I've been a Church musician since I was eight years old. I've played the piano, organ, accordion, bass, and guitar, and sang, since my school days. God gave me the gift of music when I was very small, and I began playing the organ at Church when I was only eight years old. I wrote several serious Gospel songs by the time I was ten.
Music captivated me. By day, I listened to Gospel music almost non-stop. By night, I listened to the classics, the symphonies, and the big bands. I seldom listened to popular music like rock and roll, country-western, jazz or blues. I did not enjoy listening to the lyrics of most secular songs, because they expressed values that were contrary to my Christian beliefs, so I intentionally rejected them, and restricted myself to mostly instrumental music.
In the 1950s, pocket-sized transistor radios were newly-invented. From the time I was very small, and for years, I regularly listened to classical music every night after I went to bed. I typically went to sleep with my ear-buds plugged into my transistor radio, tuned to the all-night classical music station as they played Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Schubert, Vivaldi, Handel, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Wagner, Debussy, Dvorak, Mendelssohn, Stravinsky, and others. I listened to the string quartets, chamber music, baroque, romantic and other genres. In the sixth grade, we carefully listened to Grieg's, Peer Gynt Suite, "The Hall of the Mountain King," Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite," and "Peter and the Wolf," by Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev. How could a sixth-grader ever forget them?
Today, when I play the piano, people often tell me that I use chords and transitions that they have never heard before; but I know why. My mind has been programmed with every conceivable chord and transition, because I listened to hundreds, if not thousands of symphony performances which contained almost every conceivable chord, transition and arrangement.
The big bands also helped program me with music. Musical legends like Fred Waring, Johnny Mercer, Hoagy Carmichael, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and others turned out tons of legendary music. And American conductors like George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Ray Conniff, Mitch Miller, Percy Faith, Jackie Gleason, Norman Luboff, David Rose, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lawrence Welk, Bert Kaempfert, Burt Bacharach, John Williams and others filled the world with their orchestrations.
Of course, the music of the Church was deeply ingrained into me, too. Hundreds of old hymns dating back two centuries furnished my permanent repertoire. And I also followed virtually all of the notable Gospel artists. George Beverly Shea, Mahalia Jackson, Doris Akers, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Jimmy Dean, Louisiana Governor Jimmy Davis, the Sons of the Pioneers, the Chuck Wagon Gang, James Blackwood and the Blackwood Brothers, Hovie Lister and the Statesmen Quartet, the Spear Family, the LeFevres, the Kingsmen, the Jordanaires, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, Wally Fowler and the Oak Ridge Boys, the Florida Boys, the Dixie Echoes, the Downings, the Happy Goodman Family, the Singing Rambos, the Neylands, the Galileans, Rosie Roselle and the Searchers, Jake Hess and the Imperials, the McDuff Brothers, Big John Hall, Walt Mills, Ralph Carmichael, Thurlow Spurr, the Gaithers, the Lanny Wolfe Trio, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples, and so many, many more.
Music always occupied an enormous part of my life. I knew and have performed literally thousands of Gospel songs.
As a teenager, for six years I performed in the "A" choir, in Interscholastic League solo, ensemble, and choir competitions, and was selected for Regional Choirs, and the Texas All-State Choir. While in the 200-voice All-State Choir, we performed an exhilarating three-night concert series in the Austin Municipal Auditorium before a crowd of 7,000 people, accompanied by a 200-piece All-State Band and a 250-piece All-State Orchestra - 650 talented young musicians on one stage! We performed many classical works, including several in Latin.
Then, while attending an Assemblies of God Bible College, I was a member of a 40-voice touring choir that sang regularly on their weekly radio broadcast, heard on 650 radio stations around the world every Sunday night. In those days, I also had a Gospel group that performed professionally in concerts around the Midwest, with many of the groups I mentioned above.
So, you get the picture. On and on, my story goes, for more than fifty years, I have performed music in Churches, concert halls, and auditoriums, in forty states and six countries.
Let me teach you a spiritual lesson from what I have learned about MUSIC.
