For the past two months I’ve had the amazing privilege of helping lay the groundwork for “JAM” time at Hope Church. JAM (Jesus And Music) is a time of live praise and worship for our elementary kids during Sunday morning services. If you know me, you know that music is my jam (pun intended)! And helping instill a love for praise music in kids has been a passion of mine for a while. I’ve had a dream of doing more live music for our Hope Kids to help them engage and learn about the heart of God in a different, very powerful way.
I know, I know, not everyone loves music as much as I do. Some of you are shower singers only, right? And for some maybe not even then will you bust out into song! Most of us can find some genre of music we like enough to play in our car, but if you’ve been attending services at Hope you know that we have a few consistent styles and they certainly don’t span all genres of music out there. It may not be your favorite style. And that is OKAY! We do our best to follow the ever-changing trends in contemporary praise and worship music while still bringing back the classics here and there.
When I’m on stage leading, y’all are staring at me, but I can see you too! And I am witnessing a whole spectrum of worshippers – from the most stoic to the biggest emotions and everywhere in between. It’s the same when I’m leading the kids. Some kids are super into it, some are confused, others are shy and quiet. And that is OKAY! Like I said, praise and worship music is not everyone’s jam, and as Pastor Matt said this past weekend it’s not a MAJOR, or essential of our faith. There are many ways to worship, but I’d like to share my heart behind the deep-seated passion I have to lead people into worship specifically through the medium of music.
I have a post-it note at my desk with this quote: “Music is the fastest and most permanent way to get God’s truth into your head.” Is this true? What is it about music that makes it so powerful? Do you know anyone who would teach their child the A, B, C’s without using the song? Have you experienced a time when an old favorite song from school days comes on the radio and even though you haven’t heard it in maybe 15 years you find you can still sing almost every word? That is the power of music, and there is a lot of scientific research to support it.
An article in the Wall Street Journal talked about why and how music aids in memorization. “The hippocampus and frontal cortex are two areas in the brain associated with memory and they process millions of pieces of information every day. Getting information into those areas is easy. What is difficult is pulling data out efficiently. Music provides a rhythm, a rhyme and often, alliteration. All that structure is the key to unlocking information in the brain – with music acting as a cue. Music is a powerful mnemonic device, but the song’s structure is what allows a person to recall the information it holds. The added melody encourages repetition and thus memorization.” (Mitchell 2013)
When I dig into all the reasons why neuroscientists and psychologists state over and over how powerful music is for memory, I can’t help but be in awe at our Creator who gave us this amazing gift. He created our brains to function the way they do, and he knew that music would be one of the best tools to help us not only learn, but also recall what we have learned. All the Sunday school songs I learned as a kid are permanently embedded into my brain…and God brings them to mind at seemingly random times. But what I’ve learned over the years is that it isn’t random at all. It is God’s way of reminding me of His truths in those times I need it most. “Jesus loves me, this I know.” “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” And the awesome thing is that He’s still doing the same thing with music today! “You’re a good, good Father, it’s who You are.” “Waymaker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness.” God is constantly reminding me who He is and that He’s present in my life. And He’s using music, a tool HE CREATED, to help me remember. This is why I so desperately want my own kids, and all our Hope kids, to have this foundation. Because God CAN and WILL use it in their lives.
We all have difficult days when we can’t even find the words to express our thoughts, let alone think of what to say to God. In those moments, I have found that God is so faithful to bring songs into the forefront of my brain, to penetrate my heart, and give me words when I have no words. I’ve had the privilege at times in my life to sing older songs and hymns for people in assisted living communities. Even many struggling with Alzheimer’s will find they can recall and sing along once they hear the familiar tunes. THIS is the kind of thing that brings tears to my eyes as I watch in awe and wonder at what God can do through music.
So whether or not you love the current styles of praise and worship music, whether you love to sing or would just as soon pass, I encourage you not to miss opportunities to utilize this very powerful tool as you seek to draw closer to Jesus, and learn more about His heart and who He is in your life.
I love the chorus in a newer song by Phil Wickham called “Reason I sing,” and want to leave you with those lyrics:
For the cross that You bore and the debt that You paid
For the victory You won over death and the grave This is the reason I sing For the hope that You give and the joy that You bring For the promise that Heaven is waiting for me This is the reason I sing
“Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” Psalm 105:2
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16
“I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11