically important concepts
you desperately need
PLEASE OPEN THE BLOG/ARCHIVE
AND UNCOVER WHAT'S THERE
WHATEVER YOU DO
DON'T MISS THIS CHANCE
This website if for ALL organists
FORMALLY TRAINED OR NOT
This website is forYOU
Why this website?
My friends, we all know that the making of music and the singing of songs not only promotes social bonding and joy but it speaks to the heart. Additionally, a sense of achievement comes from generating musical tones and then working, possibly with others, to create order and mastery out of them. It follows then, that music-making assumes an important role in the worship of God, in general, and in Christian discipleship, in particular. In the first few centuries of the Christian era the singing of unaccompanied plain chant gradually assumed prominence in church worship, and the biblically-specified active participation of the congregation in the music-making (Ps.33:3) formerly practiced by the earliest generations of Christian believers was "officially" done away with. The purely pneumatic pipe organ known in Byzantium from the late 4th century and exported into Europe since then was by around the year 700 being built in England, but due to its extremely crude mechanism it was atrociously loud and overwhelmingly noisy not to mention cumbersome to play and of very limited musical means. With the application of 13th century improvements in its playable portion and action followed by the invention of stop controls in the 14th century the instrument took on new powers of flexibility, it was also around that same time that composers first began writing for keyboard instruments employing early forms of notation (Robertsbridge Codex, c.1360), but it wasn't until the 16th century that western church congregations gradually resumed active participation in worship with the singing of hymns using hymn books either with or without organ accompaniment. These great hymns of faith kept congregants in touch with their heritage, exposed them to some of the greatest music ever written and the greatest words ever penned, gave worship a sense of majesty and beauty, helped them lift their hearts to God, imparted correct doctrine, and embedded the truth of God in their minds, all at the same time. Their hymn singing not only contributed to the depth of their worship experience but exalted and magnified the name of Jesus and arguably did more than any other single resource to help them offer up their devotions to God. By then the organ was capable of significant and compatible support for the worship singing of that time, even though in some churches organs were not allowed.
In the present day, however, with increasing use of modern technology to project words and images on screens, the use of hymn books and what we find in them has largely vanished from churches. One of the many consequences of this has been that Christian leaders around the world have embraced a shift in worship back to being a pre-Reformation spectator happening. Simply put, church services have trended back to breeding audiences. The stage music created during "Worship" time in some non-denominational churches today even makes it hard to tell whether one is attending a performer-centered service or a Christ-centered one. Citing these changing trends and low enrollments, many schools of music associated with prestigious theological seminaries which at one time were leading training centers for organists and church musicians have closed. Education in organ and church music with its rich history of repertoire and achievements in contemporary composition has supposedly continued at these institutions under Schools of Church Ministries, but a glance at their degree plans indicates otherwise. The current course of study typically includes worship labs in guitar, bass guitar, drum set, keys, and song writing to the exclusion altogether of organ with its rich history of repertoire, improvisation, hymnody spanning a great many centuries, and its extraordinary sound field and ability to express the Power and heart of God to listeners. It's doubtful that organs built to praise God which help congregations to pray are destined to vanish altogether from those cathedrals and larger parish churches located in sizeable cities where a few full-time organist jobs still exist, however at all other churches where organists are generally employed only part-time, if at all, organs are at risk.
Today at the level of the local church there is an acute scarcity of organists to where just about no organ hymn accompaniment or solo organ repertoire is ever heard at all. Yet at the top of the profession more superb organists are being trained than there are vacancies in the large and imposing city buildings where important instruments have been installed, and these professionals, understandably, are reluctant to commit to working elsewhere where the same means do not exist. Some would say we should be training more amateur organists, but, all too often, after these students go off to the universities, they're never seen again even though there are places which could certainly make use of them in the ministry. If we can agree that organs have this special facility in worship and we're keen for them to continue, then we who play them to whatever level of proficiency we aspire need to pay heed that we're the most skilled performers we can possibly be. Besides keyboard practice part of our grounding involves some critically important learning which the player is obliged to assimilate away from the keys -- some of it from independent study, some from private instructional lessons, and some from that valuable teacher called "experience." This website, a warehouse of all that critically important learning, together with the webmaster's compositions and personal testimony, is part of an outreach ministry serving each and every person with the God-given interest.
NOTE: As a servant of the Lord according to His divine will, purpose, and provision, and having received the sacred rite of consecration for ministry in the presence of the Holy Spirit and His elected elders evidenced by the laying on of hands, this webmaster is a licensed, independent, ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ and serves as the first Missouri State Coordinating Elder under the ecclesiastical authority of the National Association of Christian Ministers. This website, as stated, is a third part of his outreach ministry which joins with a) his personal testimony of a supernatural experience with God brought about by prayer and b) prompted by this blessing, the six collections of original music he composed for the glory of God which have broken new ground in organ composition.
A special message
for Christian organists and church musicians
of the western tradition:
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we know that the instruments we are apt to encounter at different venues are built in various styles and of many materials for a wide variety of use in the performance of classical, sacred, and even secular music. In a typical year for the industry in the United States today the majority (about 85%) of new pipe organs are installed in places of worship, about 10% in colleges, universities, and public buildings, and about 5% in residences. During the last century this apportionment has changed very little, thus, in terms of pipe organs, today's organ students are more likely to be performing publicly in a worship setting than in any other.
We who have pursued our interest in playing for churches are continually faced with a serious and potentially incendiary question: "Is it essential for an itinerant organist to agree with the particular takes on religion at places where (s)he plays?" At a minimum, organists are expected to conduct themselves as sympathetic participants in the services, to respect those present, to use whatever instrument placed at their disposal to help maintain a reverent mood, and to assume an attitude of prayer when everyone else does. The fund of part-time organists however, as stated, is in desperately short supply, and, because we are called upon to sub fairly often at different places of worship, they certainly can't expect us to join all of them as a member.
