LeaderLines – from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas  Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
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Hillcrest Church Office
June 3, 2004

LeaderLines is a weekly “e-briefing” providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.

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Here is this week's LeaderLines. . . .

“A Word from Our Music Minister, Gene Chappell”
by Tom Goodman

For a few editions of LeaderLines, I’ve asked my associates on the Ministry Staff to share their vision for their particular ministry areas.  Last week we heard from Jim Siegel, and today I’ve asked Gene Chappell to share.  Gene’s twenty-five year tenure at Hillcrest gives him a unique knowledge of our congregation and the people we’re trying to reach.  Gene really plays three roles here.  First, he is our associate pastor who has stood with many in your times of crisis.  Second, he is our church’s administrator who takes care of our staff and keeps the “business” of the church on an even keel.  And third, he is our church’s worship leader who puts together our Sunday services.  I’ve asked him to share his vision of our music ministry in this edition of LeaderLines.
— Pastor Tom
P.S.  Have you checked out the “Frequently Asked Questions” page on our website?  I hope the page will answer your questions regarding our proposed Fall schedule change.  Go online at www.HillcrestAustin.org/ScheduleProposalFAQ.
Now, here’s Gene—
by Gene Chappell

Throughout history, it seems that music is an important part of most every culture, and today’s American culture is no different.  ITunes, an Internet download music site, recorded approximately 50 million downloads in its first 6 months in existence.  You regularly see people of various ages walking around with earphones listening to music.  Is that relevant to today’s church?

When I was about a sophomore in high school, I became the “song leader” or “song director” in the church that had started in our home when I was about 4.  By then it had grown to around 80-90, which was a large church in Colorado at that time, especially in our area of the state.  I was the “song leader” through most of my time in college there.

Thirty-one years ago June 17th, Lynn and I became full-time “music evangelists.”  After about 2½ years of that, I became a “Minister of Music” at FBC Joplin, MO.  Then, 26½ years ago I was given the “Minister of Music” title when I came to Hillcrest.

During these 26+ years just here at Hillcrest, I have been called,  “Minister of Music,” “Music Pastor,” “Praise Leader,”  “Worship Pastor” and “Worship Leader.”  And I may have forgotten some of the possible titles over the years.

Are those titles of what I do important?  Yes, primarily in that they each convey an expectation of task.  Music is a very important part of today’s society and very much affects the local church.

When I was in high school and college, one of my desires was to see Christian music sound contemporary.  Why should it always have to sound so “churchy?”  In the late 60’s while I was in high school, Word and Lexicon, publishers based in Waco, began publishing some totally new and radical church music—called “youth musicals.”  These transformed the youth church music scene.  Youth choirs were formed, and the tours of America and the world began.

In the early 70’s Bill and Gloria Gaither came out with a praise and worship musical, “Alleluia.”  We were traveling in evangelism at that time, and we were in several churches who had performed it and in other churches who thought is was almost heresy.  (Hillcrest, by the way, was one who did it early on.)  It was interesting to me, the rather marked difference in the spirit of churches that did it and those that wouldn’t even consider it.  I suspect it was not just the musical, but that the church was looking for a way to express their passion for the Lord, and this musical provided a way to do it.

The availability of youth choir music and the Gaither’s music, in my opinion, changed church music in a radical way.  The sound of the music inside the church and the sound of the music outside the church were no longer so different.  It is not all that uncommon now to hear “church music” crossover played on the secular radio stations, such as just recently happened with “I Can Only Imagine.”  A strong Christian message being played on secular stations—isn’t that neat?

What does all this mean for the future of the music ministry of Hillcrest?  Fortunately, for years HBC has been a church seeking to worship the Lord though music.  I want us to continue to be that kind of church.  Our “style” should minister to and lead to worship those already in the church, and it should help those outside the church to come in.  This will continue to involve incorporating new sounds and approaches in our music.  Nothing really new in that concept, as HBC was doing that long before I arrived here.  The goal is very simple:  How can we best lead in worship those who are currently a part of Hillcrest and those we are wishing to reach?

Worship is very much about us—which may sound like a strange statement.  It’s all about us first getting out of the way and focusing on the Lord and who He is and who we are in relationship to Him.  It’s not about a particular musical style or preference.  If today’s contemporary style is what the Lord REALLY prefers, then He would have probably put in place centuries ago the present contemporary style.  But just like the music from the 60’s, today’s music will begin to sound “dated” and a new “contemporary” style will take its place.  Music of any style is not what pleases the Lord, and music does not equal worship.

“Yet the time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” —John 4:23-24, NIV
I recently heard a “Worship Leader” get up and say, “Everyone stand to your feet and let’s worship!”  Flip the worship switch on, clap your hands and sing.  It’s worship time!!  Since we like the music, the tempo, and the excitement of the presentation, does that mean we have really worshipped?  Possibly, but not necessarily so.  We have to be very careful in equating how much we like the music to how we worshipped.  They are not necessarily related.  We also need to be careful not to “cheapen” the meaning of the word “Worship.”

It could be that your greatest worship experiences on a given Sunday come during the sermon when the Lord speaks to you and you respond in your spirit.  Then on the way home you notice the greatness of the Lord’s creation and thank Him.  No music.

Until our spirits touch the Spirit of God, I am still just a “Song Leader.”  But hopefully as I “lead songs” they will help us focus, and we will make any needed changes in own attitudes, and our time together then becomes all about Him.  Worship.