A LEARNING WEBSITE CREATED BY LITHUANIAN ORGANIST, RECITALIST, COMPOSER, RECORDING ARTIST, BLOGGER, AND WORLD RENOUNED TEACHER
DR. VIDAS PINKEVICIUS
He has recorded some of this webmaster's music, and his own compositions, educational programs of study, and "how to" instructional videos are a treasure trove of learning.
what you may not know
can be holding you back.
This website supplies you with
some critically important concepts
you desperately need
and may not realize it.
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 religious worship 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.
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.
IF A PRAYER MADE IN FAITH TO GOD
IS IMMEDIATELY ACTED UPON,
AND IT RESULTS IN INFORMATION IMPARTED
OUTSIDE THE FIVE PHYSICAL SENSES,
THEN GOD HAS TO EXIST.
During a dream one night at the age of 15 triggered by a prayer for instruction made in faith this webmaster was given a glimpse of part of the third heaven where it was demonstrated to him beyond a shadow of a doubt that the sound of the pipe organ is held in high regard in God's heavenly realms; moreover, what is up there and how it's used is beyond anyone's imagination here on earth. It can therefore be stated upon God's authority as an absolute fact that it cannot be displeasing to Him nor be wrong or sinful or unjustifiable or unscriptural here on earth to employ this musical instrument in praise to Him, that such use in no way contradicts or makes void anything in His written Word, rejects the authority of Christ, or violates any command of God or principle of faith, and further, that those well-meaning people whose understanding about it 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 of praise, thinking that by so doing they're taking a position pleasing to Him, sadly, are laboring under a very serious misconception. If only this kind of discord and infighting among professing Christians 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 that the organ consoles in places of worship 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 which takes in being held to the same standards of behavior as a pastor. The organist's character matters. 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 employs, in accordance with biblical directives, 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. What exactly is the salvation? ... salvation is Jesus Christ coming on the cross and dying for our sins and shedding His blood, being made to be sin for us [He] Who knew no sin, that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him. Salvation is thus from the Jews (John 4:22), and it comes as a gift of God, by grace [unmerited favor] through faith [confidence in God].
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 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: The biblical word "church" 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 Christ, the ones "called out" of this present world to live a new life in Him, 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 the Holy Spirit and baptized by Him into the body of Christ, a people gathered under His name. 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 that places faith only in itself and its own leadership; additional tenets typically include worship once a week, fellowship defined as regular attendance, adherence to its own explicit doctines and convictions sometimes with stipulations of tithing to fund the system, and insistence that there is no religious truth beyond the confines of its own manner of belief. 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. What this means is, pastors and teachers entrusted with the spiritual care of the body of Christ, when examining Scripture, are charged to separate truth from truth in order to come to a correct understanding and not confuse or cloud the messaging. If the world, i.e. the broad way that leads to destruction which according to Jesus many will follow, gets into the body of Christ it will affect musicians at least as much as it does the pastorate. It is a shocking statistic that in these last days (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 to be truthful in and applicable to 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 is missing 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), understanding is bound to be amiss. Without this critically important and independent personal process of EXEGESIS 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.
Some Christian theologians and scholars may not want to hear it, but the fundamental bibliology on which every congregation can hope to stand, music and all, is rooted exclusively in the Word of God rightly divided, not in denominational claims of exclusivity. When God's Word is reduced to inclusiveness along side worldly interests, preferences, and acceptance we also find congregations ignoring the relevance of being separate from today's culture, one which has pushed God, Christ, and the Bible to the edge of society and out of the public square. When we also take into consideration that immotive disagreement has been going on in Christian circles since the days of the earliest apostles and that somehow we organists need to find a way to rise above it to do our best work for our congregations, we're led to conclude that somewhere along the way we ourselves are going to need to get some help; somehow we ourselves are going to need to get in touch with a Higher Power and connect. This begins for real as soon as it dawns on us that the connecting link we seek is the one thing about which the church has permission to boast: the cross. It costs nothing to step into prayer and talk to that divine Power Source through this connecting link, to get our whole hearts out on the table and share our concerns with that one and only Almighty 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 uncertain, 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, but 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.