So, the question becomes, "Is what we do simply a play-for-pay gig, or could there be anything more to it?" Obviously, we can take our skills anywhere we want, and we don't have to agree completely or even at all with the doctrine of the congregation that employs us. The answer is going to vary from person to person, thus we have to figure out, from the place where we're at, what works for us. It certainly makes it easier to sit through services week after week when the congregation's beliefs and values are somewhat in line with ours ... but a warehouse of variance and disunity awaits the organist who subs at different churches. A few of us started out as very devout believers playing for Christian services, but as the years progressed that changed to where some of us weary of the disaccord and divide have been drawn to atheism (belief in no god), some to agnosticism (belief that it's not possible to know if a god exists), and some of us have become agnostic atheists. There have even been isolated instances in the past where someone who composed some really beautiful worship music happened to be an atheist. A great many practitioners of the fine arts end up never learning where their interest in it came from, where they themselves came from, why they're here, or where they're going. A few, in nursing their own biases and opinions, also entertain doubts, disbeliefs, and mistaken conclusions about the reality of God, but
that changes NOTHING.
WHEN A PRAYER MADE IN FAITH TO GOD
IS IMMEDIATELY ACTED UPON,
ITS PETITION IS IMMEDIATELY GRANTED,
AND IT RESULTS IN INFORMATION IMPARTED
OUTSIDE THE FIVE PHYSICAL SENSES,
GOD HAS TO EXIST.
What this webmaster was given to understand in a dream in response to praying one night for instruction demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the sound of the pipe organ is held in high regard in God's heavenly realms above the clouds ... this is an absolute fact ... and therefore we can state with absolute assurance that it cannot be displeasing to God nor be wrong or sinful or unjustifiable or unscriptural to employ this particular musical instrument in Christian praise and worship here on earth ... that such use in no way contradicts or makes void anything in the Word of God, rejects the authority of Christ, or violates any command of God or principle of faith ... and that those well-meaning people whose understanding happens to be amiss, who condemn as vain and apostate the practice of employing the organ to lead the singing of hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs, thinking that by so doing they're offering God service in their zeal to please Him, sadly, are laboring under a very serious misconception. If only this kind of discord and infighting could be stopped finally, one wonders whether men and women of God actually might be able to seek out with one accord those who are still lost in their sins, actually reach the lost with one acclaim in this age with the gospel of grace, and actually evangelize them with one voice. The simple fact is, the right organ music, countless times over, has helped to grow faith in and lead people to the Lord Jesus. The logical inference therefore is this: the organ consoles in churches are not merely work stations for organists; they function also as pulpits in the sense that what the organist does at them has pastoral dimensions. It's also fair to say that more than a few organists at one time or another have had the thought cross their minds whether everything they've sacrificed to develop the several sets of skills involved with organ playing has been of any real benefit to anyone else, save for themselves. At times they may be tempted to think that theirs has been partly a lost cause, that the uncommon and highly specialized musical skills they've spent their lives developing which have cost them so much in terms of time, hard work, effort, and expense hasn't really been acknowledged or appreciated and, to a large extent, has come to naught. It can certainly leave them wondering (especially if they're certificated in music and/or a published composer) whether all they've given up to get where they are has had more aesthetic value to themselves than a boon to others.
I wouldn't let that get into my body.
In this fallen world where apathy and indifference abounds we may fail to receive much if any feedback week after week let alone some kind of courteous pat on the back. But we also know that those who hear us perform never fail to leave the building the better for it. Sometimes congregations are tempted to murmur about better use of church funds than to keep a fine pipe organ in fully playable condition and to pay the organist a living wage. At such moments they need to consider how much funding for godly purposes has come about from this organist and this instrument being present in the building and sounding at its best. At such moments it may help to remind them that
anyone can count the seeds in an apple.
Only God can count the apples in a seed.
The ministry with which organists in the western tradition are connected is a very broad agency which mostly employs, in accordance with Scriptural directives found in the Bible, all of the wonders of song and music to serve in worship. That area is specially purposed -- NOT to facilitate an encounter with God -- NOT to move people toward God -- NOT to mediate between God and man --but to a) offer praise of and thanksgiving TO God, b) express the joy of salvation in loud and jubilant rejoicing, c) teach the message of Christ and admonish others in a spirit of gratitude, and d) demonstrate, feed, and strengthen the faith of believers.
The various brands of Christ-based worship which may occupy us from time to time are simply a faint reflection of the fact that during the first century those wishing to follow Christ became divided over debates and differences and that since then this distancing has continued to enlarge. We organists come upon a staggering number of denominational sects, clans, and creeds each having arrived at their own self-perceived summit of theological purity. Even though the apostle Paul and others worked day and night to prevent it, many from the crowds in various 1st century cities who heard the gospel of grace first preached fell prey to error and positions of imposture to where a fair amount of the good work he and others had started in the name of Jesus, sadly, was undone. From city to city these believers became imperfectly joined, lacking the same mind and judgment for which Paul pleaded for them to keep (1Cor.1:10).
