MUSIC AND THE EVANGELIST
Ministering Through the Medium of Music
By Terry and Gayla Baughman
Music surrounds us. Many stores incorporate music on their sound systems. Melodies are arranged to induce free spending, to create carefree impulses in the shopper. Rock-beat sounds magnetize youth to local record shops, clubs, or hang outs. The country twang sympathizes with the lonely hearts in the smoke-filled bar. Where people are, there is music. Joggers and their head-sets, hot rods with open windows and blaring speakers, cassette players perched on the shoulder of the youthful pedestrian, all fill the air with a variety of musical sounds.
There is tremendous potential for ministry through the medium of music. The Spirit moves through the melody and strikes a chord in the soul. Sinners are touched and moved by worship and music. I have seen souls that I had been unable to touch in two weeks of preaching moved by the Spirit while we ministered in music. It revealed to me the fact that if a soul is moved, the Spirit must be the motivator. It is not the eloquence of oratory or the harmonious melody, but it is the power of the gospel that changes lives.
It was not the thunder-tones of judgment from a prophet that soothed the troubled spirit of King Saul, but it was the sweet melody of the shepherd boy’s harp that brought tranquility and release from the oppression. Music ministered when the king would not hear the preaching of a prophet.
Some will come to a Pentecostal service to hear the anointed singing and leave when the text is read. If somewhere in the worship and sincerity of a song the good seed of the gospel can find root in a tendered soul, the hunger for more of God can grow into a decision that may blossom into the new birth of one who just “came to hear the singing.” Let our worship be pure, our singing anointed, our preaching persuasive, and our purpose evangelism!
Jehoshaphat received the report that brought fear, Moab and Ammon and others had joined forces against Judah. In his need, Jehoshaphat turned to God in prayer. The Lord spoke to the people of Judah through Jahaziel, a Levite: “The battle is not yours, but God’s” (II Chronicles 20:15). The people were instructed not to fight but to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. Early the following morning, they went out into the battlefield, organized into groups, and prepared to sing. It was when they began to sing and praise that the Lord set ambushments against the enemy and they began to destroy one another.
It was truly a most unusual battle strategy. Their weapons were worship. Their plot was praise. Their strategy was singing. The sword and spear were traded for a song book and the shield for an instrument. They worshiped and sang their way to victory.
The battle is the Lord’s. We are his soldiers. If the victory comes in praise, let it happen. If it comes in singing, so be it. If it comes in slinging the sword, preach it! Wage the war in the Spirit and let God bring the victory.
We offer suggestions to evangelists in three categories: (1) the evangelist who plays and sings; (2) the evangelist who sings but must depend on local musicians; (3) the evangelist who neither plays nor sings, but desires to use local talent. The guidelines and theories we offer are the product of our experience on the evangelistic field. We are not supposing that our way is right and everyone else’s is inferior. Every evangelistic team must identify what works best for them.
In the most revival situations, the evangelist provides the majority of the exhortation and special singing. Every church is somewhat different, so hard- fast rules do not always apply. Preliminaries are usually abbreviated and the burden of the service falls upon the shoulder of the evangelist.
Sometimes a service is turned to the evangelist “cold-turkey.” Worship has not yet warmed the congregation to the place where they are ready to receive the Word. At these times, it may be that the right song or word of exhortation can bring a response to the presence of the Lord and prepare the way for the preaching. On occasions I have despaired of ineffective efforts to promote worship and just went ahead and preached. It was not effective, it was not received, and God’s will was not done because people were not ready to receive the Word of the Lord.
Almost everyone can enjoy music in some degree. Music and singing are a great tool to bring people together and help them feel acquainted. It removes some of the barriers and gives time to adjust to a new face and a new voice in the pulpit. Of course, that is secondary to our purpose of inspiring worship and leading into a realm of spiritual possibilities. When hearts are tendered by the Spirit, warmed by worship, and harmonized with music, however, the ministry of the Word can go forth with power and effectiveness. The sowing of the seed falls upon good soil and a harvest is reaped.