Besides the time-honored traditional hymns to be found in boxed up hymnals there have been thousands of new hymns, not "praise songs," written in the last few decades notably by Mary Louis Bringle, Adam Tice, Mark Miller, and others, which are more singable than much of the contemporary Christian music in circulation. Church congregants are in every sense an army of active partakers to be empowered to sing; 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.
Whatever people may think of the newer contemporary Christian music with its 7-11 praise songs (same 7-words sung 11 times) it should not be forgotten that what's inside the hymn book which in times past has been a pillar of strength and hands of comfort has lost none of its effectiveness. The spiritual health of a church congregation is directly tied to its quality of participation in worship which ends up forfeiting a great deal when the older traditional hymns that people know are no longer ever heard or sung. The music ministry as purposed by God also 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 rim shots on the drums during communion or any other 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 this way, from the outside in; He works from the inside out.
As organists this specialized ministry of ours is grounded just as much in prayer and teaching as it is in performance.Every time we sit 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 is attributed to the 16th century Dutch reformer John Calvin who, along with his followers, called for the express removal of organs and other musical instruments from churches. Religious men have been in dispute for centuries about how music is to be employed in Christian worship. The only thing that seems to change is which worship style people happen to be arguing about at the moment. In the midst of these mini-battles and contentions what needs to be rightly divided [See below] are the important differences between performance music and worship music. Some clear lines need to be drawn between music that is worship-based and what is performance-based. In performance the focus is entirely on the musician(s), the performer(s) might be the only ones singing, the melody or tune is supreme, the words support the melody, any personal integrity of the performer(s) is of secondary concern, any virtuoso musical flourishes inserted can be attractive, and, above all, the performers are expected to be well-skilled musicians. In worship the focus should be entirely on Christ, everyone should be singing along, the words or lyrics are supreme, the melody supports the words, the personal integrity of the musician(s) is of proximate concern, any virtuoso musical flourishes inserted can be distracting, and the performers are expected to be worshipers well committed to the faith. When the focus is on the musicians instead of Jesus, it isn't worship, no matter what we cal it; their artistry should be used to point to Christ, not themselves. When we think we're leading in worship when no one else is singing along, we're not leading, we're performing. The lyrics must lead the music. Leading people in worship means that we ourselves live a life of faith and integrity; worship leaders can't effectively lead their listeners along a road that they themselves are not traveling. Our level of musicianship, of course, is important in worship, but not as much as our sense of honesty, honor, soundness of character, reliability, and follow through.
If senior attendees sitting in the pews are asked for their thoughts about the music they're hearing which has replaced the organ leading the hymn singing, they are apt to say that what is being presented now are not hymns, that it is sing song phrases repeated over and over while the crowd is being entertained with a rock band, strobe lights, and a Jumbotron with the whole room swinging and swaying; they are apt to say that there is no reverence in this kind of display when drums and guitars overtake the voices, people just sit there enduring, and the message and focus of worship, at least for them, is lost; they will be saddened that the children present will never know the conviction that can come from a hymn or the way that some hymns convey the love of Christ that no other music can, that they will never know a hymn that's perfect for an altar call or one they can recall days later and realize how much it pertains to them in that very moment; they are also apt to say that it's very sad and disturbing that by voicing such an opinion they will be accused of chasing young people out of church while meanwhile many from their own age group and those much younger already have quit attending services over it. Ps. 33:3 is translated in the 1611 KJV as "... play skillfully, with a loud noise." This literal, word for word, wooden translation does not mean to play as loudly as possible with the synthesizer banging out the same old chord with no melody at all while the microphones and amplifiers are set at ear-splitting full tilt. A more correct translation of this verse [such as it appears in TNIV] is "... play skillfully, and shout for joy." There are many people in attendance every week [including self-proclaimed 5-10 singers (5 different keys, 10-note scale)] who cannot participate at singing their love for the Lord because it's so loud they cannot think and almost no one in the building besides "the team" and band knows the words; "Santo santo santo, Cha Cha Cha" simply doesn't do it for these people; between flood lights, triple video projections, insipid prerecorded piano music, and live piano with an amplified vocal duo, it seems to them more like they're at a nightclub. A congregation like this has succumbed to the impulse to "compete" with the entertainment world in a constant drive to retain the youth who, being subject to current cultural influences, are looking to be entertained and, with few exceptions, seeking meaning in places it cannot be found. Unless the event is a separately scheduled recital the building is not a place where hand clapping applause for the organist or any other musician is appropriate. The people attending a worship service are NOT the audience and should not be behaving like one; there's a difference, in that situation, about WHO the Audience is.
