In the fifth grade I started playing the trumpet in the school band. Well, that’s not entirely true. In the fifth grade I started making awful, brassy noises that could only loosely be called “playing.” But, I learned about musical notation, which fingers to push down, tuning, breathing, and all the fundamentals needed to actually play a trumpet. It was often boring and time-consuming–and sometimes painful (you don’t know what buzzing your lips together in a small brass bowl can do to you until you have tried to do it for an hour straight).
In the ninth grade I started marching. Again, from the start it was not fit to be called “marching,” but, eventually, I learned about rolling my feet, the correct step size, proper instrument posture, and all of those fundamentals needed to perform the incredibly difficult task of marching (sometimes “jazz running,” which is as becoming as it sounds) while making music.
Again, from the start it was not fit to be called “marching,” but, eventually, I learned…to perform the incredibly difficult task of marching (sometimes “jazz running,” which is as becoming as it sounds) while making music.
I continued playing the trumpet in college, where I had to move on from those fundamentals into actually making music. You see, the progression of musical education was not necessarily toward performing more correctly, though that certainly is important and emphasized. The progression is toward developing musicians who are skilled enough to make reading and reproducing musical notation second nature so that they can focus on the art of music. And perhaps you have watched enough American Idol to know that just because a musician performs a piece of music accurately does not mean they have performed it well. Good music takes heart, creativity, and passion.
I never got that far in my musical education, as evidenced by my minimal accomplishments as a jazz trumpeter in high school and college. I could ad lib, but not very well since I was still stuck in the fundamentals. And, oddly enough, it sounds even worse when you miss notes while ad libbing than it does while playing written music.
My point, though, is that a maturing and growing musician must learn to move on from the fundamentals in such a way that they never leave them behind, but the music flows beyond those bounds, and is even enhanced by them. We have the same task, as Christians, in our musical worship.
The fundamentals may, in fact, be fundamental. But, correct worship is not the same thing as true worship.
When we go to scripture looking for the mechanics of correct worship we are learning the fundamentals. But, even when we get all the mechanics right, and are worshiping “correctly,” we could be missing the point entirely if we don’t learn the heart, spirit, and emotion of worship. Part of maturing as Christians is moving beyond the fundamentals in such a way that we never really leave them behind, but harness them to produce true worship (see Hebrews 5:11-6:2).
And this is where many of our discussions and studies of worship get derailed because they focus on when, where, how, and all the mechanics of worship. The fundamentals may, in fact, be fundamental. But, correct worship is not the same thing as true worship.