I sat recently on the front row in Jones Hall, listening to the Houston Symphony Orchestra as they performed Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. My eyes were drawn to the score they were following, as well as to the Maestro's gesticulating wand-waving, and it reminded me again...
ALL MUSIC IS A CORPORATE FUNCTION.
With the only exception being a soloist singing a cappella, all music involves more than one musician or more than one instrument, or a combination of instruments and voices.
Whether it is a vocal trio singing with a pianist, a soloist singing with a three-piece band, or a massive choir singing with a symphony orchestra, all music is a corporate function.
Multiple voices and multiple instruments demand coordination. It demands scripting. It demands rehearsal. It demands strict adherence to a prearrangement.
If you sit down in a concert hall to listen to a Beethoven Symphony, it is very predictable what you will hear, because every musician, including the conductor, is following a printed score.
When Beethoven was born in 1770, there were no microphones, no recording devices, and no way to preserve the performance for later enjoyment. In those days, the ONLY music was LIVE music.
Therefore, the written score concretely defined the music. Every note, every nuance, every instrument, every voice, was clearly and explicitly defined in the written score.
Ultimately, every musical performance is a fresh expression of the author of the song. Every performance is a repeat performance of the songwriter.
So many times, as I have listened to a symphony, I have tried to imagine what it was like the first night the composer performed it live in some old majestic European concert hall, perhaps in Prague, or Berlin, or Paris. When Beethoven first performed his Fifth Symphony on December 22, 1808, at a mammoth concert in the Theater an der Vein in Vienna, Austria, it was a climatic event. He had spent almost four years composing it, during which time he had stopped repeatedly to compose other works.
The premiere performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was plagued with adversity. The orchestra did not perform well because they had only one full rehearsal. At one point, because one of the performers made a mistake, Beethoven had to stop and start the music over. The massive auditorium was freezing cold, and the entire concert (which included other pieces) was four hours long. The audience was exhausted. Nevertheless, Beethoven went on to publish the score to the Fifth Symphony, and a year-and-a-half later, it was met with rave reviews by the critics in the press.
Today, the Fifth Symphony is one of the most popular and best known compositions in all classical music - and it is one of the most frequently performed pieces anywhere.
EVERY TIME you hear the Fifth Symphony, whether it is Houston, New York, Paris, London, or Vienna, you will hear the very same music - TO THE NOTE!
Why? Because, Beethoven wrote the score to the symphony.
Every note, with every nuance - every forte', every pianissimo, etc. - for every string, woodwind, brass or percussion instrument is forever defined. Only the final interpretation of the music by the Maestro gives the performance its ultimate sentient essence.
Ultimately, the SCORE is what reveals Beethoven's intentions to us. The score defines the music. And the performers - the musicians - only channel the music to the listeners.
The music in the score is the source of all revelation of the song.
is the performance of God's Symphony;
The Word of God is the score to the Church, the body of Christ, corporate Christianity.
Now listen to the second-chair Clarinet, on the third row, as he wanders from the score. He begins to play notes that are not written in the score. Every eye is suddenly turned toward him. He stands and begins to play a fascinating rendition of one of Kenny G's mega-hits. The notes he plays are beautiful, but they have NOTHING to do with Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Alone, they are cordant, yet in this setting they are discordant. They are chaotic and offensive to the Symphony.
The Maestro glares a wicked eye toward the Clarinetist, and his lips pantomime the words, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?!"
Suddenly, confusion strikes the orchestra. The Maestro has been distracted. The musicians nearby lose their place. The song begins to fall apart. In a matter of a few moments, the song grinds to a complete halt. All the musicians are incredulous and upset. The audience is mumbling and squirming. The concert is irredeemably wrecked. It will be remembered by all who attend as the night the symphony melted down.
And in this chaotic scenario, you have a picture of the modern Church.
The Word of God is God's score. The true Church is God's symphony orchestra. But there is one major problem.
In our time, the song is not being played exactly by the score.