NOTE: In the Early Church there were no pipe organs, neither do we find any church budgets, salaried clergy, or Clergy Appreciation Day. The first Christians had no regular church services or even buildings. The word "church" from the Bible is a translation of the Greek word "ekklesia," which means "a calling out." It never refers to a building or meeting place but always to people, the followers of the Way, the ones "called out" of this present world to live a new life in Christ, and is sometimes used in connection with particular cities or regions where such believers live. The "church" of the Bible is NOT a physical building but a group of warm and loving human beings who have received God's Spirit and therefore baptized into the body of Christ by Him. The term Churchianity refers to the usual or excessive sectarian attachment to the practices or interests of a particular religion, one which connects itself with a building, organization, or system (cathedral, temple, membership list, 501c(3), etc.) with a denominational identity (RC, JW, LDS, SDA, etc.) that places faith in its own system and leadership; additional tenets typically include worship once a week, fellowship defined as regular attendance, adherence to religious rules and regulations, mandatory tithing to fund the system, and insistence that there is no salvation outside its own religious system. The term Biblical Christianity understands "the church" as a spiritual organism made up of born-again believers in whom the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, indwells, places God's Word as the final authority in all matters of faith and practice, wears "the whole armor of God" every day, gives freely out of a cheerful heart to others in need as well as preachers and missionaries of the gospel of grace, defines fellowship as two or three gathered together in His name, and teaches no salvation outside of receiving Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour. We organists, as we move and work among churchianity, are apt to encounter a building sooner or later where there may be a fine organ in working condition, but using it to make meaningful any scriptural error that the religion there may officially embrace merely adds to the glory of its shame. Even a few pastors at these locations find the Bible contradictory when IT IS NOT -- and so, we should not be surprised to find the organized churches in America, the places where we organists spend time earning a living wage and practicing our art, to be all over the map when it comes to which parts of faith upon which they choose to focus, the ways they want to live out their beliefs, and the ways they choose to set up their governance and outreach, including their music ministries.
We organists are also poised to experience at times what amounts to a largely unexpected and aggressive move among the churches to erode differences in order to establish a false compatibility between the Bible on the one hand and worldly acceptance on the other. The boxing up of hymnals and disuse of the organ in some quarters has contributed to the implosion of certain congregations against their chief asset, which is the Word of Godrightly divided (handled). What does this mean? ... Just that ministers entrusted with caring for the flock of Christ and transmitting faithfully the messaging found in inspired Scripture are charged to "cut it straight," as a farmer would when plowing furrows prior to planting, and not let their own ideas, views, opinions, attitudes, leanings, inclinations, or social beliefs cloud the messaging of the Author and thus risk being the proximate cause of the faith in others to fail. If the world (the broad way that leads to destruction that, according to Christ, many will find) gets into the church it will affect musicians at least as much as it does the pastorate. It is a shocking but expected statistic in these end times that (according to the American Worldview Inventory 2022, Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University) less than 42 per cent of all Christian senior pastors and less than 14 per cent of all Christian teaching pastors believe the Bible in all areas of life. When the majority of pastors cannot admit that all of the timeless truths and principles found in the Bible can be applied in contemporary life and faith, isolated and distorted "scholarly" interpretations and wrongful inferences are certain to follow (we recall how the Pharisees severely criticized by Christ were scholars). Additionally, when what is required in terms of attitude to understand with discernment the meaning of a biblical text (such things as humility, willingness to learn, ability to recognize differences and to sense the limitations of one's own biases and presuppositions) is missing, the understanding of it is bound to be amiss. Without this critically important and independent personal process of EXEGESIS (learning the original meaning of a text as the writer meant it back then and there), prayerful meditation, and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit to understand the text's application and transformative power, any of the Bible's verses or passages can be lifted by "scholars" to promote any sort of error whatsoever. Love can be "shown" to be the God we seek; Christ can be "shown" to be a horse thief; the Holy Spirit can be "shown" to be a wind with an eyeball ... and on and on.
The fundamental bibliology on which every church can hope to stand, music and all, is rooted exclusively in the Word of God rightly divided, not in self-righteous claims of exclusivity or denominational tenets. When God's Word is reduced to inclusiveness along side toleration for worldly interests, preferences, and acceptance we also find churches ignoring the relevance of being separate from today's society which has pushed God, Christ, and the Bible out of schools and the public square. The churches where organists expect to work simply cannot be sustained when they presume that the world is NOT at enmity with God's elect.
When we also take into consideration that immotive disagreement has been going on in Christian circles since the days of the earliest apostles, that it has to do with issues which have no physical or material solutions, and that somehow we organists need to find a way to get beyond closures and disagreements like this to do our best work in the churches, we're led to conclude that somewhere along the way we ourselves are going to need to get some help. Somehow we're going to need to get in touch with a Higher Power and connect. This begins for real as soon as we recognize that the connecting link we seek between ourselves and that divine Power Source takes the shape of a cross, its bottom planted in the earth where we reside and its top pointing to the heavens where divine Power resides. It costs nothing to step into prayer and talk to this divine Power Source through this connecting link, to get our whole hearts out on the table and share our concerns with Him, the Christian God, the God of Israel. He will never intrude upon our ability of free choice, but
ask yourself what harm it would do, to reach out to Him.
Ask yourself what you have to lose.
By way of review, the soul of man, like a radio receiver, is instinctively tuned to the broadcast frequency of what the apostle Paul referred to as "the prince of the power of the air," a non-material but very real and malignant influence with a willful personality that operates to inhibit and discourage people from reaching for anything higher. It is an omnipresent, constraining, natural force of containment that shifts into gear whenever we contemplate beginning something new and worthwhile. It tells us to be wary of anything untried whenever it has potential to take us to the next level of advancement or proficiency. It continually tries to talk us out of what we're thinking of doing, sowing doubt and telling us over and over that we could fail, to think of the result, the embarrassment, the shame, and that it's just too risky, too unsound, too illogical, too perilous, too chancy, too unhealthy, to even consider. But if what we're contemplating doing will take us from our present level of attainment to a lower one, this force couldn't care less. It thus decides for itself what about us it will choose to hinder and what it will not. No other known invisible forces of nature (gravity, electromagnetic force, strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, etc.) operate like this with conscious imposing of will upon a person -- to steal, kill, and destroy their interest.