When a service is turned to me, I like to make a few remarks to set a stage of faith. These remarks are positive and intended as faith builders. Some of those statements are:
“I believe God can meet your need before you leave this place.”
“Let’s thank God for what He is going to do.”
Then we begin with a chorus or song. Seldom do we have a list of songs we are going to sing. It gives us latitude to go in any direction we feel led. The service may be too fast and we sing a slow song. People may be somber and we begin a transitional upbeat. We move in the direction we feel will bring a congregation closer to God and to a higher level of faith.
Sensitivity to the Spirit is of the utmost importance. Our direction must be right. It cannot be cut and dried. Tonight is Friday, so we sing these three songs and preach message number thirteen. It cannot be that way. Although we sing the same songs over and may preach a message again and again, the inspiration must be fresh as tomorrow’s sunshine,
For the greatest benefit from a musical ministry, team-work is essential. Musicians and singers must have a mutual understanding in order to produce the most effective outreach. My wife can determine the next song we are going to sing by the remarks I make in exhortation. Keep things moving; try to avoid dead spots. If people are being exceptionally blessed or a sinner is weeping, continue to minister in that area to reach them and allow God to minister in Spirit. Be careful not to rush ahead and miss the direction God is dealing in. If God has time to touch a soul, we have time to slow down our program and let Him.
My wife, Gayla, is a very important part of my ministry, especially in the area of music. She has not always been aware of the important role she fills. She writes the following:
“Can an evangelist’s wife have a ministry? I have always felt a part of my husband’s ministry. .but never really felt like I was doing enough when I did my part. The following experience helped me identify my role in ministry. Maybe it will help you also.
“Finding myself in a large church with an abundant supply of talented musicians always made me a bit nervous and gave me a feeling of inferiority, to say the least. My husband insisted I play the organ for the altar service, I cringed with humiliation as I pattered across the floor to the organ, knowing on the front bench sat a young lady who could play “circles” around me! But, I obediently did my “one-two,” but feeling very insignificant. I was sure many others could do better.
“I never felt like I was contributing to the altar service because I was ‘stuck on the organ’ and was never able to pray with sinners. As the altar service matured, I noticed the young lady who played so well praying diligently with the young people. . .she was paying no attention to me at all, what a relief! I relaxed and played.
“The last night we were there, the pastor’s wife slipped up to speak to me while I was playing. ‘I want to thank you for being such a blessing to (that young lady). She never gets to pray in the altar because she always has to play. You have been a great blessing to her.’
“Suddenly, I changed my whole realm of thinking. I do have a ministry! I do play a part. If I can be a blessing to someone else, then I have helped a person become closer to Christ and that is a ministry.
You do not have to be a professional to record. It is advantageous to a singing evangelist to have a record for the following reasons.
(1) It offers good advertisement. Whether or not you wish to admit it, your success as an evangelist, will depend upon how many preachers you know or will get to know. A record gives you exposure when you may be miles away in person.
(2) It is a ministry. After you are gone, your message in song will be heard again and again. We have been told that unsaved family members who would never go to church enjoy listening to our records in the privacy of their homes. God only knows who has been touched through this ministry.
(3) It can be profitable. There is considerable expense in recording. However, in time, it can be recovered and you can show a profit. Travel is essential to selling records. As travel is our business, the selling is simplified.
Thank God for sound systems. They are a voice saver. Some evangelists, especially those who sing, find it helpful to have their own sound system. This is especially so when a church has no system or an in adequate one. When using your own system, you learn how to attain the sound you want and can have a consistent sound from church to church.
It might be well to mention there that loud is not necessarily good. Quality is not ascertained by volume. Be considerate of the hearer. It is true there are frequently those that would be happier with no sound system at all, but we who are familiar with the deafening decibels have a greater capacity of endurance than those who have not been exposed to the power of a Pentecostal PA. I would hate to think there would be someone lost because they were offended by the volume of the sound system.
Our music, singing and playing, must be such that it will glorify God. We are not entertainers. If our own special ability or talent has to shine through, self-glory is the issue and the flow of the Spirit is restricted. Our singing must promote worship.
