[There is a lot of music to listen to here. Feel free to enjoy as you go through.]
Music is captivating. Every culture has music, each their own. Even when there are no instruments and all there is is a field before them, people have sung and made music.
Music is the thing, it is the thing that teaches the heart. A sermon or a class can teach the mind well, but often enough they do nothing to cultivate the heart and cause growth. I think we have wrongly equated the heart and the mind in our thinking about these two important governing bodies of our body. The mind may be the executive branch which sets the tone for the self, but the heart is the legislative branch which actually writes the laws by which a person acts. The actually physical body then seems to be the judicial branch which tells the other two when they’re writing checks they can’t cash.
The mind: I am going to work on homework.
The heart: But I really want to watch this show.
The body: zzzzzzzzzzz
…7 hours later…
The mind: OH NO! The homework!
I grew up in a church that espoused expository preaching. The pastor famously (or infamously, depending on your perspective) took four years to work through the gospel of Mark. The focus was on the acquisition of accurate information. The schools I went to growing up were, well, schools. They focused on providing the facts. Schools tend to educate a mind that will forget nearly everything it is told. Specific facts will be forgotten, or even entire classes (like the undergrad Minor Prophets class I forgot I took until I was taking a grad version of the class).
Talbot and other Bible schools have noticed the lack of heart growth that has taken place at their campuses during classes. Several years ago Talbot built a Spiritual Formation department and has been incorporating classes from it as part of the base curriculum in order to try and spur heart growth. The idea here is to provide a structured setting for reflection and spiritual growth. To be formed spiritually. It can be hard in the midst of classes/work/church/family/sleep (pick three to focus on and neglect the fourth. Ha ha. Just kidding. Pick two to neglect.) to make sure that the material being taken in is absorbed and transforms. That it is learned from and not merely regurgitated for a test.
Pictured here: The Dean and a professor discussing a student.
A couple years ago I wrote a post about my own personal difficulties in heart growth. Real emotional grow has indeed happened, especially since last summer. However, as I look to the future for more growth, I recognize a need for good music to spur heart growth. I can’t listen to most of the music I used to listen to, not because it is bad or anything. Most of it simply reminds me of loneliness and thus causes me sadness. I won’t grow if I continue to listen to what I used to be.
Paul in his letters to various churches often talked about the Christian life as running a race. In that race the runner focuses on the end of the race and the prize at the end and forgets what is behind them. If I want heart growth, I need to listen to things that will spur heart growth.
I’m introverted, but like to listen to fast pace music. So when a typical Sunday morning comes along and the music gets playing (originally accidentally wrote “flaying” which was hilarious) it is almost always well below the pace of music that I listen to. So while the lyrics might have substance (TBD), the pace is such that it doesn’t quicken my heart.
And here’s the part that I am talking about. The heart is not the mind. The heart is a physical organ in a physical body, but is tied to the spiritual realm in a way that I am not quite convinced the mind is. Music and singing are vibrations of sound in the physical world that somehow seem to affect a person on the spiritual level. We’re talking weird mystical stuff here.
In C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, the demon Screwtape tells his demon nephew Wormwood that
“Humans are amphibians...half spirit and half animal...as spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.”
He also says
“At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.”
Music, thus, affects our souls. What we listen to, and not just the lyrics, transforms us into what we listen to. Sometimes I feel like the Sunday morning worship I sit/stand through doesn’t understand this. The music seems targeted toward the people that have already prepared themselves for that morning. The lyrics lack depth to engage the mind and the music/pace itself does nothing to quicken the heart. The music doesn’t repair or heal, it simply cauterizes the wound. It deadens feeling in the area. Perhaps that is just me. I have my own difficulties in this area after all. All this to say, in my lifetime of growing up in the church, I can only remember being truly impacted by a song once, although this probably says more about me than it does about typical church music.
Most music I hear tends to fail in one of two directions: it either focuses on the music aspect and has vapid lyrics or focuses on the lyrics and ends up being a reading instead of a song. It’s rare and hard to get that good blend of both. Church music is different than typical radio music in that it is intended to be sung by a group in a group setting. It's just different.
Ultimately this post is not about bashing any past experience of music in church. I want heart growth and so need music that will actually move me into that. Heart growth will be very hard without it.
Those things being said, several songs have brought about heart growth for me, or are simply that rare blend of music and lyrics that have stuck in my heart somehow. Here are some of them:
Cathedral Made of People by Downhere
Cornerstone by Day of Fire
It is Well with My Soul by Audio Adrenaline
Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet by Jars of Clay
Cannons by Phil Wickham
The Light Will Come by Phil Wickham
Beautiful by Phil Wickham
All of these songs are well below the typical pace of music I listen to these days, but are still so good. Some I have sung when I was depressed (It is Well, Jesus’ Blood, and The Light), some have been prayers (Cornerstone), and some have caused rejoicing (Cathedral, Cannons, Beautiful).
We have an entire book of the Bible dedicated to the soul life of the people of God (Psalms). Do we have any modern day equivalent? Do we have songs and music for when we have joy, for when we are sad, for when we are angry, for when we long for things? What do we have today to spur heart growth?
What music has impacted you? What has caused heart growth for you? It’s something to think about, for we will be moved, whether we know it or not.