You might say that music and church, separately and together, have been two of the anchors of my life.
I sang my first solo in church at the age of 3. I started traveling and singing in other churches at the age of 13 and began balancing that with being my home church’s volunteer music director at 15.
That path continued through a bachelor’s degree in music education from West Texas State (now A&M) University (go Buffs!) and a move to Fort Worth to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Even when the path took an unexpected turn into preaching, it was “in addition to,” not “instead of” music. To this day, I still get asked to contribute musically in the churches I assist.
In almost 50 years of singing and over 35 in leading worship, I’ve seen a lot of changes in church music. I’ve lived through the days when the Jesus rock and roll music I was listening to most of the time was being described as the Devil’s music in church.
I still remember the letter to the editor I read as a college student when someone wrote about their disappointment in the music at a Christian conference we attended. “Rock-type music is wrong, no matter what the words say,” wrote this person. I’m pretty sure nobody in church in those days could possibly have envisioned some of the music that is considered completely mainstream Christian music today.
Of course, it could be all of that loud music that has made “huh?” the most common word in my house these days.
An interesting thing happened a few years back. Rock bands (both Christian and secular) started doing “unplugged” acoustic records. Who knew that all of us old rockers would have an appetite for a quieter, more natural fare?
Those of us who attended concerts in stadiums where the stacks of amplifiers had to be transported in tractor-trailer rigs can also enjoy a single voice with an acoustic guitar in a coffee house.
Because music has been so interwoven into the fabric of my life, it is quite natural for me to use music stories and illustrations to talk about life in general. As favorite son says, “My dad has a song and a story for everything.”
I’m thinking today about how plugged in and amplified our lives have become. Facebook, Twitter, email, LinkedIn, Google+, text messages, YouTube, iTunes, Dish Network, Netflix, Hulu you get the picture.
And while they can be enjoyable, and even beneficial, we have to deliberately remind ourselves that they are not life. To do that, we need to make time to unplug – to live acoustically – so that we can clearly hear the subtleties of the way God communicates that our daily lives matter to Him.
I have chosen Friday as my “social media fast day” and am working toward getting more and more unplugged on that day. What day could you go acoustic?
Dr. Gerry Lewis, author, blogger, church consultant and leadership coach, serves as executive director of the Harvest Baptist Association headquartered in Decatur.