Steven Pressfield, in his book The War Of Art, gives this force a name. He calls it resistance [See blog, The Book]. He further explains that resistance is not simply out to discourage us from trying but is hell bent on killing our interest. It operates with presumed, bogus, pseudo-authority over us, falsely and brazenly posing as an indefectible absolute, a sham-phony set of "ancient gates" or "everlasting doors" destined one day to perish. Resistance is fueled by the ruse of fear, thus it can be controlled and rendered ineffective simply by denying it the fuel that feeds it. So the thing to do, when we feel it telling us to play it safe at all costs and forget about starting that new project or study or activity or program that beckons us, is to use resistance as a compass. If we encounter the winds of resistance blowing in our face telling us to avoid some trail because the uncertainty of success is just too jeopardous for us to endeavor to undertake, we then know to do the opposite and head directly into it. The resulting discoveries and unexpected successes we typically experience by going down that trail help us to understand how some of the most unlikely people have been able to achieve some of the most unlikely and wonderful creative accomplishments. They did it by taking the bull by the horns, showing fear the door, and having the courage to forge ahead and give it a go.
We can bet that just as soon as we begin entertaining this kind of positive attitude, resistance will be front and center, ever ready to tell us, "Be wary of it ... it could be risky ... this reaching out also could make you look like you're conforming in some kind of flabby way to religion." Rubbish. Have the guts to go down the trail of your dreams, sweep your mind free of misgivings, send resistance packing, stay plugged in to the divine Power Source you need, and watch what happens. By turning the tables on resistance, i.e., by deliberately having nothing to do with its sinister cortege of apprehension, uneasiness, and dread, and by continuing to acknowledge the heavenly realm as the wellspring of your wisdom and the beginning of your strength, you're not only apt to discover new, surprising, even prodigious, capabilities about yourself but you'll be receiving from above the inner fortitude and tenacity to work through the man-made dissent and partitioning to be encountered in the churches, and you'll be discerning your best way forward. Guaranteed.
Members of praise bands are sometimes surprised to learn how closely their instruments correlate with Biblical instructions given to worship musicians. In the book of Psalms (Ps.149:1-5, Ps.150:3-5) God's people are instructed to praise His name and rejoice in Him in the assembly of His people by means of singing and musical instruments, specifically the a) lute, harp, and other (plucked) stringed instruments, b) trumpet, c) timbrel (a framed hand drum or tambourine), d) crash cymbals, and
e) pipe(meaning sounding air columns, translated "organs" in the KJV).
It seems plain from these passages that in future ages all subsequent inventions based upon the same physical means of producing sound (and any modern equivalents of those instruments of antiquity listed in the Book of Psalms, if appertaining) are to be substituted. What isn't all that plain is that the same kind of focus expected of the "Chief Musician(s)" in ancient times is also demanded today. The modern church musician's feet during worship are planted symbolically on a steeper incline than ever before, a slope or lean made more tilted by a contemporary, amusement-driven, easily bored society cursed with a short attention span and addicted to the non-stop entertainment supplied by their hand-held device. It's easier than ever for the things we musicians are doing during worship, if we're not laser-focused on purpose, to slip off center and go sideways. It's a glorious sight to see a ship being launched into the sea. It's tragic to watch the sea get into the ship. A congregation will be sustained if and only if it maintains a water tight separation from worldliness (obsession with financies, prosperity, self-congratulation, self-promotion, self-indulgence, etc.) and remains in a relationship of oneness and centeredness with God, receiving regularly what it needs to hear from the Word of God and not the world.
An avalanche of praise songs for solo or group singers is in circulation which fixates the attention of congregations to where if the performers of such songs aren't careful they can end up turning praise and worship into a mini-concert. Church congregants are in every sense an army of active partakers to be empowered; they are not to be treated as little more than passive, inert onlookers discourteously described as "pew potatoes" half asleep or with their eyes and ears fixed entirely on what's happening on the dais or stage. While the newer praise music has much to offer it should not be forgotten that our great traditional hymns of faith which have been pillars of strength and hands of comfort in times past have lost none of their effectiveness. Our churches thus end up forfeiting a great deal when organs are replaced entirely with drums and the older traditional hymns are no longer ever heard or sung within their walls. The music ministry as purposed by God can be quick to leave its lane when it begins to satisfy the same worldly glitz, glamor, decibel gain, and repetitive beat for which the world at large seems to have such a tremendous appetite. This is not to say that what is commonly referred to as "theater organ style" which takes in silent movie accompaniment isn't a thrilling and serious art form -- this style of playing is truly captivating, legitimate, and a creative lifetime study all its own. Learning this specialized study of the theatre organ demands a great deal of devoted, concentrated, technical learning and practice not to mention a finely tuned imagination to master and has more than earned the respect of an adoring public. What we organists do in a worship setting however is not theatre; it is not drama and emotionalism; it is not amusement; it is not about riveting the attention of listeners with rapid ear-catching changes of key, color, and pyrotechnics meant to entertain onlookers, admirers, and devotees with inventive and gripping arrangements, flashy stage presence, spotlights, footlights, brand name logos, or signature mannerisms; it has nothing to do with self-promotion; it is not about stealing the clock to where sufficient time for Christ to be lifted up in singing praise from the pews and the Bible read from the pulpit must of necessity be drastically curtailed; it is not a platform for fueling a seeker strategy targeted to appeal to people who like loud music with a hyperexcitable beat, draw in a crowd from the outside, and lure in unbelievers.
It's NONE of that.
God doesn't work from the outside in; He works from the inside out.
Everyone knows that as musicians our contribution to worship is executed as a musical discourse in the presence of congregants. What everyone doesn't know is that this specialized ministry of ours is grounded just as much in prayer and teaching as it is in performance. Every time we perform at the console we are addressing God in adoration and providing a learning experience. This is what teachers do -- they provide learning, change lives, and make a deep impression by educating, not indoctrinating.
Teaching is as much a calling as it is a career.
Organ performance in its authentic form is a vehicle or agency that beckons us with a sense of mission to help carry forward the pastor's work with prayer and teaching along with whatever else that God may have called us to do within "the body of Christ" -- a Pauline term for the entire corpus of saved believers. This means time, lots of it, spent in prayer to understand God's Word, to understand the pastor's messaging, to surrender to our Lord's will for us, and to better sense that will to help instill and make meaningful for others His eternal truths. The aptness we have for this was given from God so that our heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, these three, might be exalted, the lost might find Christ, and the saved might grow in grace and discipleship. As we discover and pursue our God-given interest in the organ and become a more skillful player, the more we pursue it, the more we practice, it seems that miracles happen, coordination sinks in, what people call "talent" becomes evident, and we are obliged to use it to serve and bless others.
