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Listening to a CD of praise and worship songs as I worked in my kitchen one morning, I found my heart rejoicing in Jesus and my body dancing in joy and worship to Him. The CD I was listening to was an old one that a friend recently gave me with popular worship songs from the 80s and 90s. Singing and dancing in joy to the Lord, I was transported back in my memory to when I was eight years old, listening to a children’s worship tape on my little cassette player and dancing in abandon on top of our picnic table in the back yard.
As I think back to that childhood memory, my heart is also filled with sadness. I remember that around the time when I had that cassette tape is also when my family joined the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Although my parents allowed me to have that tape, I soon learned that some of the music on it was “wrong” and that dancing was also “wrong.” I lost the child-like innocence and abandon of worshiping the Lord with all my heart, soul, and body and got rid of that cassette tape of my own accord.
That was the beginning of a long journey of seeking “right” in my worship. No longer was my heart focused on worshiping Him in joyous abandon, but on worshiping Him in righteousness. I remember visiting other churches where my family and I would get up and walk out because of the music. These music standards were deeply ingrained in my heart. I had listened to and read all the materials available on why a back-beat, certain vocal styles, or a dominant drum beat was wrong.
Fast forward a few years, and I find myself visiting another church one morning with other ladies from an Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) training center. A guest musician was singing that morning, and as he began the music and singing my heart was grieved thinking how sad God must be with this evil beat in His church. “How sad that people did not know how to worship God in the beauty of His holiness!” With a grieved and sad heart, I felt I couldn’t continue to sit there, so I quietly slipped out and waited outside praying till the song was over. As I left, one or two other women from the training center also followed me. Looking back in remembrance at that time, I am grieved at my actions and the deception I lived under. I am saddened that I could not sit and worship with this musician. I hope he did not guess the reason why I slipped out that morning, and I hope he was not offended by my actions.
Later on, I was given the responsibility of teaching the IBLP principles of dance, music, and modest dress at the training center where I worked. I remember wanting to teach these classes and being thrilled at the opportunity to teach these standards, especially since I noticed that the other leadership staff didn’t fully agree with them. I fully believed what was taught in the IBLP material about each of these topics, and I was able to teach from my heart. I think of the many women who sat under my teaching with regret, and I hope and pray that those I taught are free from those false beliefs. If you were one of those that I taught at the training center, I’m so sorry for how I impacted you with those wrong teachings!
Even in the midst of the training center life, God began slowly and gently to work in my heart. In the latter years of my working at a training center, one of the local churches that some of the leaders attended sometimes played music with a back-beat. By this time, I was not walking out in the middle of the music, but remaining quietly in my place. I remember distinctly during one of the songs, watching one of the leaders from the training center with her hands raised and a glow of holy worship on her face. God spoke to my heart, showing me that I could choose to worship Him in my heart regardless of the music style. For me, that was a revolutionary thought!
A year or so later, when I attended training in preparation for ministry overseas, one of the classes was on music. The teacher, who had many years of cross-cultural ministry behind her, shared how different musical sounds have different meanings in different cultures. Music is not moral, but rather speaks what meaning the culture puts on it. At the time, I found her viewpoint interesting, but I didn’t agree.
Later, when I found myself serving cross-culturally, I fully accepted the music in the churches where I was working. When my mother heard some of the music and asked me if it had a bad beat I simply responded, “No, it’s not the bad beat, it’s just that culture’s beat.” Still though, when I attended the international church overseas and heard the latest American praise and worship songs I wondered, “Are they really ‘right’? Is this music okay?” An article last summer on Recovering Grace really helped as I struggled through and began re-evaluating all I had been taught about music. It has been a slow and gradual process, and how thankful I am for God’s gentleness and patience leading me through it!
Once again I can worship God with the abandon and joy that I had as that little eight-year-old girl dancing on my picnic table. What joy and gratefulness fills my heart as I see how God has brought me full circle! Just a couple of weeks ago, I volunteered to help with the music occasionally at the international church I attend. I had considered volunteering a few years ago, but my conscience wouldn’t allow me to participate in the music at that time. What joy that I can now be involved freely and in good conscience in the music ministry in this church. I pray that your heart, too, will be filled with rejoicing and abandon in worshiping God with lots of kinds of music and dancing!