Today I bring to you a guest post by my friend Alise, the driving force behind the Not Alone project. She has an incredible voice, both written and musical, and has helped lead song services in churches for years. She wears grace learned by navigating the uncharted waters of a marriage that began in the same faith and now has become interfaith. As a fellow church musician, I asked Alise to contribute her thoughts to my recent series on worship.

Joannaphoto © 2008 Simon Bleasdale | more info (via: Wylio)For as long as I can remember, music has been a part of my church life. Growing up, I sang in and played the piano for my church choir.  In college, I studied music and played the piano at the school’s Newman Center. As an adult, I have played in churches of all kinds, from a fledgling start up with just a few families to a packed service that has 2500 people in attendance. Church music is woven into the fabric of my life.

But there was a season where that fabric had a hole. One season where lies eclipsed my passion. One season when the song was silenced.

We were active in the worship team of a growing congregation. We had encountered some push-back regarding musical choices at this church in the past, but things had been very positive for about a year. The team was really coming together and the level of musicianship was going up a notch. I was excited in the direction that the team was taking both musically and in passion. As that summer progressed, it was fun to see people working to improve their craft.

And then it happened. The worship leader was heading out of town and several of us who were “younger” (in our 20’s) were tasked with leading a worship service. We worked on the set, wanting to put forth our best musical and spiritual efforts. We chose songs that we felt worked together well and that showed the excitement that we felt for Jesus. We knew that it was a little bit edgy and mentioned this to our pastor, but were told that everything was fine.

Needless to say, it was not fine. The service went well from our perspective, but within a few days, we were told that we were needed for a meeting. The primary purpose of this meeting? To tell us that in our “youthful zeal” we had developed a “spirit of performance.”

Desiring excellence in our music was suspect. Wanting to play our very best was showy. Casting abandon aside and playing with our whole selves was simply a performance.

I left the meeting absolutely crushed.

I prayed for weeks after that, asking God to show me any places where my heart was wrong, where I was putting music above Him. But all I could hear were the words of my accusers. Their denunciations drowned out any ability that I may have had to hear Truth.

Lies do that. They crowd of the voice of Truth. They tell us that our dreams are selfish. They tell us that our questions are symptomatic of deeper problems. They tell us that we’re not talented enough, not attractive enough, not smart enough, that WE are not enough. Mixed with just enough reality to make them believable, we trust these lies and they can shut down the music of our lives.

Friend, hear me well. If you are trusting voices that leave you feeling guilty or condemned or abused, they are not Truth. The discord that you are feeling is not what you were created for. We are told that in Christ we will have an abundant life. There is no abundance in guilt. There is no overflow in condemnation.

Let us embrace wholeness. Let us embrace abundance. Let us embrace the song.

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What do you think? How do we walk the line between excellence and performance? How have you responded to being misjudged and falsely accused?

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