Troubadour of Faith By Jennifer Jill Schwirzer

Photo: Jennifer Jill
I recorded my first CD at Long View Farms in Massachusetts. A trendy place in its heyday, the sprawling estate had hosted bands like Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones. The digital revolution killed the place; successful artists had their own studios, so that only small time artists like me came through. The staff had eroded into a skeleton crew of Bonnie, the manager, a few maid-type personnel, and an aging-hippie-been-there-done-that sound engineer named Jesse.

“Stupid, idiot, pompous, $#@**%!” Jesse entered the studio one morning belching out vitriol at an artist from last night’s session. Sigh, I thought, if he’s starting out in that mood, where will he end up?

“*$#%&&!” he fumed, kicking a failing wire until it crackled to life. The studio was full of failing wires. Jesse would kick them all before the end of the day, I could feel it.

I stood forlornly inside the sound booth before a massive professional microphone, almost whimpering, “I want to work on Give You Jesus, Jesse, okay?”

Jesse nodded, cursing under his breath at the pompous artists, the wires, and for all I knew, me and my Jesus. As the instrumentation poured into my ears through the headphones, I timidly, breathily sang:

I would give you Jesus
Because to give you me
Would only leave you fettered
While He will set you free
I would give you Jesus
To fill your empty cup
Alone, I’d spill or break it
But He will fill it up

“Whoa! Whoa!” Jesse suddenly stopped the machine and cut in, shaking his messy, dishwater hair back and forth.

Here it comes, I cowered, I’m about to get mine.

“You have to sing like you mean it!” he burst out, his voice now filled with tender feeling. I zoned in on his face through the sound booth glass. It had melted into a bright beacon of sacred emotion. “Listen to the words! You’re telling people about God, about love!” he cried, waving his arms like a choir director. Everything had changed. The &*#@$ demon had been cast out. The rest of the session felt like a warm summer day, Jesse coaching and me singing my little head off.

Such is the power of Jesus music.

When David played for Saul, the demons fled. Jehosephat’s army took a lamp in their hands and a song on their lips and defeated the Moabites without inflicting one wound. Paul and Silas sung hymns while they lay in chains until an earthquake freed them. The Bible abounds with stories of the power of music.

Later Paul said “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord,” Ephesians 5:18 and 19. Believers filled with the Spirit communicate through various forms of music. I get the sense that this process involves spontaneity, creativity, and originality. And perhaps some songwriting!

Why the dearth of Adventist songwriters? In Adventism we tend to focus on great voices singing traditional music. This is great, but another art form cries to be born within us. In Christianity we see many songwriters performing pop and rock music. This is good in many ways, but very commercially driven at times. I’d personally like to see a third option. I’d like to see songwriters sharing their music without pressure to become “famous.” There are only a few slots for famous performers, but there are countless slots for troubadours with a desire to share the gospel through art.

Can creative gifts like songwriting evangelize? Most certainly. Currently I’m working with a group of young canvassers on a music CD. When it’s finished, they’ll sell the CD door to door. We hope to perform the music as well and even use busking (street performing) to share the songs.

Are you a creative type, oozing with unconventional, ingenious ideas for expressing your faith? The world needs you. Often different packaging will open doors to a gift that would otherwise be refused. Here are some guidelines for bringing Christian performance art to life:

1. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord. Ego-driven, wannabe stars are a dime a dozen. Humility is essential. You’ll need it when only three people show up at a concert.

2. Reason together with God. Form a viable plan of what to create. You want the art to be both spiritual and marketable. What do people need? What do they think they need? Try to meet both criterion.

3. Work with others. Art can be highly isolative. At the very least submit your ideas to brothers and sisters and ask them to pray for you. At best, include others in the creative process or work with a team.

4. Slay your demons. Art’s most formidable enemy is time wasting. Since you’re in a largely self-directed process, you must structure your day. Have a day planner and block off time slots for creativity.

5. Bathe it all in prayer. Keep praying throughout the creative process. This will sharpen your skill and keep you focused on the goal of your creativity, which is to reach, inform, and inspire others. 

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Jennifer Jill Schwirzer writes from Pennsylvania. All rights reserved © 2012 VisitInSpire.org. Click here for content usage information.