Never forget your Audience ... Audience with a capital "A."
God does not save people by man-made legalism or philosophic wisdom; He saves them by the preaching of the cross. Without the cross and resurrection in every sermon in fact, it misses the mark. One wonders then, why churches insist that only seminary graduates become their pastors, why people seem not to know if a person is saved unless a pastor talks to them and confirms it. This is because men have always judged by outer appearance instead of looking at the heart as the Lord does. Different denominations each "legally" ordain or invest with ministerial authority only those who complete their own "approved" course of instruction and comply with any other exclusive 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 ministry 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. And when the enormity of this calling lands on us finally, and that it seems to have pleased the Lord to select us for it, it's normal to feel profoundly unworthy of it. In this, we are in the best of 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 denominationalism, ensuring the joy and peace of God. This isn't about religion (or anything else for that matter that comes to us from the outside); it's about having a relationship with God. It 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, people of faith in whom the Holy Spirit can indwell. Repentance and faith are thus intertwined; hands reaching out to the Saviour, trusting Him to never let go whatever else happens, cannot continue to hold on to what is old and sinful -- it will inevitably fall to the ground. Thus, twice born members of the body of Christ are penitent believers and believing penitents for life.
Salvation is not tied to obedience to Mosaic law or works of human merit about which one might boast (Eph. 2:8-9), but it IS tied to faith-perfecting works, i.e., faith working together with works (Jas. 2:17-26). This is not a contradiction; the Word of God is not contradictory. In these passages James was dealing with a different kind of works than Paul was, the kind which challenges us to work out our commitment to Christ in our daily activities.
Jesus did not share the mystery of the gospel of grace with Peter or with any of the Twelve but only from heaven and only with Paul as a progressive revelation. When a measure of God's Holy Spirit is instantly given to us like this it quickens, activates, and makes alive our otherwise inactive human spirit, opens up our minds to revelation from God, and this includes His 2 timetables: 1) Israel [gospel of the kingdom, Mosaic law, faith in the Covenant promise of a coming Deliverer (Heb. 10:37), water baptism, endure to end] and 2) body of Christ [gospel of grace, faith (trust) in the finished crosswork of Jesus and that God raised Him to life, dry baptism (Holy Spirit), Pauline epistles (Romans thru Philemon)]. When the nation rejected the gospel of the kingdom, God's calendar for Israel was set aside and will resume after Christ resurrects and/or removes the entire corpus of the body of Christ from this earth to heaven for the marriage of the Lamb. Striving to enter the kingdom of God is therefore not for today; what God is doing now is dispensing grace, reconciling the world to Himself, and building up the body of Christ; only after this will He resume His docket for Israel. Churchianity does not want to hear this said about water baptism because it is their sacred cow, but, in this current interval of grace, as a testimony of faith and obedience to Christ, it is only a fleshly ordinance and not of God; for people who request it, however, as long as they understand that it has no bearing on their salvation at the present time, then there is no problem. For now, being a follower of Christ means becoming a new creation, a totally firsthand person baptized with the Spirit of Christ, not some sort of upgraded version of the old self.
NOTE: Two thousand years ago outside the walls of Jerusalem all human sins were paid for, but not forgiven. The sinner is saved, forgiven, and sealed when placed "in Christ," i.e., when that person has placed their belief and trust (faith) in the finished crosswork of Jesus. As for confessing a desire to turn from one's sins, accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour, inviting Him into one's life, giving one's life to Him, or saying a sinner's prayer, NONE of that saves anyone because it doesn't include the cross -- the person condemned under sin is dead and has no life to give to Christ; salvation is not GIVING something but BELIEVING something so that the life of Christ can be RECEIVED. Prayer is a work, no one is saved by works but rather by grace through faith, and the only thing that God wants to see (the only thing that moves His hand) is FAITH, not a prayer or invitation. Man is saved by BELIEVING the gospel, not merely by accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour or by anything else outside the preaching of the cross. Any preaching that does not include the message of the cross to the lost world is NOT the gospel and has no saving power. Sinners need to be accepted by Christ, not the other way around; when they believe the gospel, God accepts THEM. Jesus does not need man's acceptance, it's the other way around; man needs HIS acceptance. Sadly, in many churches where organists and ministers of music ply their trade these days, this is being taught in reverse.
