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Resonate seeks musical impact

Less than 20 years ago, children were introduced to music in multiple places and many ways. Public schools included music education in their curriculum, and musical groups were seen as positive learning experiences during the early years. As students aged, many were involved during high school with choirs, bands and orchestras that provided an outlet for those interested in the pursuit of musical excellence. Recent years, however, have seen a precipitous decline in the number of students participating in high school music groups, even as music instruction is still heralded as a vital component of the educational backgrounds of many distinguished national and international leaders.

A 2007 Harris Interactive study revealed that 72 percent of adults who studied music agreed that it equipped them to become better team players later in life. Nearly six in 10 agreed that music education influenced their creative problem-solving skills and provided a disciplined approach to practice of difficult tasks and a sense of organization in management of day-to-day tasks.

Throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, music education was once (and to some degree remains) part of an overall curriculum of instruction for young children. In former days, however, the SBC’s graded choir program provided an exposure to the world of music—basic notation, music theory as well as the capacity to learn tenants of Christian theology through music.

“That world, in large measure, no longer exists,” stated Ken Gabrielse, music and worship specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “Many churches no longer formally teach music to children, and the various levels of involvement in choirs continues to wane.”

While true, it is not as though musical participation in church music has collapsed. Rather, it has radically changed. Plotting the path of change begins with the shifting musical styles first noticed in the late 1970s and now has come, in some ways, full circle with the advent of the worship band and contemporary Christian music. During the 1980s, when many Christian musical celebrities made their debut in venues apart from the local church, the current decade has seen a turn toward the church in ways that center hymnody and new worship songs squarely on a firm biblical foundation.

Nearly 100 students participated in "Resonate," a musical camp experience, featuring workshops on subjects such as worship leadership and contemporary worship as well as how campers might come to study music in college and seminary. (PHOTO: DOUGLAS E. BAKER)

Yet, to serve as a musician in the modern church often requires a broad base of skills beyond what was formerly required for a typical minister of music. “Today, anyone who desires to serve in the church musically must know something about classical music, choral conducting, instrumental ensembles, praise bands, leading contemporary worship, organizing rehearsals for diverse groups and working with a younger generation that is deeply devoted to serving God in hard places,” Gabrielse said.

Training those young men and women for future roles in the local church is the vision of Gabrielse’s most recent effort of a specialized worship camp held on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University. The new camp, “Resonate,” recently convened with almost 100 participants with workshops on subjects such as worship leadership and contemporary worship as well as how campers might come to study music in college and seminary.

“We are praying that a camp environment might be the tool the Lord might be pleased to use to train, strengthen and encourage young musicians toward service in the Lord’s church,” said Gabrielse, a former seminary professor who insists that a theology of music that is grounded on Holy Scripture be learned. “We must train them well to be excellent musicians, but we must do more than that. We must teach them the Bible and build them up doctrinally so that they might flourish musically.”

Aiding Gabrielse was Dale Griffin, OBU’s dean of spiritual life. Griffin provided overviews of various biblical heroes who, as he taught, always experienced suffering and trial in service for Christ. Highlighting the life of Joseph, Griffin explained that “great trial and heartache came into Joseph’s life, but God used it all to bring about His purposes both in the life of Joseph and in the life of the people of God.”

Gabrielse expressed his delight with those who attended.

“These young men and woman possess extraordinary musical talent as well as a passion for the Gospel. They are the great hope for the future as they work to master musical disciplines and formulate a personal biblical theology of worship that might serve the church of Jesus Christ for years to come,” he exclaimed.
The camp is scheduled to become a permanent part of the music and worship initiatives of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

Author: Douglas Baker

View more articles by Douglas Baker.

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