Good morning or good evening. I don't know who's reading this or what time it is. This is a new newsletter called "FOR MUSICIANS ONLY". If you're not a musician, you really shouldn't be reading it, but it's not something I can police, so if you you're not a musician and you're reading this, I didn't mean to send it to you.
Why would a person that already has a newsletter start another one? Some of you may be asking. Maybe no one's asking, but I just asked, so I'll tell you, if it's all right. Let me see, how should I say this? It happens that I'm a musician. That makes me cool, right? Now I have a newsletter called "MY DADDY LOVES ME!" that I mail out to about 200 people twice a month. I do my best to keep this newsletter short and non-controversial. Why do I do that? Well, it's mostly because I'm a very nice person, but that's not the real reason. I just felt the need to say that. The real reason is there's way too many newsletters and people are getting tired of reading them, so more and more of them get deleted immediately. I wanted mine to be very positive, encouraging, challenging, and short. For the reader's sake. Sympathizing with their poor brains turning to Jello trying to make sense out of all the prophetic words, ministry reports, teaching, preaching, beseeching, and reaching, I'm committed to short, sweet, and friendly. But not here...
This is my opportunity to tell you what I really think. That's why this newsletter is FOR MUSICIANS ONLY. If you're not a musician, it's not too late to delete or unsubscribe.
I know from my own experience that musicians are not normal people. Some of you out there may think you are, but you're not. So enjoy it. Normal is boring. Normal puts me to sleep. Normal is nodding my head and telling myself, "Oh yeah, the Cheerios box is almost empty and the cat box needs changed. It's almost time for Jeopardy."
I walk around with songs swimming around in my head. I'm the guy that bobs his head and taps his foot to the beat at the supermarket. Every time I go to church and the pastor speaks, I think of a song for every paragraph that gets the message across (better). It helps me stay awake. Every time I pray for someone, I either pray the words of a song I wrote or I write a new song based on the prayer.
The church has too many people who grew up listening to top 40 radio, and now we want songs that remind us of our favorite music when we were kids. It's different with musicians, because we haven't grown up, so we want music that's new all the time. I don't want to write songs that sound like the Beatles or James Taylor or Bob Dylan or Simon and Garfunkel. I want to write songs that sound like God. What does God sound like? Let me try a humorous illustration. (Might as well--nothing else is working!)
The daughter of a famous worship leader was busy with her crayons one day when her mother paused to ask whose picture was she drawing.
"It's God," she replied.
"But, my darling," said her mother, "nobody knows what God looks like."
Totally confident, the little girl answered, "They will when I'm finished."
I don't want to teach the bible to you, musicians. The idea is to let the bible teach you. There certainly are enough exhortations to sing a new song to the Lord. It's the first verse of Psalm 96, 98, and 149. Now Psalms are songs. Correct? And we know that all scripture is profitable and all prophecy in scripture is inspired by God. So we know that God writes songs. That's what the Psalms are, and God wrote the bible through people, including the Psalms.
We know that God rejoices over His people with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). We know that He surrounds us with His songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7). So God is a passionate singer Who created you in His image. Would you believe that singing is part of the package. And dancing. And playing instruments. That's Who He is!
Now religion is when people get together at the same time to do the same things with the same people singing the same songs in the same order in the same key with the same group of people on stage and the same people warming the pews or maybe they stand and assume the same customary postures. Nothing too crazy because that would embarrass the Michals in the church.
The Christian top 40 has a lot of good songs that get sung into the ground for at least ten years like "Shout to the LORD," "Trading My Sorrows," "Open the Eyes of My Heart," "I'm Desperate for You" and my personal favorite "LORD, I Lift Your Name on High."
While these same songs get sung over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over, there are thousands, perhaps millions of new songs that have never been sung in church, or have only been sung in two or three chapels in rural Kansas. Musicians come into a new church and sit and do nothing for two years. Then they're invited to join the worship team and play all the aforementioned songs, and about once every three months they sing an original song when the offering is taken.
Whenever I hear "LORD I Lift Your Name on High" and it comes to the lyric, You came from heaven to earth/ To show the way/ From the earth to the cross/ My debt to pay I hear: From the earth to the cross/ My DEAD TOUPEE I've shared this with a very small circle of friends who now must giggle whenever that song is sung.
Playing Christian top 40 is very safe. These songs have been used in thousands of churches. They are simple to learn. The words look nice on the overhead, and the church pays $100 a year, or something like that, for permission to use the songs. We would all flip if the pastor preached someone else's message word for word, week after week. But we expect this DEAD TOUPEE form of worship. The band will try to put a tail on one of the songs that they played particularly well and into the ground and one of the woman singers will start to sing in tongues and everyone gets a little uncomfortable but it only lasts for half a minute, and then it's on to the next song.
Where are the musicians? It looks to me like they're stuck in a box. Do you see those musicians stuck in a box? They are playing someone else's song with no particular joy, but they're trying so hard to put the song across that the people have heard so many times. How many times can you go to the movie theater and watch Titanic or Forrest Gump? Look at those poor musicians playing the same tired songs over and over.
I have talked to so many musicians that have written two or three songs and they all tell me they wish they could write more songs. Are you one of them? Here's the deal: If you want to write a new song (Are you ready for this?), ask God to give you a new song. You can ask like this: "God, I really need a new song to express my love for You. Give me a new song, please." Or, you could ask like this: "Lord, I want to write a song that will glorify You. Help me to write it, please."
