Article: An Overlooked Danger To Traditional Church Music

PianoKidPlayingSimply put – we need more piano players.

There was a time when many Baptist churches had a piano in every Sunday School department, and someone to play it. Now, many churches across America struggle in the musical part of their worship services simply because they either do not have a piano player, or they do not have one who can play adequately for church. The musical part of the worship service for many churches would be taken to a whole new level if they had a skilled pianist and organist (and with a good electric piano on the organ setting, a pianist can now double as an organist).

There is nothing wrong with “traditional” church music. The hymns of our faith came out of times of great awakening and revival, are full of doctrinal truth, and contain melodies and harmonies that have blessed generations of born again people – while also pointing lost sinners to salvation in Christ. Someone has well said, “We don’t sing the hymns because they are old. We sing them because they are GREAT.” When the hymns are really sung as they were written to be sung, they are matchless.

While it is true that the hymns are still great when sung a cappella, especially in large groups that really sing out, it is also true that most churches are greatly aided in singing by the accompaniment of a piano and organ.

B5T28DWhen we started Lighthouse Baptist, we did not have a piano player for over a year. A senior man in the new church could play the guitar, and he would accompany me as I led three or four hymns. Trust me – no one was coming for the music program! Half the time, my musician would go forward in the invitation for prayer, leaving me with a silent and uncomfortable altar call.

I promised myself then that I would NEVER take a piano player for granted.

After a year, my wife taught herself to play chords on the piano and it was a definite improvement – but we were very limited in range and scope. Later, a couple joined – the husband has been our song leader and his wife our piano player ever since. Soon, she began offering classes, and I encouraged all of our kids to try to learn. All four of our kids have been taking lessons since around the age of 4 or 5. My oldest daughter is now the backup pianist and plays our keyboard/organ. My second oldest plays for children’s church. We now have about a dozen students taking lessons from Mrs. Camp.

If Mrs. Camp said that she wanted her name on the church sign, I would at least consider it.

I am being facetious, obviously, but the fact is that a good piano player is worth at least two staff members and three and half deacons right now.

Pianist church flyerParents, encourage your children to learn to play an instrument that could be used in ministry. It is worth the expense. Churches across America are struggling to find someone who has developed this talent and is willing to use it for the Lord.

We can complain about the rise of worldly music programs, but are we doing anything other than complaining about it? Do we sing out in church? Are we willing to serve? Are we willing to learn, to put in the endless hours of practice so that we can be useful vessels for the Lord?

What will our churches look like in twenty years if Bible-believing Baptists don’t answer the need for dedicated, spiritual, skilled musicians?

NOTE: THIS POST NOW HAS A FOLLOW-UP POST ENTITLED, “FACING THE DANGER CONFRONTING TRADITIONAL CHURCH MUSIC.”

Thank you for reading. God bless.

About James Rasbeary

I am the pastor of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Wylie, Texas. Check out my blog at www.broraz.com.
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15 Responses to Article: An Overlooked Danger To Traditional Church Music

  1. Bounna Has says:

    Thank you, great article. A needed and timely reminder; was a huge blessing.

  2. Michelle says:

    I’m the pianist for my church and I can relate. While we are blessed with a couple of people who are willing to step in and play if I need to miss a service, the field of church piano players is scarce. Thank you for your post!!

  3. Carol says:

    I totally agree with you about traditional music being sung. So many of the churches nowadays have new music that no one in the congregation knows! I have wondered why. Do they not like the old hymns? It never occurred to me that they might not have a pianist! But, some have women (and men) playing the keyboard. Hmmmm……..I live in Ohio, but if I lived in Texas, I would definitely come to your church. Keep doing good the The Lord!!

  4. And when you do have a young musician, please don’t throw up unnecessary obstacles! When I was in middle school, I played piano and organ for our church, but I had to have either the church organist or my mother present at all times, I was never allowed to be near the organ alone even though I was playing during services! If your young keyboard enthusiast is old and mature enough to play during services, trust that they’re not going to abuse the instrument practicing during the week!

  5. Isabelle says:

    Yes! I love the old hymns and rue the fact that our lovely hymnals sit unused in the rack while we read words (only) from an overhead screen. We do have a pianist but those in charge prefer the fancy videos. Sigh…….