Our Lord treats us each individually and treats each one of us very specially in His love. He divides to every person severally, as He wills. Still, there are characteristics of His presence that share commonality. As He leads organists and church musicians into this calling of ours it's a step at a time, and once we feel his loving presence vividly we don't want to let it go even though we can't always see where exactly all of this is heading. This is because the Holy Spirit wants to be at our side with each step and not four or five steps ahead. This restlessness, this calling, is of God's making and is evident both to the person being called and the elders of the congregation of Christian association with whom (s)he is automatically connected. It will feel very different and a great deal more than our wordly relationships with others.
NOTE: This meme traveling about saying the congregation is not supposed to be "enjoying" the music is attributed to the esteemed Protestant reformer and exponent of predestination John Calvin who also said, "It would be nothing but mimicry if we followed David today in singing with cymbals, flutes, tambourines, and psalteries. In fact, the papists were seriously deceived in their desire to worship God with their pompous inclusion of organs, trumpets, oboes, and similar instruments. That has only served to amuse the people in their vanity, and to turn them away from the true institution which God has ordained ... in a word, the musical instruments were in the same class as sacrifices, candelabra, lamps, and similar things. Those who take this approach are reverting to a sort of Jewishness, as if they wanted to mingle the Law and the Gospel, and thus bury our Lord Jesus Christ." (!!!) My brothers and sisters, this is quite an opinion even for a reformer with a tin ear for music -- predestined to be despised and rejected by musicians everywhere.
This subject has become quite a debate in the Christian church. One side is saying, in so many words, "It's easier to sing the Lord's praises to a tasty jam, not to mention the benefit of the music drowning out the off-key people." The other side is saying, in these so many words, "Tasty jams are not conducive to congregational singing, only to the performers who prance and dance around, with the organ better suited to drowning out the off-key singers." The question becomes, "Is it really a good idea to try to drown out anyone? ... " Perhaps it would be instructive to come at it from a little different direction: Can a praise band be Christ-centered? ... absolutely. Can a praise band of this type work with a pipe organ? ... absolutely. Does the church have to give up one for the other? ... absolutely not. As stated, the CHURCH (Gr. "ekklesia") Jesus said He would build, including the music heard during its assemblies, because it's composed of those individuals baptized with the Spirit of Christ, must necessarily be Christ-centered and remain with a Christ-focus. Christ alone is the Leader of His church, not the pastor, not the elders, not the presbytery, not the board of directors, not the general union of conferences, not the national convention, not the general synod, not the heirarchy. Whenever and wherever two or more are gathered together in His name, there Jesus is in the midst. It's Christ's involvement in the lives of those who surrender to Him that permits His righteousness to flow through them, not to mention saving their most prized possession, their eternal soul, from the loneliness of hell, of everlasting separation from God. Thus, it is appropriate that any music used for expressing public reverence for Him should INVOLVE each and every person present who is able to lift their voice to Him in praise -- even if it's sung in five different keys in the ten-note scale. Such a demonstration of faith, no matter what kind of musical cacophony their singing voices may combine to create, is something the entire assembly does which pleasures the heart of God and evokes response from Him. Faith is what moves the hand of God. It's important to bear in mind therefore, especially if we're ordained, that we do not attend or conduct worship services to pleasure the heart of man but rather the heart of God.
NOTE: Ps.33:3 is translated in the KJV as "... play skillfully with a loud noise" which in some circles has been interpreted literally, i.e. to play and sing as loudly as humanly possible using every modern means of amplification at our disposal at full tilt while people stand the entire time through song after song. In a modest worship space it is not necessary to set every amp at a decibel gain sufficient to fill Yankee Stadium to where the sound field can pass through solid brick walls, be audible a thousand yards down the road, and end mercifully for the eardrums only when the soloist is too drained to continue. All of that standing also can wear out the elderly who may be forced to sit down and sing while those nearby are looking at them with disdain as if sitting down (instead of waiting to fall down) demonstrates that they don't really love God. Exercising good sense is certainly part of worshiping, but typically there are many people in attendance who do not know the words or tune or feel they are worshiping God more by singing the same line of a song thirty or forty times over. There are even some visiting pastors who, instead of singing their love for the Lord, end up doing little or nothing save for counting how many times they are hung up on a single musical phrase when God doesn't need to hear those same lines over and over and over. When the decibel level falls to a whisper only to come roaring back a dozen times or more in a single song, the whims of the performers end up inserting themselves to where the music morphs into an interpretative performance before an audience. In some churches the time segment on Sunday morning set aside for this is called "Worship." Some may not like it to be stated, but, the truth is, there is nothing in the Word of God which prescribes for God's people to be entertained from a stage when gathered together for worship; He also knows our love for Him when we sing the lines only once. If singing them over and over meets the needs of the majority of congregants present, then so be it, but repetition can be a hindrance for some of them. This writer is not against the new praise music. We should always in fact find our way to sing a new song to our God, but we should also recognize that one person's new song may not express the worship in someone else's heart. That new song for each person needs to be that personal, intimate song from our own heart, mind, soul, and whole being. We can do that while sitting, kneeling, standing, or lying prone before Him as we see in Revelation 4 and 5. God will audibly sense our love and praise whether we sing our love and shout our joy out loud or do the same from the inner depths of our heart and mind as some are forcibly relegated to do for medical reasons. For others also, that quiet expression of their love and praise can be for them the best.
Ironically, because denominations argue and discriminate among themselves, the tremendous array of differing Christian denominations each "legally" ordain or invest with ministerial authority only those who complete their own "approved" course of instruction and comply with any other legalism of theirs when
it isGod Who ordains a minister.