Additionally, salvation in the cross of Christ is IRREVOCABLE (Rom. 11:29), those redeemed by His blood cannot be unpurchased, but, due mainly to a misapplication of Heb. 10:36-39 messaged for Jews only, certain trusted and respected Christian pastors, elders, and even prestigious Bible colleges, seminaries, and their headships, have taken the mistaken stand that a twice born member of the body of Christ can lose salvation, that, in effect, that same person can be un-newly created and that what happens after baptism with the Holy Spirit can be invalidated. For a true 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 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 abandoning Rom. 8:30 and many other Scriptures as fake, and f) God would renege on His Word, become a liar, break His own law when He cannot lie, and Christ would have died in vain. 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 in someone is faith (trust, confidence in Him) intertwined with repentance; hands that are reaching out to the Saviour cannot continue to hold on indefinitely to anything old and sinful; it will inevitably fall to the ground. The implication (1John 4:15) is that salvation hinges on trust as well as belief. God does not live in people, or they in Him, who may believe that Jesus is His Son but cannot bring themselves (as did Judas Iscariot, Demas, and certain self-proclaimed Roman "Christians" of Paul's day) to TRUST Jesus as Redeemer and Lord. 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, Judas was religious, he believed in God, he put on a good show, but trust in Jesus was lacking. In the end, everything else was not enough; it enabled Satan to enter the soul of Judas and turn him into Christ's betrayer due to his reliance upon his own devices instead of trusting Jesus implicitly.
In the beginning of our walk with Christ, as we organists are exercising and growing stronger in our newfound faith in Him, as we're learning to take our first new steps being twice born, it's possible that old deeply engrained sinful habits may cause us to take a spill; we may be momentarily caught off guard and slip into sin just as a toddler might take a tumble without meaning to 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 however not to withdraw from those who are twice born; He will convict us of any such sin if and when it happens, we will sense that He is grieved over it, and once again we will find ourselves on our knees as penitent believers. Upon repentance we are forgiven by 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, and from then on all God the Father sees when He looks upon us is not a sinner but His righteous Son Jesus. 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. Sin loses its allurement. Our heart also is opened up to the knowledge of God so that we can fully understand Holy Scripture. 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, He forgets every sin we ever committed, and our name is entered into the Lamb's Book of Life. The indwelling Spirit of Christ also imparts the strength we need to resist temptation, to say "no" to sin, and is there to convict us of any future transgressions, should they come. By acknowledging any such future sins we may commit when our guard is down and praying for God's loving and merciful pardon, He forgives those in Christ through this grace of relationship. Being twice born means that, while God may chastize us, we will escape His wrath to be poured out upon a rebellious world when the restrainer [Holy Spirit, indwelling the church] is removed with the church at the rapture; 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 are united, not divided, in the big picture serving a living Christ, not a dead Christ.
NEVER LET LOVE FOR YOUR DENOMINATION
OUTWEIGH YOUR LOVE FOR PEOPLE.
Religion, man's efforts to reach God, is not enough;God has reached out to fallen man in the Person of Jesus Christ. In our travels within churchianity we organists do well to get beyond all the divergent religious observances and practices we encounter, bearing in mind that this ubiquitous and stubborn insistence about which church is "the real one" does not serve singleness and identity. The fundamental biblical condition that saves the lost sinner in this current age of grace is faith in believing that Jesus is the Son of God, that He came to this earth to take our sins upon Himself, gave up His life on a cross for us, rose from the dead for our justification, then accepting and trusting Him as Saviour through the finished work of the cross.
THAT'S IT.Everything else takes a back seat.
Christ Jesus, after He ascended to heaven, first revealed this saving message of the cross to Paul and sent him to proclaim it, not as a heretic or hyperdispensationalist or to steal sheep to start his own club but to reach out to ALL, including those outside the Covenant people, that through it ALL might be saved.