Extremes of musical taste can hinder your well- meaning efforts to be a blessing. Moderation is the rule. Remember you are there to be a blessing and to minister, not to propagate your personal theory of musical taste. If that particular assembly does not like music with a strong beat, why force it on them? They will not be blessed, will not respond, and you have failed in your mission.
For two years of evangelizing, I was single and had to depend on whatever music was available in the local church. Whatever singing I attempted was adapted to the style of the local talent. It ranged from soul to country to a cappella (well, almost). If you depend on the local musicians, it would be well to organize a practice time, at least with the pianist or organist, so they will be familiar with your songs and arrangements. Discuss choruses you like to use, and find out if they know them. When you find the “keys” you sing each song in, write them down and remember them. This will save the embarrassment of asking the musician to try to find the key each time.
It is good to ask the musicians you wish to play for their assistance. Most good musicians will not play unless they are asked. Uninvited local talent is not always a blessing.
One particular church had a steel guitar player that was very talented, one of the best I have heard. However, I did not ask any of the musicians to play with us as most of our songs are original, and even if the song was familiar, our arrangement would be unknown to the local musician. Well, the steel guitarist as well as two other guitarists remained at their post of duty when the service was turned to me. I don’t like to hurt anybody’s feelings, so the first night we had a guitar band as accompaniment. All the next day I wondered how to tell them nicely not to play with us. During the preliminaries, just before the service was turned to me, I looked at them and very sweetly said, “You can go down if you’d like too.” I guess they didn’t like too. . .so they didn’t. All of our songs became country and western that week.
The problem can often be alleviated in the beginning of the revival by either dismissing the musicians or asking them to play. The choice is yours. If I had dismissed the guitar band the first night, we would have had no problem.
For the evangelist who doesn’t play or sing, there are a number of options open to you if you desire to use music. Words of exhortation and encouraging worship prior to preaching may be effective for you. How ever, if you would like to have a chorus or two, find out from the pastor who would be qualified to lead out, and then position this person by the piano or organ to follow your instructions. If there is a particular song you would like sung before your message, find someone to sing it and have them learn and practice it in advance. Most musicians and singers in the local church would be glad to assist you in any way you desire. Communicate with them and they can be a vital blessing to your ministry
The effect of music at the altar call can be dramatic. If there are particular songs you want for the altar call, advise the musicians ahead of time, if possible. The more organized and confident you are, the less distractions you will have making sure the musicians do what you want, and the more relaxed they will be working with you. They need to know what you expect.
Don’t expect them to know your signals. Agree on the signals prior to their use. If you want the organist and pianist to come to the instruments at altar call when you point at them, let them know. If you want them to come when you say “Mephibosheth,” tell them. I find there is less distraction to have them come when I have the congregation stand at the time of the altar call.
I don’t like the entire orchestra to come to the platform. The pianist and the organist can slip to their places and begin to play almost without observation. Distractions are assured when the drummer comes up, bumps the cymbal, squeaks the stool, rattles the sticks and engages the snare. Likewise other instruments. The more distractions that can be eliminated, the better. At this point you are reaching for eternal souls bound for hell. It is no time for a practice jam session or a talent contest.
In an altar call, the familiar choruses are the most effective. “Amazing Grace,” “Kneel at the Cross,” “Just as I Am,” “Oh, Why Not Tonight,” and similar songs strengthen the appeal. A new chorus that may be unfamiliar will many times cause the congregation to direct their attention to hearing the words. A new song may draw them away from the most important part of the message. The subdued message of the familiar chorus, however, can cause the decision to be confirmed and the first step taken.
The carpenter has a large box of tools. Each has a purpose. A saw, a hammer, a square, a level, pliers, and others are used by a carpenter for the building of his projects. Some of the tools he uses every day, others seldom. The tools are there at his hand, ready for use.
God is the foreman. We are the workmen. He has provided the equipment of outreach and ministry to build this great church. Use the tool appropriate for the task. Some tools you will come to depend on. They will be useful and effective for you. If music is such a tool, use it powerfully for the glory of God.
Terry and Gayla Baughman