Music, the Spearhead of Evangelism

MUSIC OF THE MESSAGE: Music, the Spearhead of Evangelism

"Take courage, musicians of the message."

Professor of Music, Australasian Missionary College

Ever since the days of the unprecedented success of Alexander's phalanx, every successful military campaign has used the spearhead attack on the enemy. In our great evangelizing campaign the music of the message is the spearhead ordained of God to engage the enemy. This opening wedge in the enemy lines must be prepared with extreme care. Every de tail must be minutely timed and tested. Months of rehearsal are necessary. Nothing is left to chance. Then as the moment arrives to advance, the whole unified scheme goes into gear, and the army follows to victory.

The use of sacred music as a front-line offensive weapon is not new. Let us note the experience of a godly king of Judah, recorded for our admonition. It was terrifying news to Jehoshaphat that an overwhelming force of the enemies of God's people were united and on their way to attack. "And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and pro claimed a fast throughout all Judah." 2 Chron. 20:13. And they came out of all the cities of Judah to Jerusalem to seek the Lord and His help. Not only were the men of war on their knees, but the entire church "stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children." Verse 13. All hearts were united in consecration, expressed in the urgent eloquent prayer of their leader, and God did not keep them waiting. The prophet Jahaziel, through the spirit of prophecy, gave assurance and instruction, meeting the needs of the hour.

The praise and gratitude meeting which followed was led by the choir "with a loud voice on high." Those were songs of faith and confidence in God. We need more such singing today, and we will have it if the whole church will unite in complete consecration as we open our evangelistic drive on the enemy. "And they rose early [not late] in the morning, and went forth." They did not sit and wait for the enemy to attack. Striking first is winning strategy. The spearhead is not a defense weapon; it works best on the offensive.

So we picture the army of Judah, which through humble consecration has now become the army of the Lord, marching with confident, spirited step, doubtless on the double quick, down through the "wilderness of Tekoa." Then their commander called a halt and delivered a final stimulating, prebattle speech. This psycho logical prelude to battle was one of the secrets of Napoleon's success. We must not forget it in our evangelistic offensives. He said: "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye pros per." Verse 20. We cannot succeed without this confidence on the part of every worker one hundred per cent belief in God and the Spirit of prophecy. Then prosperity and permanency will surely follow.

Jehoshaphat was not a dictator. Before they went directly into battle he called a council meeting, and they quickly planned together the final strategy. They arranged the spearhead, chose the lyric and music to be sung, and sent the choir out to make contact with the enemy, singing hymns of praise and faith. This was their battle song. They possessed "the beauty of holiness." Such singing can only follow a season of heart-searching and drawing near to God. And it is the only kind of singing that is accompanied by divine power and the assistance of the angel choirs. "If more praising of God were engaged in now, hope and courage and faith would steadily increase. And would not this strengthen the hands of the valiant soldiers who to-day are standing in defense of truth ?" Prophets and Kings, p. 202.

Needless to say, there followed one of the most phenomenally overwhelming successes ever to attend an attack on the enemies of God. Doubtless those Ammonites and Moabites heard not only the choir of Levites but the angel choir singing with them. All the conditions requisite to affiliation with the heavenly singers had been met. "When human beings sing with Spirit and the understanding, heavenly musicians take up the strain, and join in the song of thanksgiving." Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 143, 144. And it will always be so. The record says, "And they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much." 2 Chron. 20:25. Finances poured in, as they always will when we humbly follow God's instructions. The program is clear and clean cut first the preparation of every heart in the church, then de tailed study of instructions with one hundred per cent belief, and then action.

Not only is music the spearhead of the campaign as a whole; it is a headline attraction in publicity, the opening- inspiration of the meeting itself, and the spearhead of the evangelist's message, as it prepares the hearts, emotions, and minds of the people for the sermon. But it must be in the "beauty of holiness," musically exact, top quality, thoroughly prepared, and spiritual. Such a standard is a contrast to some of the cheap shows patterned after the world, which always precede small results in evangelism.

As the air force softened the enemy before the attack, so music will soften and subdue and uplift the hearts of the audience, in preparation for the message. When the evangelist steps forward to speak the room should be saturated with an atmosphere of praise and prayer, every heart opened wide by the Holy Spirit and ready to be filled with God's truth.

The song service should be live, enthusiastic, stimulating, full of variety and interest, but should never miss its purpose of preparing the hearts of the people for the sermon. No amount of time or energy must be spared in planning and rehearsing that which can be practiced be forehand. Carefully chosen, special selections, both instrumental and vocal, can effectively be interspersed. Have an orchestra or a good band on hand if possible, but be sure it is an asset, never hit or miss. Practice, practice, practice! Do not expect any musical organization that has not been trained for weeks to be a success.

Choose your music very carefully. It must "serve a holy purpose, . . . lift the thoughts to that which is pure, noble, and elevating, and . . . awaken in the soul devotion and gratitude to God." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 594. If it meets this, God's standard, He will bless it, and His blessing is like the electric spark in the engine that gives life and motion and power.

If the majority of the audience is made up of older people, be sure not to sing too fast. If it is a cultured group, they will want more hymns than gospel songs. On the other hand, do not overlook the young people who may, in some cases, be in the majority. They can think and move faster, and will be bored if the tempos are too slow.

There has been a tendency in many of our campaigns to ignore the cultured classes, which usually represent the minority. We must remember that they generally have had the privilege of music and art studies, and have a standard of musical taste far above the average radio listener. In fact, this class of those who enjoy only the better things in music and literature has grown in recent years. Fine music has become a part of the inspiration of most of those in the metropolitan areas and even in some country high schools. When the young people have learned to love the great musical works by playing and singing them in symphony orchestras, bands, and choirs, they may stamp our message as cheap and our people as ignorant if our music is common and un worthy.

 

The situation can be compared with our interest in and enjoyment of reading. Those who can read only the kindergarten primer, and whose intellects are not developed beyond that level, will not enjoy good literature such as we find in the writings of Isaiah and Paul and a world of worth-while books. Conversely, the educated, cultured mind is bored and disgusted if required to listen only to that which is on the beginner's level.

This presents a very real problem as we endeavor to catch all in the gospel net. It is possible with a middle-of-the-road policy and an unprejudiced mind to produce music which will not offend either class, and inspire and' draw both. This, of course, stresses the importance of music leadership that is thoroughly trained and able to see from both viewpoints.

I heard recently of an army officer deeply interested in our message, who was so "nauseated" by the music of the song service that he would go out and remain away until the preaching service began. This situation can only result from ignorance and low aim on the part of the song leader. May God give us clearness of vision in this matter, for eternal consequences are involved.

Take courage, musicians of the message. If we follow the instructions consecration, organization, and faith counterbalanced with unending, thorough effort God's spearhead will be followed by a pentecostal ingathering of the lost.

 

 

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Professor of Music, Australasian Missionary College

October 1950

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