Music is everywhere at Life Challenge. It’s part of our DNA, part of our faith, part of the plan. The Bible tells us that music, especially singing, is a divinely inspired response to God’s love; and that God delights in it. It tells us that one day, God will sing over us.
Every morning, early, the students wake up with song in the Chapel. There, they may see one of our directors , Joel, Ken or Pastor Jeff – all excellent musicians – leading, playing an instrument, or just singing along.
It’s no wonder there is so much music. The Psalms give us ample reason to know that God likes it, “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord” (Ps. 96:11-12; NIV). In the New Testament, Paul instructs the early church: “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20; NIV).
When our hearts are properly tuned, we cannot help but sing.
One of the most significant things we do at Life Challenge is visit local churches with our choir and worship band. We have rallies at dozens of area churches each year, Sunday to Sunday, where the choir lifts its voice, singing for joy, giving beautiful testimony to the love of Christ. As Jeff Bonzelaar puts it, we like to “show off” at our Sunday church rallies. What a privilege it is to see the faces of students in the choir “shining ever brighter,” lit by the glory of God.
The rallies are important because they give us an opportunity to demonstrate the power of God to transform lives. It is through this witness that we can reach the lost, especially those it is our special mission to find and to redeem; desperate people whose lives are dark, lonely, covered by a heavy shroud of overwhelming hurts, hang-ups and death-dealing habits. We want to show them the glorious light, the amazing grace, the boundless hope that lives here.
Marc Jones has been leading our travelling choir for three years. Music has always been in his DNA. He grew up in the church and he was born in song. His mother sang and played guitar in a southern gospel trio with her two sisters, The Little Gray Girls. When he sits at the piano and directs the choir, one gets the impression that he is the happiest man on earth. Maybe he is. He certainly looks happy.
I remember when I first met Marc on the platform at Brightmoor Tabernacle (it was a while ago). I was a brand new Christian, a guitarist, on the platform for the first time, nervously waiting for worship rehearsal to begin. Marc was told by the choir director to “keep an eye on the new Christian, show him the ropes.” Marc smiled at me from the piano. When I made eye contact, he leaned over and asked me what kind of music I liked to play. He was trying to break the ice. “I like all kinds,” I said, “rock, gospel, country. I even play a little jazz every once in awhile, just for the hell of it.” It just slipped out. I was mortified, ashamed and embarrassed. How could I? A new Christian wanting to be good, betrayed by my own foul mouth. I was justified, certainly; but sanctified, not even close. Marc looked back at me without flinching. A second elapsed and eternity echoed. Suddenly, mercifully, Marc broke into a big, happy grin and said, “That’s really great because now you have a whole new reason to play.”
The choir responds to Marc’s leading. They’re happy. It’s a joy to watch. The faces, the sound of their voices together, the new hope in their hearts; it’s just a little bit of heaven. According to the great theologian and preacher John Piper, “The reality of God and Christ and creation and salvation and heaven and hell are simply too great for mere speaking; they must also be sung.”