Music's Vital Place in Evangelism

The monthly music column.

By A. R. M. LAURITZEN, Director, Department of Music, Union College

The singing evangelist is a soul winner. For several years this fact has motivated my attitude toward the song leader. In scores of contacts with young people who love to sing the gospel songs of Zion, my. heart has been wrung in anguish at the apparent indifference manifested by some workers who view the labors of the consecrated musician as an offshoot of the whole evangelistic program. I am confident that we have lost scores of young men to the ministry of gospel music because we have failed to recognize the important place of singing in evangelism and because we have been wholly unprepared to train them for this work.

With the 1944 Autumn Council the long-looked­for recognition became a reality. From now on, when I interview young people and encourage them to dedicate their talents to music evangelism, it will give strength to my plea and courage to their hearts to know that the church considers such work of vital importance.* Thank God for such a recommendation! This is the dawn of a new day for those who will catch the spirit of this rec­ommendation and give it living power in our schools. Seventh-day Adventist colleges train for service, and they must not omit the music of evangelism.

Men who occupy positions of administrative responsibility in our cause have told me that too many schools are reluctant to train our young people in the art of music in evangelism. It seems that we have set up musical standards which do not permit of anything in the realm of the humble gospel song. The professional musician is prone to dispose of all gospel songs as being of the cheap jazz type, or "sawdust trail" melodies. But I fear this conception of evangelistic music is due to our underestimation of the place, the power, and the purpose of the gospel song.

At one tithe I was asked to lecture on "Hymns Versus Gospel Songs." I refused. But I stated that I would gladly deliver an address on "Gospel Songs Versus So-Called 'Gospel' Songs." And I meant just that. The gospel song has been abused by those who write musical ditties and trite words, palming them off as "gospel" songs. They aren't. Thousands of these tunes are ground out and sung in evangelistic campaigns, over the radio, and published in campaign song sheets. In musical structure and content they are just as bad as anything executed by a modern dance band. Thus the devil strikes again at the gospel song, the gospel of Christ, and the whole Christian movement.

A truly converted man with any sense of musical proportion is able to distinguish between the true and the false. This is where our college music departments may serve in training for the accept­able use of legitimate gospel music. We do not condemn evangelism simply because there are modern revivalists who use tactics and antics which smack of trapeze performers and clowns.

Is it any more reasonable to condemn the music of evangelism because there are those who write so-called "gospel" songs of the saccharin type and the jazz-band variety? We must weigh values.

There are hundreds of good gospel songs which probe into the depths of the human heart and sing praises to the saving grace of Jesus. They sing of an experience in Christ and are indispensable to the evangelistic advance. As teachers of music in our schools we must be quick to recognize the priceless opportunity of the present moment in training young men and women for a musical place in God's work. The time is ripe for strong courses in methods of music evangelism, voice and instrumental training, group work, choir training, conducting, and allied courses. This training should include project experiences in meeting the problems of the fields, and it must be practical. Evangelism is dynamic. A passion for souls will quickly finish the work and hasten the return of our Lord.

*"8. That inasmuch as gospel music forms a vital part of our evangelistic program, where a singing evan­gelist has spent a sufficient number of years in the work and has proved his worth as a soul winner, he be recognized and dealt with on a parity with ministerial workers of like years of experience."

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By A. R. M. LAURITZEN, Director, Department of Music, Union College

May 1945

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