God did not create denominations or cults or decide which ones were to have communion only with certain others. Religious men did. We organists find among the places where we work all kinds of mismatched ideas afloat that bend the truth of Scripture. Every imaginable heresy in fact claims to be supported by a biblical text: God is a man from another planet [Mormonism]; Jesus is a created angel who died on a vertical pole, not a cross [Jehovah Witnesses]; Jesus is a mere prophet who escaped the cross altogether and only appeared to be crucified [Islam]; Jesus is a man in tune with divine consciousness [New Age]; and on and on and on. Jesus is God in flesh, Creator, Deliverer, Redeemer, and the lover of all souls [Bible], and unless or until a creed, sect, or persuasion gets this point right, it doesn't do any good for it to ask any would-be joiners to contemplate anything else about it. We find that individuals raised in a denomination are prone to approach the study of God's Word with denominational biases and reach denominational conclusions instead of seeing what the Bible actually said, to whom it said it, and in what context. That's just the way it is. Even more disturbing is that a great many pastors and teachers who are being looked to for dispelling misconceptions and doubt are adding to the preexisting confusion by failing to use God's Word God's way themselves; they only teach it as their own denominational system interprets it, sometimes from their own misleading translations, instead of letting the Bible interpret itself. We are also apt to encounter church-going people who really don't want to hear the truth from God's Word rightly divided; they simply want to be reassured every week that what they already believe is the truth. This is the kind of environment in which we organists can expect to move and work. Laying all of this aside, as organists our ministries devoted to the glorification of God involve the same common, central, pivotal, and overriding mission ... a healing mission ... to use the instrument at hand to help our listeners find strength and comfort in the music and to feed their faith in Christ so that fellowship with God might grow, be established among lost sinners, and be maintained among the faithful according to God's great purpose and provision.
Rightly dividingthe Word of truth, as Paul advised Timothy to do (2Tim. 2:15) if he were to assume the role of an approved workman for God, involves separating biblical truth from biblical truth by context, audience, and time frame [such as dividing prophecy (Acts 3:21, Israel) from mystery (Rom. 16:25, body of Christ), law from the dispensation of grace, gospel of the kingdom from the gospel of grace], this in order to directly and correctly understand it and share it. 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 -- involves faith alone that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died a substitionary death for our behalf to satisfy the justice of God, and that He 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 [5th] gospel according to Paul is a ministry neither divulged nor committed to the Twelve 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, did not include the cross, something the Twelve didn't even understand when Jesus spoke of it; it proclaims Jesus as the seed of David, the Man raised up and Anointed by God to literally reign over Israel but was set aside 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. The kingdom of God preached by Jesus, the four gospel writers, and the Twelve (exclusively to the Jews, with very few exceptions), was always associated geographically with Jerusalem and, as Jesus replied to the Pharisees, it is "among you," or "in your midst," referring to Himself. 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.
NOTE: God is One, just like fire; light emanates from the fire, and heat emanates from the light and fire; fire is seen because of the light, and without heat there is no fire. Fire is not of human construct, man cannot explain it, but its operation is evident and can be sensed. The Trinity works the same; without it, there could be no salvation from sin in the biblical sense; God the Father [fire] fully revealed Himself in the Person and ministry of the Son [light]; if this had not happened, i.e. if there had been no incarnation, then there would have been no Saviour; without a Saviour there would have been no atonement and no salvation for the Spirit [heat] to apply. When Jesus Christ became sin for us and died on the cross, the justice of God was fully satisfied.
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, lying, lust, adultery, jealousy, greed, theft, monstrous brutality, terror, murder, and 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? ...
HE DIDN'T HAVE TO DIE.
HE CHOSE TO DIE.
BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU.
GOD PURCHASED FOR YOU
AT GREAT COST TO HIMSELF
THE ONLY WAY
YOU CAN BE RECONCILED TO HIM.
[The angels of heaven who minister to us love us, too, they know of the awful default position that lies ahead for the unsaved, and they long to see sinners saved by the cross of Christ while there is still time.]
Would it be all that difficult
to love Jesus back
for what He did for you?
My friends, ALL you have to do to escape the default position of hell is believe in Him and trust in His finished work on the cross.
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 it 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.