TRANSCRIPT Episode 6: Singing –tuning your heart

transcript accessibility accessible adam curtis leah sax Delight Podcast for new Christians and encouragement for others with Adam Curtis and Leah sax

Leah Sax:
Welcome to Delight Podcast season two, we are back. Whoo whoo. I’m Leah. I’m Leah Sax and this is Adam Curtis,

Adam Curtis:
Hey! And it’s absolutely incredible that we are back for season two because we were just not expecting this. We thought Delight Podcast this would just be a one season thing. Me Leah, interviewing a few of our friends will have a bit of a laugh. We’ll put it out there and then people actually started listening.

Leah Sax:
I know actually started listening, sharing, responding, and then we were like, Oh, maybe we should continue with this. So we prayed about it. Chatted to some wise people about it. And now we have a whole little season twi for you, and we are so excited to share it with you. We have some amazing guests such wisdom and I can’t wait.

Adam Curtis:
And the first one of our absolutely stellar top quality amazing guests is Ben Slee.

Leah Sax:
Ben Slee is music pastor at Christ Church, Mayfair and a songwriter. His husband to Sarah and dad to Abi and Elijah, and also happens to be a very good friend of mine. He is going to be chatting to us today about singing.

Leah Sax:
So today on Delight Podcast, we have Ben Slee as our guest, and perhaps it goes without saying that I’m very excited about today’s topic singing and it’s very close to my heart and as such we have invited, frankly, one of my closest friends to be our guest today. Ben, welcome to Delight Podcast.

Ben Slee:
Well, thank you. You are very close to my heart as well. So I am glad to be here. I mean you too Adam, but mainly Leah

Adam Curtis:
Say it how it is! Know how is put me down

Ben Slee:
No, not put you down at all. It’s lovely. It’s really lovely. Thank you so much for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this. This is going to be great.

Leah Sax:
I’m excited. I’m excited about having on the podcast for ages. But before we get to our topic of singing. Ben, would you tell us a little bit about how you came to faith?

Ben Slee:
I have the privilege of having wonderful Christian mum and dad, and I remember when I was about four years old, I was feeling really guilty for something I’d done at school. And I remember my mum sitting on my bed with me is like visibly Remember this. I think it’s something that the Lord preserves in our minds some of these precious stories. I remember her telling me, Jesus can take your guilt away. I remember her saying that and I remember her praying with me. And so I think I became a Christian then I think I trusted in Jesus Then. It’s hard, sometimes hard to pinpoint a point when you are when you grow up in a Christian home. But that, for me, was a really significant moment. And since then, I think through all sorts of different joys and difficult things as well, God has kept me and been faithful and grown me. Another significant time for me was when I was about 15 who went to a sort of youth meeting. Lots of churches together in the area had a youth meeting and just really struck to take this faith on, you know, for myself in in an even deeper way. I remember the illustration of that thought was something like into our sort of humanness. We’ve had this downloaded onto our hard drive, if you like. We’ve had this this thing called sin, and it’s turned us away from God and each other. And now Jesus has come and wiped this clean. And it just it just something clicked there for me that really made me want to take my faith even more seriously and really, really pursue following Jesus.

Leah Sax:
And when you talk about that, that meeting that really kind of encouraged you to take things forward, were there any changes? What did taking your faith forward look like?

Ben Slee:
I think it meant at school. I want people to know Jesus. I want to live as someone who is different. I think I want to be OK with that because actually, you know, I want to point other people to him.

Leah Sax:
And do you feel like you were able to do that in school?

Ben Slee:
This is the amazing thing about our school. We had a Christian union, which is set up by youth leaders in the area and things, and sort of run in-house by the students. As you might imagine, I was doing quite a lot of music. Things know where I know, right?

Leah Sax:
You a trombone player back in the day, right?

Ben Slee:
I was and I was in the choir as well, and it just happened. This is all about the time that my voice was breaking and I thought, Okay, I think I would take a break from the choir while that sorts itself out. And I went and made sure I was part of the crew each week and then sort of over time sort of became more involved and ended up kind of having a role in leading that and teaching the Bible to other students and things. And then I picked up a guitar around that time and started leading music in our youth group, which, to be honest with you, was awful. The first time I did it, I can store it. There’s actually still photos of that, which I hope.

Leah Sax:
Ben Why was it awful?