Let me share my own experience. (Try and stop me...) I got saved when I was 31. At that point I had written about 90 songs. Here's a typical song:
He said he'd punch my lights out/ If I talk to you again/ That is why I'm asking you/ Please hear my sad refrain Chorus: I can never talk to you again/ I'm a lover not a fighter/ And my love for you won't end/ But you never should have married/ Such a muscular man/ Now I can never talk to you again
Did you like that? Here's another:
I lie awake at night and fantasize about you/ I hear your voice in every hall/ But I am too confused to get a rise out of you/ From pounding my head on the wall/ And I get lost in outer-space/ With each time that I see your face/ I need a long vacation it is plain/ But Holy Osmosis-- Romantic Psychosis/ Is messing up my mind once again
Well, when I got saved, the songs I had been singing for years I couldn't sing any more, so I took the big notebook where I kept all the lyrics and personal notes and I put it in the fire. I joined a group at the little Baptist church I was attending in Cave Junction, Oregon, and became the bass player. The band consisted of a singer-songwriter-guitarist named Lloyd, a drummer named Gary, and me. Lloyd and Gary had been Christians for four years, which to me made them seasoned spiritual giants. In the band I played the exact bass lines that Lloyd wrote and once in a great while I sang a little harmony. Most of the time if I dared to sing along Lloyd would stop in the middle of the song and glare at me as if to say, "Kid, I can get another bass player here in ten minutes."
To get a Fender Jazz bass, I gave Lloyd my Martin D-28 acoustic guitar. He sold the guitar for $360, bought the bass for $280 and kept the $80 for his "trouble". Lloyd was very talented and I enjoyed playing a new instrument. Within two months, we had made a recording, played on television, and gone on tour up and down the east coast of Oregon. We had a repertoire of about twelve songs with a decent variety. Lloyd also had one sermon based on the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, and he shared it almost word for word at every church. One day, after our group had played a half dozen songs the pastor asked me to share a testimony. I had been listening to a lot of Kenneth Copeland tapes back then, so I began to share a message based on one of the tapes. It went over very well, and the manager of the band suggested that I share more often.
We had been going with a 25% split four ways, the three band members and the manager. The next day, the manager told me, it would be 40-20-20-20 with Lloyd getting the lion's share because he was the "main man." I had actually quit the band a week before the tour was supposed to start because Lloyd's overbearing temperament was more than I could handle, but he begged me to reconsider and I really wanted to be part of the group.
As soon as we got back to Cave Junction after 10 stops in 14 days, we had a triumphant return to the 1st Baptist Church. The next day I found a hand-delivered message in my mailbox. Lloyd and Gary had decided that I was no longer part of the band. I was very upset, so I called the pastor, and he called a meeting. He let Gary and Lloyd know that he was displeased with their behavior and they apologized and re-instated me in the band. After I talked things over with my wife, we both decided enough was enough, and I finally split from the band.
Now I was a guitar player without a guitar, and I didn't have money to buy one either. It would be over a year until I had a decent guitar again. I didn't want to sell the bass or trade it in, so I learned to play it a little better.
Here's what I learned playing in "The Last Days Revival Band". If you don?t really love the people you're playing music with, it will come out in the music. If you'd rather be the leader of the group and impress people with your skill the music will get very old very fast. God loves creativity because it is His gift to us, not given to a select few, but freely given to whoever asks for it. God loves all the band members. Musicians need to breathe. You can't keep them in a box. Let them out. Let them out. I got out and I got in a few more, but about seven years ago I got out for good.
I'd love to tell you more, and I will one day soon. I'll tell you how I got a nice guitar that I played for 18 years. It was a Yamaha. I called it Elizabeth.
I guess I should tell you one more thing before I go. I've seen the music in church change a bit in the last 23 years. It needs to change a lot more. In 1980 the song service was led by the song leader who was often about 65 years old and wore a big smile and talked like an insurance salesman. His wife accompanied him on piano and had all the musical talent in the family.
In 1990, Praise and Worship was led by the worship group which had two guitars, a portable keyboard, a bass, two teenage girls that sang, and was led by the pastor's son.
In 2000 the worship team led by the worship leader, Pastor Steve, led worship and consisted of an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, a bass, a keyboard, a drummer, a conga player, a flute, a violin, a saxophone, and five singers, three women and two men.
What's coming next, is the worship leader will be replaced by the Psalmist, and churches will begin to ordain Psalmists and call them Psalmist Larry and people will put on their business card Larry Shenk, Psalmist-Musician. Apostles will ordain Psalmists after Prophets will have identified them. Some of this new terminology and acceptance of musical gifts has been long overdue, and will result in a stirring of hearts. Unfortunately, people will try to control it as much as possible and it will become very muddy and messy.
Next time, we'll talk about the psalmist anointing, and I'll tell you how I got my Yamaha, and how I started receiving songs, songs, and more songs, and even more songs, and how you can too if you want to.
Let's end this on a cheery note. Repeat after me:
I'm a musician.
I'm God's musician.
God made me a musician.
I'm glad, God made me a musician.
I thank God for making me a musician.
I love God.
God loves me.
And I'm gonna play my music for God.
If this message blessed you, prayerfully consider sharing it with another musician. If you want to be left alone, kindly unsubscribe.
If you have something to share I'm very interested in you. Whether you want to tell me something privately or share something with our readers, be bold and communicate. Help musicians get out of the box!