In all of modern times, parts and parcels of the scriptures have been studied and rehearsed and performed. Several movements of the symphony have in fact been played nearly perfectly. But there is one major problem. The entire symphony has never been completed.
Consequently, NOBODY really knows exactly how the symphony is really supposed to sound!
Even if parts of it sound good, the fact remains that it is NOT the symphony that God wrote. It is the music of interlopers.
Since the days of the Early Church, God's Symphony has never been played exactly the same. And the reasons are obvious. There are too many musicians who want to play their own tunes.
The Early Church was Apostolic. Yet the vast majority of the modern Church denies the Apostles' doctrine of the Oneness of God - God in Christ. They refuse God's score, God's script.
The Early Church was baptized in Jesus' name. Yet the vast majority of the modern Church rejects, denies, and refuses to be baptized in Jesus' name. They reject God's score, God's script.
The Early Church was Pentecostal. Yet the vast majority of modern professing Christians deny or do not practice the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. The majority of its ministers have never been baptized in the Holy Ghost and have never spoken in tongues. They contradict God's score, God's script. Their music is not God's symphony.
The Early Church preached and practiced holiness, separation from the world, and a consecrated, sanctified lifestyle. Yet modern Christianity adamantly and tenaciously clings to the world - to its sports, its music, its movies, its comedians, its entertainment, its lifestyles, its fads, its fashions, and its conversations.
They PUT THEIR OWN MUSIC in place of God's score.
They call it Christianity. They call it Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But it is NOT Beethoven's. It is NOT God's. It does NOT follow the script. It is utterly desecrated by solos and ensembles that are NOT in the score.
The Bible has something to say about everything in our lives that matter. The Bible defines marriage, and family, and godliness. The Bible defines right and wrong sexuality, modesty, proper clothing and even hair length. The Bible defines just about everything about a Christian's lifestyle.
But nobody will faithfully follow the score.
What we call Christianity is NOT true, authentic, original Christianity.
Our generation of Christianity categorically refuses to mind the Bible.
Now this article is getting too long, so I must quickly jump to my final conclusion.
Every preacher, every pastor, and every single Christian must learn to submit to God.
If we want to see the GLORY OF GOD, and if we want to hear God's Symphony exactly as He wrote it, we MUST CONSECRATE OURSELVES to playing the symphony by the score. We must LIVE OUR LIVES BY THE BIBLE.
That demands the ultimate commitment and consecration to let GOD have His way in EVERY, EVERY matter in our life. It requires first that we STUDY the script - the Bible. We must familiarize ourselves with every note, every nuance of the Word of God. And then we must apply ourselves to living EXACTLY by the book, following every doctrine, every standard, every precept of the Word of God.
We've got to throw out all that is wrong with the Church.
We've got to throw out all the false doctrines, false preachers and false prophets. We've got to throw out Easy-Believism, Eternal Security, Once-Saved-Always-Saved junk. We've got to throw out hyper-grace and prosperity preaching. We've got to throw out "dream-your-own-dream, be yourself, follow your heart," heresies.
We've got to throw out all the anti-holiness, come-as-you-are, do-as-you-please, rebellion against the great holiness disciplines of the Bible. We've got to put our clothes back on - women's clothes on women, and men's clothes on men. We've got to get all our gender issues back in line with the Bible. We've got to stop listening to, watching and entertaining ourselves with the voices and leaders of the ungodly world, and start living our lives in holy consecration to God's Symphony.
We've got to get back to preaching the Word of God in the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost.
Genesis to Revelation.
Every chapter. Every verse. Every line.
Then and only then will be begin to see, and hear, and understand what Almighty God intended for the Church to be from the beginning.
The pathetic state of Christianity today is NOT GOD'S FAULT. It's time for the renegade Clarinetists to sit down and get back to the score. PLAY BY THE SCORE. Live by the Bible. Every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every month, every year.
THEN, and ONLY THEN, will we begin to see GOD like the Early Church saw Him.
Let's get back to the Bible.
THAT is God's Symphony. Just play it.