It is God's indwelling Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, Who implants in someone's heart the impulse to join with the full body of Christ in whatever He calls that person to do. It becomes the duty of elders to prayerfully consider and examine that calling and after listening to what the Holy Spirit is telling them, either to confirm it with a prayerful anointing and laying on of hands, OR to look into it further. The elders are there to recognize and validate the calling to Christian service that God has already placed on someone's life. Therefore when the enormity of this calling, and that it seems to have pleased the Lord to select us for it, lands on us finally, it's normal to feel profoundly unworthy of it. In this, we are in good company. The Old Testament prophets felt it. Even Moses felt that unworthiness. The apostle Paul wrote of the same thing, in his way of saying it. We are not, and never can be, worthy of it on our own. Nevertheless, God loves us. He's a God of mercy. He's a God of forgiveness.
Organists of every ilk, even if they don't sense this enormity, even if they find the subject of religion a waste of time if not repulsive, can still find themselves liking Jesus. Some may even admit to being a fan of His. If so, they are poised to have that special relationship with Him that transcends religiosity and ensures happiness. This isn't about religion -- or anything that comes to us from the outside. It's about having a relationship with God -- Who comes to us from the inside. Jesus isn't looking for a fan club. He's looking for those Whom His heavenly Father is drawing to Him, who believe in and have acknowleged their need of Him -- people in whom He can indwell because they have acknowledged their sinfulness, turned from their sins, and accepted Him as Saviour and Lord of their life. God has created each person for specific purpose(s) and has them uniquely "wired" to carry that out. It may not be so discernable, but He knows what He's doing by putting you in the here and now. You are no accident. If Jesus is living inside you, you will know it. If not, He's only a prayer away ...
Just say this prayer according to the gospel of grace first delivered to the Gentile world through the apostle Paul: "God, I'm a sinner, forgive me, I want to turn from my sins, I trust that Your Son Jesus died for my sins, rose from the dead for my justification, and I acknowledge Him as my Saviour, from this day forward, forever. Amen."
Being a Christian means being a new and different person saved FOR good works, not BY good works. Being a good person, volunteering our time, giving to the poor, getting baptized in water, going to church, believing there is a God, being kind, doing good deeds, following the Ten Commandments, making sure our good outweighs our bad, and anything else based on works -- NONE of that, technically, has any saving power. What saves us is repenting of our sins and believing that Jesus is the Son of God, that He suffered the penalty for sin that we deserved, surrendered His life for our justification and sanctification, was buried, rose from the grave, and that we trust Him as our Lord and Saviour from this time forward, forever. Period. When we do this it's THEN, at that moment, that His Holy Spirit is given to us which quickens, activates, and makes alive our otherwise inactive human spirit, our soul henceforth becomes uncomfortable with sin due to being strongly aware of His indwelling presence, and THAT is how we are saved and become a Christian. Biblical baptism by immersion (after public confession of Christ as Saviour) demonstrates one's willingness to bury the old sinful self with Christ and being raised to walk in newness of life. Because it perpetuates the gospel message in symbolizing what happens to us when we die to sin and live for God, this ordinance continued to be promoted by all of the apostles of Christ (including Paul) during the early Acts period. Salvation comes about when our spirit is baptized with the Holy Spirit, the old sinful person is gone, and our new birth in His Spirit has come. This spiritual action of God is separate however from the preparatory water baptism John was conducting, Peter was commanding, and even Paul was performing, and hinges upon the heavenly Father drawing people to Christ by means of the Holy Spirit (John6:44). Water baptized or not, a true Christian is an entirely new creation, a totally new person, not simply an upgraded or improved version of the old self. In some churches a hymn could be sung before and/or after the baptismal ceremony, in which case the organ may be involved in leading the choir or congregation.
NOTE: Salvation, like all gifts from God, is irrevocable (Rom.11:29), the redeemed cannot be unpurchased, but, due to experiencial issues, such as noticing self-proclaimed "Christians" living a sinful unrepentant lifestyle, certain trusted and respected pastors, elders, and even prestigious Bible colleges, seminaries, and their headships, have taken the stand that a Christian can lose salvation, that, in effect, (s)he can be un-newly created and that most, if not all, of what happens to us when we receive Christ can be invalidated. The problem with this assumption is that not everyone who calls themselves a Christian has actually been given the Holy Spirit. Organists and church musicians who interact with both types of people can know the difference; new creations in Christ will be acting like it and, while still being far from perfect, they are forward-looking, forgiving, non-condemning, non-judgmental, and mirroring to some extent what the Spirit produces [love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal.5:22-23)]. They will not be found living a proud, arrogant, bragadocious, narcissistic, self-righteous lifestyle pretending to minister in the name of Christ all the while getting aboard in taking issue with Paul and manipulating/retranslating Scripture and time-honored Creeds to re-characterize God and the Bible merely to cater to progressive trends.
For a Christian to lose salvation a) the new creation in Christ could not continue and would have to be destroyed, b) God Himself would have to revoke our redemption, i.e. His purchase of us at the cost of Christ's death and His precious blood, c) God would have to go back on His Word and "undeclare" what He had previously declared about us being justified in Christ, those absolved of guilt would have to be tried again and found guilty, and He would have to reverse the sentence handed down from the divine bench, d) eternal life itself would have to be redefined, since the Christian is promised to live forever, e) God would have to erase the mark of the Holy Spirit given at conversion, cancel the deposit, break His promise, revoke the guarantee, keep the inheritance, forgo the praise, and lessen His glory, not to mention having to declare that Rom.8:30 and many other passages from His Word would be in error, and f) God would renege on His Word, make Himself into a liar, and break His own law when He cannot lie. No, once marked and sealed by the Holy Spirit, nothing can remove a Christian from God's hand, and no one should be teaching otherwise. What God wants to see first is a personal conviction to renounce sin, walk away from it, and to believe that Jesus is not only the Son of God and Saviour of the world but to trust and follow Him as Lord, forever. The implication (1John4:15) is that salvation hinges on trust as well as belief; God does not live in people, or they in Him, who are convinced that God exists and that Jesus may be His Son but fail to trust Him as Redeemer and Lord (examples are Judas Iscariot, Demas, certain self-proclaimed Roman "Christians" of Paul's day, even Satan and his angels). The mistaken notion that Judas Iscariot was once a saved man also has helped spread this error. This man accepted the invitation from Jesus to follow Him around, he placed himself at the disposal of Jesus for three years, the man was religious, he believed in God, he put on a good show, but he was never born again by the Power of God. In the end, when trust was missing, everything else was not enough; Satan was permitted to enter this man's soul (Luke22:3, John13:27) and turn him into Christ's betrayer due to the man's stubborn reliance upon his own devices and powers instead of trusting in God.
