A musician’s privilege
I walked into my friend’s living room in Vienna, her flat hidden away in the noisy heart of the Austrian capital. Only a few hours ago, the room was my bedroom for the week. Now it comfortably welcomed seven or eight musicians from all corners of the world: German, French, Japanese, American and others. An opera singer, a rock guitarist, and a number of college students, all from various church backgrounds came to sit under the authority of the one God who unites them all. I was the only one who didn’t speak any German, and it was humbling to realise everyone in the conversation was translating solely for my benefit.
We spent an hour studying the Bible, everyone doing their best to speak in two languages, neither their mother tongue. We shared prayer requests about our lives and we prayed together. I consider it a real privilege to have been there, as there is nothing quite like praying with Christian brothers and sisters from around the world to give you a much broader vision of God’s kingdom. There are very few jobs like being a travelling musician that present that sort of opportunity!
Why is Christian community so worth pursuing?
As professional musicians, fostering a stable Christian community that is spiritually enriching is simultaneously a vital and a difficult task. The Bible study in Vienna might have been the only Christian contact these musicians had that week. It is worth being realistic about this if you are pursuing a career that will take you around the world. If this is you, now is the time to build the foundations while you have the enormous privilege of the larger UK Christian community around you, firstly through church and then through your CU.
But why bother? While it might not always feel like it, pursuing Christian community is hugely valuable and will pay dividends down the line.
It is worth remembering that God created all of us for community. We grow when we are in genuine Christ-centred relationships over a period of time, and the opposite happens when we pull away. Pursuing community every day can feel difficult, but here are just a few reasons why it’s so vital:
- We display God’s goodness and glory when we share Him with others.
- Meeting with other Christians directly challenges our prideful independence and apathy, as the Holy Spirit works in us.
- The church needs you and the role God has given you to play.
- We need to be praying for individuals, our cities and our world.
But what does true community look like?
I hear countless stories of students coming to faith in my job at UCCF. Often the reason that students are attracted to CU in the first place is the warm community they find. They want to be part of it. We see the same happening in churches. But what does true Christian community look like?
Christian community happens when people are saved
God’s grace isn’t intended to be experienced alone. God saves us as 'a chosen people' (See 1 Peter). In Ephesians, Paul calls the church 'the body of Christ', with each part of the body playing a different and vital role. Your part might or might not be musical, but whatever it is, you do have a part to play whether you’re at the church for a few weeks or a few years.
Christian community is purposeful
In a world full of conflicting ideas on identity and values, Bible-centred Christian community is the one place you can grow in your identity in Christ. So pursue it, purposefully! This is so important, especially if you are a touring musician where you will be constantly engaging with wealth of different worldviews. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be a light for Christ, but don’t forget God is your strength, and He works through His Word and His people.
Christian community requires you look outside of yourself
In genuine Christian community, you will inevitably rub shoulders with people who are different to you. Not everyone will understand the life of a music student or a professional musician. Messy people make for messy relationships. But don’t let this put you off. Instead, lean in. Welcome them into your homes and your lives. It will be enriching in a way you may never have expected.
This is the reality of loving our family in Christ. It means uniting over the gospel despite our differences and learning to look outside of ourselves and to the needs of others. It is in communities like this we develop the kind of compassion Jesus has for us.
What's more, if your closer relationships are only those who are involved in the music industry, you aren’t experiencing the wider benefits of the church. Often, those outside of the music bubble can offer helpful perspectives and point out our blind spots.
Christian community deeply challenges
As a natural-born sinner, I'm allergic to worshiping the Lord in all things at all times. As a supernaturally born-again saint, I'm prone to love the God who loved me first. Praise God that when the dust settles from the war with my flesh that he has the victory!
This quote sums up the inner struggle every Christian has in their day to day life. We desperately need the company of Christians who can remind us of this, especially if your music studies or career requires you spend a lot of time alone. Paul David Tripp, American pastor and speaker, points out what happens when we stay away from being challenged:
If you don’t see your sin, you won’t see the value of confessing it to those who can counsel and warn you. If you think you’re up to whatever temptation will throw at you, you don’t ask for other eyes to watch out for you and other hearts to pray on your behalf.
How often do you think you fall into sin? Does that matter to you? Probably less than it should, and that’s the truth for all of us. We are desperate need of Christ’s forgiveness, and other Christians to stand by our side in this spiritual battle. Who can you think of to encourage you and guard you? Who do you look out for?
Christian community points you to our heavenly home.
At its best, Christian community points to the day when Christ will return and we are reunited with God once and for all. The spiritual battle will be over. Relationships will no longer be difficult. We will be completely satisfied for eternity in our longing to be known, loved, and be at home. Revelation 21 puts it better than I can:
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'
What a wonderful thing to have to look forward to!
A final thought:
Christian community in the short and the long term are both worth pursuing
If you’re on tour or on a short job abroad, we can still look to bless the Christians we meet along the way. Embrace whatever time God has given you with the Christians you meet. We could probably learn a lot from Jesus, Paul and the disciples as they travelled and met people on the road.
In the long term, you will need Christians around you who have had the time to get to know you, and they will need you too. The Christian community you build now could become a real anchor for you if getting to church becomes logistically difficult as a result of your musical career. If you’re going to be travelling for a long time, why not ask a couple of Christians to Skype with you and pray with you regularly? We are fortunate to have so many ways to keep in touch today.
So, throw yourself into those Christian friendships at church, university and beyond. As you go, remember why Christian community is so worth pursuing, what it looks like, and what it points to.
 Gloria Furman, '10 ways ecclesiology encourages me', Sep 12th 2012 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/10-ways-ecclesiology-encourages-me/ This is a fantastic article on Christian community.
 Paul David Tripp, 'If you think you’ve arrived', Oct 7th 2012 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/if-you-think-youve-arrived/