Ben Slee:
Well, I didn’t know what I was doing. I think for a start, everyone was very kind, and my youth leader particularly was very encouraging. And for some reason, let me do it again. But I’m sure that it was it was less than helpful in some ways. I look back now, but in God’s kindness, he wasn’t finished with me. And that was that was a good thing. And my youth leader was, who was musical himself is very encouraging and helpful and kind of shaped me and mentored me and taught me, as have a few others since then. And yes, I think I’m slightly better now. Hopefully, hopefully more useful.

Leah Sax:
You said God wasn’t finished with you. So what did he do next?

Ben Slee:
Well, so I ended up so I was leading, Leading in the youth group, leading music there started leading a church services as well. About that time, I actually ended up taking over leadership of the youth group. I was probably about 19. It’s that sounds a lot worse than it was. They were a bit younger than me, most of them. So I started teaching the Bible. Just after that, I became an apprentice at our church. This is all home church in Southeast London spent two years learning how to teach people the Bible and keeping doing ministry things. And there after that, which is where I met my wife, Sarah. We were interns together.

Leah Sax:
Fabulous, Sarah.

Yeah, Fabulouse Sarah, Absolutely. We we got married at the end of those two years and we moved to Christ Church Mayfair, which is where I have got to know the wonderful Leah and where I’ve been the music pastor for seven years. If you can believe that

Leah Sax:
Ben has it all been plain sailing?

Ben Slee:
No, it hasn’t. No, it definitely hasn’t. In a kind of normal Christian life sense, like in many ways, I feel I feel really blessed to, you know, I don’t think in many ways I’ve really had lots of hard things to to sort of bear for Jesus in lots of ways. But the normal Christian things, you know, doubts fears about various things. Yes, some tricky moments trading, spiritual learning lots of things and getting lots of things wrong. And so all those kind of normal really normal, which feel quite big deal at the time kind of things where you know, Oh, am I a Christian? You know, those kinds of worries and things. And I think the decisive thing for me has been people really just being patient with me, loving me and pointing me to Jesus in the Bible. So again, it’s not something hugely dramatic in one sense, but but people just being with me, loving me, and over time, my confidence in Jesus has really grown. I remember I remember when I first started as an intern.

Leah Sax:
Yeah,

Ben Slee:
I was looking at some sort of theology things for the first time. I guess I’d grown up in church and had lots of the words and things, but I never really kind of grappled with with things deeply before. And we got to the point where we were talking about how God chooses us, rather than in one sense, we choose God. And you know what? I spent about a month absolutely terrified because I think the basis of my confidence has always been well I’ve chosen God, haven’t I?

Ben Slee:
Which in one sense is kind of true, isn’t it like we do? We do make a choice to follow Jesus. But but in an ultimate sense, actually, that was that was God’s work in me, enabling me to do that. And so I was thinking, Gosh, well, if you look at my my life, I’m not perfect. I how you know, if I look at the fruit of my life, how do I know that I’m really a Christian? Oh, my goodness. And it was over that course that month where I was so loved and shown the Bible and showing Jesus more that I realised. But that’s a wonderful thing that God’s got me. And it’s always it’s always presented like that in the Bible, isn’t it? It’s never a thing to cause us fear that God has chosen us rather than than we’ve chosen him. In the most profound sense, it’s always there to comfort us and say, God has got you. There is nothing going to take you away from him. So even even as a normal Christian, but also as a minister in one sense, I’ve we’ve all had our ups and downs and God has got us use lots of different people to to point me to Jesus and and give me confidence in him above above myself, really I think.

Leah Sax:
And in that transition to kind of, you know, doing music at school and then it kind of becoming your job, your role, pastoring people with and through and by music. Can you tell us one or two things that got us really taught to you in that role and how that has interwoven with your kind of personal relationship with Christ?

Ben Slee:
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think I’ve realised as I’ve gone on that it depends a lot less upon me than I thought it did. I suppose, I suppose God’s got bigger in my thinking. I’ve got smaller in what in some ways, which is probably a good direction. Things to go now. Yes. Given that is in fact true, I guess. I guess I mean by that we can focus so much and probably in a bit when we talk about singing, we’re going to focus quite a lot on the stuff that we do. We’re going to focus on, you know, how can we do this well and what’s what’s the purpose of it and all that sort of thing. And that’s good. We should we should think about that. But I think I think more and more has been impressed is the ultimate reality Lies with God like God causes people together. God call his people to himself, and he’s amazing because he uses people like me to do good to his people, hopefully. But it doesn’t depend on me, and sometimes God works in spite of us. So I think one sort of journey I’ve been on in that sense is actually no God has got this. He’s the one who cares for his people more than I could ever care for his people. At the end of the day, it’s down, it’s down to him. And as much as it’s important, I do everything I can possibly do to to serve him, honour him and serve his people and love them well. They’re his people and he’ll he’ll have his way and and blessed in the way that he wants to.