In the beginning of our walk with Christ, as we organists are exercising and growing stronger in our newfound faith in Him, as we are learning to take our first steps as a new creation, it's possible in the early going that old habits may trip us up; we may be momentarily caught off guard and willingly stumble in sin just as a toddler might take a tumble when first learning to walk. Our old sinful soul, the potential seat of evil within us, has been around for a long time, and it isn't about to be lectured to by this new upstart of a spirit now marked with the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of Christ is faithful not to forsake the new creation by withdrawing however; therefore, He will convict us of any sin moving forward, we will sense that He is grieved over it, and once again we will find ourselves on our knees repenting before God and seeking forgiveness. In such a case, God will forgive us through the grace of relationship.
Once the faithful Holy Spirit has marked us like this and is firmly adherent and bound to our own spirit, the righteousness of Christ is immediately credited to us. It is God's pledge or deposit in our hearts sealing His commitment to save us, guaranteeing that some day our salvation will be complete but enabling us to experience some of its joys right now. This means that we are no longer under the law but under grace (unmerited favor -- God choosing to bless us rather than curse us for our sins). Our heart also is opened up to the knowledge of God so that we can fully understand the Holy Scriptures. It means also that we are empowered and comforted by Him and no longer held to account for what the books of heaven had recorded about us being lawbreakers and rebels against God. Our past record of debt to God for every prior (not future) sinful thought, motive, word, deed, and ungodly wrongdoing is erased by means of the grace of salvation. God remembers it no more, and our name is entered into the Lamb's Book of Life. The indwelling Spirit of Christ also imparts that additional strength we lack to resist sin and is there to convict us of any future transgressions, should they come. Upon repenting of it and praying for His loving and merciful pardon, God grants forgiveness under the grace of relationship for any future sin those in Christ may commit. Being under grace however does not mean hypergrace (the idea that the indwelling Spirit does not convict believers of sin and, if they do sin, they need not repent) ... and, although being born again means that we will escape the wrath of God and share in the joys of heaven, it also means that in the here and now we share that same personal relationship with all of our other Brothers and Sisters indwelt of the Holy Spirit, automatically. We serve a living Christ, not a dead Christ.
For born again Christians who have sincerely repented, in whom the Spirit of Christ truly indwells and the righteousness of Christ has been accredited to them -- this world is the only hell they will ever know.
For the incorrigibly wicked, out-and-out unrepentant sinners, self-righteous persons, procrastinators, and lost church-goers -- those who never had a personal encounter with Christ, do not have His Spirit indwelling them, and are not bearers of His presence -- this world is the only heaven they will ever know.
Religion, man's efforts to reach God, is not enough;God has reached man in the Person of Jesus Christ. In their travels within churchianity organists do well to get beyond all the divergent religious observances and practices bearing in mind that this ubiquitous and stubborn insistence about which church is "the real one" does not serve singlensss and identity. The fundamental condition that saves the sinner is faith in believing that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for our sins, rose from the dead for our justification, and trusting Him as Lord from this time forward, forever.
That's it.Everything else takes a back seat.
God did not create denominations. Religious men did. Starting early in the Acts period and continuing throughout church history well-meaning men unintentionally brought their own prior experience and understandings to biblical texts which caused them to read foreign ideas into it without intending to do so; without thinking contextually and exegetically they formed their own inferences, interpolated their own suppositions, and built their own systems of elaborate rituals, devotional practices, related legalism, and individual clergies around them. In time, as these things gained wider acceptance in various quarters, the Way started by Christ morphed into a staggering multiplicity of disunited brands of churchianity each claiming sole custodianship of Christian faith and morals and exclusive spiritual oneness with God while berating and being unaccountable to all others in the wider body of Christ. We organists find all kinds of strange pet ideas afloat these days bending the truth of Scripture; every imaginable heresy claims to be supported by a biblical text. We can encounter pastors with multiple college degrees behind their names who are so steeped in the fortress mentality of their own seminary education that, if presented with a page from the Bible in unambiguous translation that clearly contradicts what they've been programmed to teach to their assemblies, they say they"don't believe it" even when someone reads it to them straight out of Scripture. Laying these differences aside, as organists ours is part of a much larger mission ... a healing mission ... to use the instrument to help listeners find strength and comfort in the music and feed and grow faith in Christ so that fellowship with God might be reestablished among sinners and maintained according to God's great purpose and provision.
