Classical Music and the Church Musician (Should we Learn it?)

At youth camp this summer, one of messages preached was on music, and how it was created to glorify God. Afterwards, one of my students came up to me and asked, “If music is for God’s glory, what about classical music?” It made me stop and think, because that is a question that I had battled for years. I’m not about to say that all of these classical composers were Christians and wrote the pieces for God’s glory. So, if music is to be for God’s glory, why do we learn classical music? Or go through lesson books, for that matter?

Classical music for Church Musicians

I can’t answer this question for others, but for me, I have a total peace about using classical and lesson books. The ultimatum is the goal. I never learned classical music with the goal of becoming a classical musician for the world’s applause. Classical music was but a tool to help me better use my music for God’s glory. Just like I didn’t use only the Bible to learn reading and mathematics, I didn’t use only hymns to learn music.

In Bible times, Christian musicians were the maestros. Sadly, Christians are not the top musicians of our day. Look at the contemporary Christian movement. All you need to know is a few simple chords and you can be part of the praise and worship team. Excellence in praising God is no longer our standard, like it was in King David’s time (read 1 Chronicles 15:16-22).

While I do not judge beginning musicians as they learn to worship God in song, and I fully believe that God can use musicians of any level, is the attitude of “I don’t have to put in effort” God’s desire? Are we willing to work to multiply the talents that God has given us, so that we can better be used for His glory?

Not at all do I think of myself as the prime example, but looking back, I can clearly see a few things. Because I learned classical music and secular theory, I not only can arrange at a higher level, I can write it down for others to use for God’s glory as well. Because I learned classical music, it has equipped me to teach. Because I learned classical music, it has given me many more opportunities to use music for God’s glory.

Are there downfalls to learning classical? For sure, yes. I personally believe it goes back to our motives and goals though. Are we learning classical to “one-up” our fellow musician and become top dog? Or are we learning it to master musical techniques that cannot be found elsewhere?

This is definitely an issue that each musician needs to determine in his own heart as he seeks the Lord.

What do you think about this issue? Is it okay for the church musician to use classical music in training and musical influence?


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