I've been a Christian now for about 13 years (so I consider it). It was the summer of 1999 when I remember my faith in God became real, that I actually wanted to know Him and live my life under His lordship. Being a musician, the memories I have of my Christian journey are ALWAYS accompanied by music. When I think of my early Christian years (high school), I think of dcTalk, Hillsong, Passion and Caedmon's Call. My middle years (college and a few years after), I think of artists dedicated to "right theology", such as Derek Webb, Indelible Grace and Red Mountain. Currently, well, that's why I'm writing this post.
If you're paying attention to my timeline, you might notice a stark contrast between the early and middle years: CCM vs. Hymnology. Or, as I remember it, emotionalism vs. "headiness". I've been to both extremes. In high school, I was that guy with my hands raised and eyes closed. Most of the time I was genuine. Sometimes I wasn't. In college and after, I was that guy who looked down on those with hands raised and eyes closed. It wasn't about emotion anymore, but ONLY about theology and understanding.
Before coming to St. Andrews, I had contemplated leaving church work (but not the church) and using my music in other ways. I was burnt out. Leading worship was no longer exciting to me. I had done the emotional thing. I had done the heady thing. Both had grown old in their time. I had lost my passion. Then, something happened. It's quite funny and at the same time humbling when I look back on it. God wouldn't open up any other doors. Do you know that, since graduating college, I attempted to enter 3 different graduate schools to study jazz and become a Nashville session player, and all 3 times, the door closed? First it was Belmont, right in the heart of the music city. God called me to a summer in Thailand instead - from which I will never be the same. Next, it was Middle Tennessee State, another breeding ground for "jazz cats" just a half hour or so outside of Nashville. No one ever called me back. I'm serious. Lastly, it was U of Alabama. Closer to home, but still providing a quality education. Again, no call back. Really?
I think the reason for those closed doors is now obvious. God knew what he had called me to do, and he allowed me to experience the heady and the heart to get to what our pastor calls "the third way." I began to realize that you can have both, and that Scripture even commends both. I can be David and Paul at the same time - a skilled musician and a growing theologian. Worship was never intended to be exclusively emotional or exclusively heady, but both. Thanks be to God! It was all part of the growing process. I've now come to view the Hillsongs and the Indelible Graces in a new way - through the eyes Scripture, not the culture around me. Not that the surrounding culture of friends and worship leaders who listen to this music doesn't help. I need those people. But I've also let "extremists" (those who go too far to one side, and I've been one twice!) influence my view on worship, and that wasn't good.
Maybe you're in that boat. Maybe you've allowed the culture around you to influence how you view worship. Don't do that. Let me recommend a great book to you - Bob Kauflin's Worship Matters. Bob is my new hero. He is a great model of someone who loves to be moved by great worship music, and at the same time, is more committed to the primacy of God's Word in worship than any other contemporary guy I've heard of. Another book that has had a huge impact on me is Christ-Centered Worship by Brian Chapell, where the history of music in the church is explored, along with (obviously) keeping Christ in the center of our services. I'm not just thankful that God has kept me a music leader in the church. I'm even more thankful that he's committed to growing my view of Him through His Word, 'cause truth is, His Word is teaching me more and more about what Biblical worship looks like, and I can't get enough...