Part of rightly dividing the Word of truth has to do with knowing the difference between the gospel of grace now in force and the gospel of the kingdom of God (or heaven). The word "gospel" means "good news." News may be of various kinds, though it may concern the same person. The gospel of grace, a mystery concealed by God from the beginning and only first revealed to the apostle Paul to deliver to us -- the sole biblical condition today for receiving salvation -- involves faith alone that Christ died a substitionary death for our sins and rose bodily from the dead for our justification. It declares that the Lord Jesus is the Man in Whom God came down to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, that sinful men might be justified and sanctified, made fit for the presence of the glory of God. In this way, at great cost to Himself, God made it possible for us to live with Him eternally. This is a ministry neither divulged nor committed to the Twelve apostles whom Jesus sent to the Jews but rather the present testimony of God parenthetically inserted to be preached to Gentile and Jew alike as lost sinners while Jerusalem is "desolate," i.e., trodden down by the Gentiles to this day, this because as a nation the Jews were cast out (in 70 A.D.) though not cast away forever. The gospel of the kingdom of God, on the other hand, proclaims Jesus as the seed of David, the Man raised up and Anointed by God to literally reign over the people of Israel and over the Gentiles but was left incomplete because the nation rejected it in all its phases, crucified the Lord Jesus, and persecuted His apostles. It refers to a literal kingdom and reign of Christ yet future and commonly known as the Millennium. This was the gospel preached by Jesus and the Twelve (exclusively to the Jews, with very few exceptions), both in association geographically with Jerusalem and spiritually, referring to the Spirit of Christ reigning in the hearts of men. Now that the Jews are restored to their land and are again become a nation the Bible teaches that immediately prior to "the Day of the Lord" (the subject of the prophecy of Joel) this gospel of the kingdom of God will again be preached at a future time by a Jewish ministry, a revived apostleship proclaiming to the nations that God is about to deliver His people Israel, set His King upon His holy hill of Zion, and execute judgment upon His enemies.
We organists in our ministries are expected to support the pastor's message straight from Scripture which, while it reveals the unity of God, asserts or implies the deity of three eternal and coequal Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- the same in substance but distinct in function. This mystery, a truth divinely revealed, is not of human construct, neither can man logically explain it, but in denying it there could be no salvation from sin in the biblical sense. God fully revealed Himself in the Person and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. If this had not happened, i.e. if there had been no incarnation, then there would have been no Saviour; and without a Saviour there would have been no atonement and thus no salvation for the Spirit to apply. When Jesus offered Himself and died for us, the justice of God was fully carried out.
We don't know all that happened on that cross, but we know one thing: when all of humanity's sins were charged to Jesus as He hung there, He became guilty of all of the evil, idolatry, sorcery, divination, slander, lying, lust, adultery, jealousy, theft, murder, greed, dereliction, and the filthiest, nastiest sins ever committed. For the first time in eternity, as all that guilt entered His pure soul, a shadow passed between Him and the heavenly Father because sin breaks fellowship with the Father, and separation results. During those hours that Jesus suffered the pangs of hell and judgment His cross became the most sinful place in the history of the world. Legions of angels were poised ready to rescue Him, but they obviously were under restraint, and Jesus refused their help. In becoming sin for us on that cross Jesus sensed alienation from God in a way we can scarcely explain or imagine, forsaken in His dying agonies by men, forsaken by angels, cut off even from the heavenly Father.
WHY DID JESUS SUBMIT TO THIS? ...
BECAUSE HE LOVES US.
HE LOVED US ENOUGH
TO DIE IN OUR PLACE.
[The angels of heaven love us too, they know the terrible loneliness of hell being the default position that lies ahead for us, and they long to see us repent and turn to Christ as our Advocate while there is still time.]
Would it be all that difficult
to love Jesus back
for what He did
to keep us all out of hell?
ON A VERY PERSONAL NOTE: My friends, in ministering to and forgiving others in Christ don't forget to be patient, kind, and gentle with yourself. You're human. Don't beat yourself up if you manage to make a kid's mistake at the keys. Some days we're at the top of our game and don't always show it. Today we may be extremely tired or not feeling well; an undiagnosed medical problem may have developed; a newly prescribed medicine we're taking may cause unexpected muscle weakness, muscle soreness, upset stomach, or other distracting signs and symptoms; there can be a miscommunication with the celebrant, choir director, or lecturn -- the hymn we were told would be sung that day and the one we practiced beforehand may not be the one announced; we may have to start playing only from vague memory, perhaps in the wrong shoes or glasses, without the sheet music or hymn book in front of us, in a hurry and in poor light; we can yield to haste, start off with the wrong fingering, and send motor memory careening off the rails; we can find something malfunctioning or maybe not working at all with the instrument only after we begin playing; we can be further distracted by people standing alongside who may want to shake our hand while we're playing or perhaps are shouting at us to turn our head and smile for a photo all the while we're trying to sight read from the page ... and on and on. We may no more than get started playing when suddenly some little preventable thing goes awry, and then another. Dismay instantly seizes us, thrusting usinto the salvage business at the same time -- until, that is, the final chord of our unfortunate musical offering of the moment mercifully dies away in the vaulted heights of the roof. We then stare catatonically at the keys for a moment, then shake our heads in wonderment at how we could have flubbed at something we worked at so long and hard and knew so well.
Crash landings like this are extremely rare, but at such times discouragement can come down on us like a ton of bricks and get us to thinking if the main reason we became an organist was because we desperately desired the disapproval of others. No material was wasted over it, no money was lost, no damage was done, no harm came to anyone, but we're still disappointed in ourselves because we know for a fact that we can play it far better. We just take it in stride, keep moving, leave it behind, learn from it, give ourselves a pat on the back for giving it a go, and carry on.God doesn't watch from a distance when we get in trouble. He gets in trouble with us -- this so that, whatever we're going through, we might sense His indwelling presence and know that we're not having to go it alone. Ever.
BOTTOM LINE:We organists do well always and everwhere to teach others that our chosen instrument is and always has been an integral part of that big overriding message and picture. We also do well to remain consciously aware of that particular and specific office we ourselves occupy in these very last days of this present age of grace, to remain doggedly determined to keep filling this fallen world with beautiful, sensitive, comforting, powerful, and edifying organ music, to integrate or reintegrate this awesome instrument into worship, to expand our musical outreach if possible by doing some teaching, composing, recording, even relocating our ministry if we feel we must, but
we should never ever, repeat NEVER, give up playing.
No one should EVER give up anything beneficial that they can't go one day without thinking about.
Yours is a ministry which God has specifically called you to do.