  6. Pingback: Follow-Up Article: Facing the Danger to Traditional Church Music | The Lighthouse Keeper

  7. Some churches have a second piano for up and coming pianists. They can play softly, drop out, or chime right in depending on the song and their comfort level, but it gives them a chance to actually participate while dramatically lowering the bar of entry.

  8. Pingback: An Overlooked Danger To Traditional Church Music | Independentbaptist.com

  9. Zane Harding says:

    A great article–I am 75 years old and in the 5th grade our teacher taught us to read music. My sister and I would put the dominoes on the table and pretend to play the piano. A few years later our mother, brothers and sister pooled our money from picking cotton and bought a used piano. My sister and youngest brother took lessons; and later on, I got a songbook and started working on how to play “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus!”. At that time we had almost a dozen pianists in our country church who could play well enough for church from WORLD WIDE CHURCH SONGS published by Stamps Quartet Music Company from Dallas, TX. I was the only boy who played among the women and girls. We would pick cotton all day during the fall and my dad would take us kids to church on Wednesday nights to sing and play the piano. My mother could play the pump organ and piano a little and helped me. We would have the all-day singings and dinner on the ground; and I would go to everyone I could; and also would listen to the ones broadcast over the radio. The singing convention pianists inspired me learn to play better. Many of the dearest friends we have are acquaintances from the shaped-note singing conventions.and singing schools. I have read in my grandmother’s journals how my dad would ride his horse to singing conventions and singing schools. My wife and our 2 daughters are good singers and one daughter is an excellent pianist. Because of the decline of the shaped-note singing conventions with good pianists, we have fewer people who can read music, play the piano/organ and sing. Many people like to listen to others sing; however, there is a positive effect on us when we all sing together in one accord from a songbook. Let’s pass this tradition on to younger people so they can enjoy the fellowship in the singing conventions; singing at church; and singing at home!

  10. Jim Peet says:

    Sharper Iron linked to your fine article here

    Thanks

  11. Ed says:

    Organ players, too. After all, it is the oldest keyboard known to man.

  12. Greg says:

    Though we hadn’t intentionally planned to do so, we have created a culture of music participation in our church. In the first church where I was pastor, we had only 15-20 people attending and one pianist. When she was absent, we sang acapella. The time came when my 11 year old son finally agreed to play one song for a Wed. night service (despite his terror), and that began a change which has affected the last 15 years of my ministry. He took on the challenge to learn more & more hymns so he could play for church. By the time he was 13, he could play better than our regular pianist (who willingly asked him to keep playing even when she was present). The next church where I was pastor was larger (about 100 people), and there were a couple of pianists who rotated responsibilities. My son (mid-teens) became a part of that rotation, and eventually became the lead pianist. Other children in the church, who were taking piano lessons themselves, saw one of their peers playing in church, and they sought out to do the same. Presently there are 8-10 pianists under the age of 25 who do an exceptional job of accompanying the church services. To get to this point, a plan was put together to introduce young people to serving as a church pianist. If they expressed interest in playing for church, they might first be given opportunity to play an offertory in a Sunday evening or Wed. service. As skills improved, they might be asked to play for the children’s Sunday school opening exercises. The next step was to be included in the rotation of pianists for regular church services, playing on Sunday evenings on the digital piano (they often prefer to turn down the volume a little and try to follow the lead piano, getting a feel for congregational singing). Eventually they are given the opportunity to play the lead piano when they feel ready (first for the smaller attended evening services, then later for the Sunday morning service). Some of these young pianists are now away at college, but they are involved in churches where they are using their musical skills. Some of these young pianists are still at our church, capably playing for congregational music, choir music, or most anything you ask them to do. I don’t know how long this cycle will continue, but it’s been a great blessing. I’ve come to observe this: when young people are given an outlet for the skills they are learning in piano lessons, those skills flourish. There’s a reason for them to practice and learn their lessons. If they make enough progress, they can start playing in church now — they don’t have to wait until they are “grown ups”. (And the same principle we use in our music program is carrying over to other areas of church ministry. We are putting young people to work as helpers in other ministries, and watching them flourish.)

  13. Pingback: Calling All Piano-Pickers! « Boones Creek Bible Church Boones Creek Bible Church

  14. R E says:

    Excellent article and much needed. May I share this on my blog over at ifyestandfast.wordpress.com?

  15. Pingback: Facing the Danger to Traditional Church Music | Independentbaptist.com

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