Leah Sax:
We’d love for you to check out our website at http://www.DelightPodcast.com There you can find transcripts of each episode, more detailed show notes and a blog on singing, which actually this week is written by me. We’d love for you to rate, subscribe and share and if you wish. Review Delight Podcast It makes a big difference and helps others find us more easily. You can, of course, follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Just search Delight Podcast now back over to Adam as he chats to Ben about singing.

Adam Curtis:
It could be said that churches are the kings of emotional manipulation. Often they’re very impressive buildings. It could be a huge organ and a robed choir or a very modern sort of band and and nice lighting. And then you’ll get a charismatic speaker on stage and just tears in people’s eyes, and they’re giving their lives to Jesus. Like, isn’t singing just like emotional manipulation? Is that is that all it is? What would you say to that?

Ben Slee:
Yeah, it’s a good question. It shouldn’t be, is what I would say to that. Think about manipulation. Essentially, that is having no control or influence over someone in a dishonest way or you’re altering the way that things are presented to mislead people. And I guess in the context of church, you might you’re causing people to feel something that they can’t maybe later explain. And so that, you know, gets in a meeting. It’s like, that was amazing. That was great. Ok, what was great? Uhhh, I don’t know. It was just really great. It can be a sign of this, right? And actually, I I actually love this question despite its appearance as an aggressive question, it isn’t really because actually, what I love about this question is that it means that we can get into what music is about, why we do this right? So and it gets to the heart of that. So so the goal that we see in the Bible, there’s more to say than this. But one of the places I go to a lot with people is Colossians 3:16 that we want the message of Christ to dwell in us richly as we sing. It’s sort of two parts to that, right? So you’ve got the message. I mean, that’s the gospel, right? So that’s the story about Jesus that Jesus is the glorious God that we have turned away from.

Ben Slee:
Instead of just punishing us like we deserve, he he comes, and he lives the perfect life that we can never live. He dies in our place. He adopts us as God’s children, and then he rose again in Victory, and he’s going to come again to bring us to enjoy God forever. That’s the gospel, in a nutshell. That’s the message of Christ. And what we’re told to do in this verse is to let that dwell richly in us as we sing. So, so yes, that is our minds. But it’s more than that. It’s our body and our soul. It’s our whole being. We want that to sort of resonate with this gospel. And music’s really able to help us with that. So I mean, I think we get this. It helps us to remember words, doesn’t it often words we don’t want to remember if we’re honest, but also some that we do, and music can really help us with that. I mean, even to the point where we might not always remember, OK, what were the three points from the sermon last Sunday? I mean, have a think now. If you were at church on Sunday, can you remember? I mean, you might preach them, Adam, so it might be different in your case?Or maybe it isn’t.

Adam Curtis:
And I’ve still forgotten.

Ben Slee:
Yeah, there you go. Well, you might remember the song you sang or one of the songs you sang. In that sense, it’s really helpful to helping us remember things. But but more than that, as well as engaging our minds actually music, helps us to, I love the phrase, It helps to feel the truth. Help us to feel the truth and by that, I guess, I mean, we respond to what we’ve heard from the Bible with God honouring emotions like that respond to to the truth of the gospel in a right way and and actually singing helps us cultivate those emotions as well. So it actually shapes us as we sing. So I would say music can be used in a way. Let’s avoid that. But I’m saying it shouldn’t be manipulation if it’s rooted in the gospel of Jesus and actually all of our musical creativity and and choices are there to serve that goal. And the goal is to just show people Christ. In fact, when Paul is talking about his ministry, not about music specifically, but generally about kind of showing people Christ in this is in 2 Corinthians Chapter 4. He actually says to them, We have renounced secret and shameful ways. We don’t use deception or distort the word of God. And why does it do that? Well, because his ministry is all about showing people Jesus, that should be our goal. Those of us who lead music or when we’re in church and we’re singing together, we’re all part of this together. The goal is not per say, an emotional experience or to manipulate people, whip people up or anything like that. The goal is to behold Jesus and music helps us do that in a really powerful, unique way that that gets real deep into us and and shapes us for God’s glory.

Adam Curtis:
Oh OK, can we push into something you’ve just said that you talked about how music helps us feel the truth and music shapes us? What why does why does music shape us? How does music shape us?

