[From editor: At Word Alive 2019, Jonathan Girling gave a talk entitled: 'How to be in the music world, but not of the music world'. This article summarises his key points (his 'seven steps') along with discussion questions.]
Step 1: Be in the world
We do, first of all, actually need to be in the music world. We may be tempted to be a hermit, retreating from the difficulties that come of being known as a Christian in the world of music. But:
- Jesus warned us of this: So expect to suffer and be hated. Don't expect to be loved.
- Jesus prayed for us in this: for God to protect us from Satan's attacks on our faith.
- Are you in the music world?
- What does that look like for you?
- Have you encountered opposition to your faith? Were you surprised?
- Are you encouraged by Jesus's prayer for his disciples (John 17:15-19)?
Step 2: Don't be of the world in your thinking
The world constantly bombards us with how we should think. Music, media, the arts, film, TV - it all permeates our thinking. Yet:
- Paul makes a deep distinction between the believer's mind and the unbeliever's mind.
- We are told actively to be transformed in our thinking through the renewal of our minds.
- In what ways do you suspect your thinking might be more influenced by the world than you may have realised before (especially regarding music)?
- What thinking do you need to challenge?
- What practical steps do you need to take to ensure you are not conforming to the pattern of this world in your thinking?
Step 3: Deeds not words - loving others
All God's Law hangs on loving God and our neighbour. And so we are to love our fellow music students. To do so will not only be obedience, but also a good witness. But as we saw earlier, those who live for Christ can expect to be hated for it. Yet:
- Jesus tells us to love even our enemies, and actively to do good to them!
- He tells us to love them in practice and in prayer.
- How could you go about showing practical deeds of love and service to fellow music students?
- How could you do so to someone who has actively hated you for your faith?
- What will you do this coming week to show love to someone?
Step 4: Words not deeds
The world of music is rife with sharp and wagging tongues! Whether it's the slander of others, the 'humble' bragging, the lies, the digs or the ever-present profanities, the world of music is in this area very much 'of the world', which means that:
- Our speech can be one of the most distinctive ways in which we live differently, being in the world but not being of it.
- This will involve what we refrain from saying (swear words, lies, and excuses) and what we actively engage in saying (encouragement, building others up)
- In which area of speech-holiness could you most improve?
- How could you positively encourage a fellow musician when others are slandering them?
- Why will not swearing make such a difference to the way others perceive us?
Step 5: Fight back
If we live distinctively for Christ, we may well suffer for it, and that being the case, we may become discouraged. Yet:
- Paul tells us to be strong 'in the Lord' and to see these struggles with a godly perspective - that we are engaged in spiritual warfare as Christians.
- We are told actively to 'put on the armour of God' and to 'pray in the Spirit on all occasions.'
- How conscious are you of the spiritual battle in which we are engaged as Christians on a day-to-day basis? What would help you be more conscious of it?
- How could you more actively put on the armour of God?
- Given that the main weapon of attack listed is the Spirit's sword the Word of God, how well do you know God's Word?
- What practical things could you do to deepen your understanding and knowledge of God's Word?
- How much do you employ the privilege of prayer when faced with difficult situations?
- How could you practically cultivate a greater prayerfulness in your life such that it is your go-to 'on all occasions'?
Step 6: Give an answer for the hope
[Read 1 Peter 3:15]
The music world is brilliant for forming solid friendships with others who share the same passion. If we are intentional in building these friendships and sharing our lives with these friends, then they will see the difference that being a follower of Jesus makes, and this should lead to them asking questions about Christianity. Thus:
- Peter instructs us always to be prepared to give an answer to questions concerning 'the hope that we have' - i.e. the gospel.
- We are told to do so 'with gentleness and respect.'
- Do you find fellow music students asking you questions about Christianity? If not, why might this be?
- What could we do to share our lives more fully with unbelieving music students?
- Are we prepared to share the reason for the hope that we have?
- Could you tell your testimony in a way that points others to Jesus too?
- What gospel outline could you learn that would aid your explanation of our reason for hope?
Step 7: Create like our Creator
The music world rightly values creativity but wrongly ignores the Creator and Author of all creativity! Yet:
- We are made in the image of this creator God.
- We are to do all our work in service of Him.
- How does your own creative practice imitate in some small way our great God?
- How could you bring the Lordship of Christ over all things to bear more pertinently on your creative output?
- What practical things could you do to ensure your creative work is done in service of God?
- How does your creative work bring God glory?
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.' Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain.