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THE ASAPH MUSIC LETTER
ENCOURAGING BELIEVERS TO SET AND MAINTAIN A BIBLICAL MUSIC STANDARD
To the chief musician and his choir
Vol. 2--No. 3--April 30, 2003
(Go easy on your eyes. Print this letter for a more enjoyable read.)
We trust this letter finds all our readers in good health and taking every opportunity available to serve our wonderful Lord!
The Easter season this year has been an especially blessed time as we have pondered more the reality of the risen Christ. Isn't it a glorious thing to be saved!
INTERVIEW WITH DOYLE ROBERTSON--Just prior to Easter, we were able to speak with Brother Doyle Robertson, who has been handling the musical end of things for traveling evangelists for many years now. Brother Robertson was kind to give us the following interview...
SB: Tell me where you are right now.
DR: We're in Stratton, Maine, at the Calvary Bible Church.
SB: Have you been there before?
DR: No, this is the first time. We're here with Greg Locke. He's in a revival meeting. We'll be here just through Wednesday night. Then we go down to Burnham, Maine, Burnham Baptist Church and be there all next week.
SB: One thing that probably a lot of people think about when they think about Doyle Robertson is how many years you've been at this. How do you stay everlastingly at it?
DR: I think it's the joys of the ministry that keep us going. I've always considered it a privilege to serve the Lord, obviously. That's the direction He's led us, so that's what keeps us going day by day.
We were about two weeks ago in a meeting, and it kind of brought it back to mind again. At the time of the invitation, a guy came forward in a wheelchair. This is one of the first times I remember this exact thing happening. I was singing the invitation song. Brother Locke kept giving his appeal. It was kind of winding down. As this man came around the corner, his wheelchair kind of got caught on the side of the bench. He worked and worked. It took him a couple of minutes, but he just kept coming.
He made it to the very front of the auditorium, right in front of the altar, and the pastor went to meet him. Slowly he kneeled down at the altar. He kind of half fell and half knelt, with the preacher helping him, and trusted Christ as his Saviour. He was probably about seventy years of age. When things like that happen, you say, "You know, this is really worth it." The Lord has kept us going. I would say that would be the thing: I enjoy the ministry.
SB: How many years have you been doing this?
DR: We started traveling in revival work in 1979. So it's going on 24 years now.
SB: What would you say is the biggest consideration involved in making the transition from Evangelist Bill Rice III to Evangelist Greg Locke?
DR: I don't know that there's that big a transition for us. Our ministry remains the same. I would view Brother Locke as being in a little bit different circle of churches. He's been in evangelism for only about 7 years, as contrasted with Brother Rice's being in it quite a bit longer. So we're in a little bit smaller churches with a little bit different flavor in the churches where we are. It would affect our ministry somewhat probably mainly in the area of choirs. We're used to having a little bit bigger choirs to work with.
The overall ministry remains about the same.
SB: Tell me about when you got saved.
DR: I grew up in a Christian home and very early became concerned about salvation. I can remember talking to my parents about it. What I remember as my first realization that I needed salvation was when a missionary came to our church when I was about five. He sat down on the couch with me and said, "Doyle, have you ever trusted Christ as your Saviour?"
I said, "No, I haven't." So I made a decision when I was young but really made certain of my salvation when I was 15. I had had doubts. Perhaps when you make a decision when you're young, sometimes Satan gets his foot in the door with doubts. But when I was 15, I settled it with the Lord and said, "If I've never trusted You before, I trust You right now," and gained assurance of my salvation.
SB: Amen. How was it that the Lord led you into music?
DR: I grew up in a musical family, especially on my mother's side. She played trumpet and other instruments. I'm the youngest of six. My older brothers had picked up the trumpet. I can remember when I was very young, just 4 or 5 years old, picking up a trumpet and trying to get a noise out of t, because it was there and the others were involved in it.
When I was in third and fourth grade, I got to where I could play hymns and simple arrangements of songs. My brother next to me is about 3 or 4 years older than I. He had had quite a bit of training in churches. We had kind of cut our teeth on the rescue mission. We sang as a family and had Bible studies at our house weekly, and singing was always a part of that.
SB: Where was this?
DR: Down in Alabama, in Mobile. Music was a big part of my life growing up. Whenever we went on vacation, we would always stop by a church. On Sunday when you bring in six kids, you make quite a difference in some of the churches, if they're small churches. They would hear us singing and say, "Hey, do you do special music?" So quite often we would do special music. My brother and I used to travel to some of the churches around the area and play our trumpets and sing. I played trumpet in high school.
As kind of a natural outgrowth of that, I started working at the Bill Rice Ranch and using my music there. Then I went to college and majored in music education. When I was working at the Ranch as a teenager, the Lord gave me a burden for the work. Later on when I graduated from college with a degree in music education, I felt the Lord leading me back to the Ranch.
When I first started there, Dr. Jim Stoutenborough was head of the music department, and I helped him and learned so much from him. I don't know if I could adequately express the influence he was on my life. He is a great man with a real servant's heart. So I helped him for several years and then kind of gradually worked into starting to travel with Dr. Rice.
I went to the Ranch in 1975 when I was out of college. In 1979 I started traveling with him and continued to develop in different areas. The Lord led step by step. He gave me a burden for it and an opportunity to get my training and start out early just as a youngster. When I look back on how the Lord has led step by step all the way, it's amazing to me. That's basically how it happened in my life.
SB: Are you a graduate of Tennessee Temple?
SB: Get a little philosophical on me here. In fundamental Baptist churches today, where is the music going, as you see it in all your travels?
DR: Fortunately, when we travel, I'm almost always in charge of the music, so sometimes I don't get a really clear picture of exactly where the church is. From my travels, music, even in our fundamental churches, is tending in a lot of places to head toward the contemporary Christian genre and more of a worldly sound of music.
That's not true of all churches. We're in quite a few churches that still hold the line and produce God-honoring music. Unfortunately, I think, over all, music, even in our fundamental churches, is getting very lax and heading toward the contemporary instead of the conservative maybe to make the flesh feel good but not accomplish what I believe the Bible says about what godly music should accomplish.
SB: Why is that?
DR: A couple of different things. One, I don't believe we have really strong Bible teaching out there. Preachers many times don't feel qualified to speak in the area of Christian music. A friend told me that a pastor told him, "I just kind of leave the music up to the musicians because I don't know that much about music."
But it's my contention that knowing right and wrong in the area of music is not a matter of being an expert at music but is a matter of biblical principles, just like anything else in our lives.
SB: I'm glad you brought that up. Can you expound on that a little bit? Let's say a person, pastor, whoever, has no music training. He finds himself in a position where he needs to lead a choir. He can sing. He has an ear for it. But he has no training. How can he stay on track?
DR: As far as music is concerned, the mechanics of it, obviously, the more he knows, the easier it's going to be. But as far as the philosophy of music is concerned, I don't think he needs to be an expert in music in order to understand Bible principles. I use the analogy of alcohol. You don't have to understand all about alcohol to realize it's wrong for a Christian to drink it. You don't have to understand how it's made. You don't have to understand all the ramifications of its effect and what it's doing to you, but you take Bible principles.
You don't hear preachers saying, "Well, I don't understand alcohol, so I'm not going to preach about it." But they tend to do that in the area of music. They say, "I don't understand it, so I'm not going to take a stand on it. I'm just going to let the musicians do what they want to do." It's my contention that, as they look into the Word of God and realize that it's Bible principle, not musical knowledge, that makes the difference, then they can stay on track, as far as the right kind of music and their music philosophy are concerned.
That's one reason I have a burden. I travel in evangelism with Brother Locke and do the music in revivals. But between revivals, we often go into churches, and I speak in the area of music. I don't approach that on the basis of "I¹m the music expert, so I can tell you right and wrong." I approach it on the basis of "Here's what the Bible says. Anybody can understand this as long as he gets his nose and mind in the Word of God."
As far as staying on track in the philosophy of music, if people will just understand and realize what the Word of God says, they'll have the right view. I think one of the most important principles to realize is the fact that the purpose of our music, as outlined in the Word of God, is to glorify God. In the Word of God, that is the thing that keeps appearing time and time and time again. Once somebody gets hold of that, it surely helps clear up the rest of the questions that he might have about what kind of music to use.
So many times people are wanting to use the worldly kind of music because they say, "Well, this is the kind that attracts the young people," or, "This kind of makes you feel good." But none of that fulfills the Bible purpose for music, so if we're going to stay biblically centered, we need to know what the Bible says, and the Bible says a lot about music. We need to make sure our music program is headed that way.
SB: You're saying, then, the problem or the major problem why music is strained is that the proper music is not taught.
DR: Right. I think so. It's just like any other area of our Christian walk. The answer is there in the Bible, but we're not giving the answers. I don't know if I can use the word "excuse," but sometimes I feel that's true. This is kind of "Doyle-ology" here. Our flesh likes the worldly kind of music. Flesh is flesh, whether it belongs to the preacher or the song leader or the congregation. Sometimes I think it's easy to overlook Bible principle because of the attitude, "Well, I enjoy this kind of music. It seems to me to be great, as long as we put some Christian words to it. That will salve my conscience because I know that it needs Christian words. As long as I can put Christian words to it, then I think it's going to be great--the flesh enjoys it."
Instead of looking to see what the Bible says about music, we hit a compromise there because we have the right words, but we're going to have the kind of music that people enjoy. To me, the question is not, What music do I enjoy? but, What does the Lord enjoy? If we look again at the Bible purpose of music, to bring honor and glory to God, then we have to realize that our music is going to have to be pleasing to Him, and the question is not whether it's pleasing us but whether it's pleasing God.
SB: What new products or projects do you have in mind? a CD? a songbook?
DR: We have a couple of things that are coming up. We have a couple of recordings already. Our family has an instrumental CD and a vocal CD. Then we're working currently on a project, a CD that should be out by this summer or fall. It will be entitled "Magnify Him." That will be the whole family, basically a vocal CD.
Then we're working on another project called "Prelude and Praise." It will be a songbook. It first started out as a project mainly for piano prelude or postlude music. It will be in hymn-style format. But the songs will be arranged according to key. Most songbooks might have them arranged according to subject matter, and the keys are all mixed up in the songbook. So as you're playing a prelude, a musician has to do a lot of changing of keys. Ifyou have an accomplished musician, that's fine. But a lot of the smaller churches that we're in seem to have a need for this new project, so we'll have the songs arranged in the order of keys so that a pianist can open it and play for ten or fifteen minutes in the same key or related key.
Within that also I have seen a need in many smaller churches basically to sing out of the hymnbook. Choir arrangements scare them to death. So within this book I¹m going to have suggested medleys for a choir like that. It will be good for anybody. Sometimes more accomplished choirs need to prepare a special quickly. It will be medleys within each of the key groups. For instance, if you're in the key of F, maybe you'll have two songs on the cross, two songs on grace, and have 25 or so suggested medleys throughout the book, with each medley all in one key. Hence, the name, "Prelude and Praise."
SB: When will that be out?
DR: I'm hoping sometime in the fall.
SB: That's great.
DR: It's hard to get a lot of things done while you have a busy traveling schedule, but we try to work on things as we can.
SB: You're gone how many weeks out of the year?
DR: It would probably be easier to say how much I'm home. It probably averages about six weeks out of the year that I'm home. That would be 46 weeks out. That includes during the summer. We stay up at Camp Chetek. It will be our fifth summer up there at Camp Chetek.
SB: Is this for the whole summer?
DR: Right. For all their camp weeks. Usually I'm there toward the latter part of May through the first week of August, then occasionally back up for a retreat or something like that.
SB: Well, Doyle, it's been a pleasure talking with you.
DR: I appreciate your doing this.