Ben Slee:
Because of that nature of getting deeply into our hearts and minds, it music grabs us in a way that they’re often things don’t actually drives it even deeper, more deeply into us. It kind of grips our souls, really. I think that’s what it’s getting at with that dwell Richly phrase, really in that verse in Colossians. When we’ve got music coupled to the truth that can be hugely powerful. This is why it really matters what we sing, right? Because we want it to be pointing to Jesus. We want it to be the truth about Jesus. It’s got to be the word, the message about Christ, that’s dwelling in us. But so long as that is true, what it’s doing is taking that incredibly powerful spirit authored truth, and it’s driving it right into the centre of who we are. So in that sense, we’re not changed by music per say, but we’re changed by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the word of God as it gets right down deep into us through the gift of God’s grace. That is music.

Leah Sax:
And I love that you say it’s the gift of God’s grace because music is a gift, isn’t it? Is. You know, we have a whole book, sorry I am totally butting in. But I’m so excited by what you’re encouraging us with Ben, and we have got a whole book of songs in the Bible. I mean, there’s a reason God gave us music, and I love that the Old Testament people respond to great acts of God through music and song. I’m going to stop talking now, Adam, and let you ask the next question, but I’m just excited,

Ben Slee:
no That’s great. And just to pick up on something there Leah if I can. Just, if you look through all of the Bible, what’s the kind of default response. Whenever God does some incredible in in redemptive history like he, you know, the exodus and he parts the waters and they all walk through things like that. You always see, what’s the response of God’s people? What’s their go through response? It’s singing with joy, and you see that all the way through, all the way through into the New Testament, there’s some hidden hymns in there. Philippians 2 is a good example. It’s a that’s probably a song that they sang about Jesus in response to the cross and Resurrection. So absolutely, that’s that’s it’s always been the default response of God’s people. Seeing a fresh expression of God’s grace leads us to fresh expressions of his praise.

Adam Curtis:
I don’t have a question on the back of that, but I just love that statement.

Ben Slee:
It’s pretty cool, isn’t it? I mean, it’s like hardly it just is just just right there in the Bible. You know that’s not a word for word quote of a verse, but you know, you just see it. You get it again. And it’s amazing is that you go through the Bible and you see that. That’s what I guess. We get that in the Psalms and in Revelation. You get this thing about to sing a new song to the Lord. Well, why do we really need any more new songs? Well, yeah, because because when we see more of God’s grace, it just demands it from us that we it makes us want to sing.

Adam Curtis:
Can you say that Ben like Ok, we see God’s grace, and it makes us want to sing like some people might like, Shoot back is like, Well, that’s because you’re a good singer. You were in the choir as a boy, you’re fine your voice is lovely. What about for that person who is like, I hear myself sing and I sound like a like a cat being strangled? What would you say to that person, Who’s like, Oh, I’m just a terrible singer. Do I really have to do this?

Ben Slee:
Well, my short and less helpful answer is, Well, yeah, you do have to do it because it says so. That’s really, really unhelpful. You know, you get like Psalm 47:6 sing praises. Oh God, sing praises, sing praises, talking sing praises. It’s hard to get out of it then, isn’t it? Anyway, that’s the not so helpful answer. Here’s the more helpful answer. Look at what happens when you sing. Just look at what happens is here’s a few examples, right? So back to that verse in Colossians, when you sing God’s Word Dwells in you richly and actually not just you, because the point of that verse there is that you sing to one another and to God, there’s both directions they’re going on, so actually God’s word dwells in other people richly as well. When you see, that’s a pretty powerful thing, isn’t it? Another verse, Leah will have heard me say this a lot. This is something I go to with our music team a lot because it’s

Leah Sax:
We’re very thankful you go to it.

Ben Slee:
Well, you know where I’m going already? 2 Corinthians 3, the end of that chapter Paul’s talking about his ministry. And again, it’s not about music specifically, but this definitely applies. So he says, we all behold the Lord’s glory, and we’re being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the spirit now, and he goes on to say later, Where do we see this glory? He says it’s in the face of Jesus Christ. Now what that’s saying there is, as we behold, Jesus, which is what we’re doing when we’re singing. The spirit is powerfully at work to transform us to be more like Jesus, that’s what that verse is saying. So as we sing to one another. That’s what God is at work doing. And so this is what I say to the music team, I say just grasp the significance of that just for a moment. So you’re say you’re on the music team this Sunday, and you know, it’s all the normal things and you get there early and you’re trying to set up and the cables don’t work and, you know, all that sort of thing. Very typical experience. Very ordinary. But here’s the spiritual dimension behind that. Imagine this one day when we get to heaven, someone you might not even know walks up to you. They were there this Sunday when you were on music and they say to you, I walked into church that day. I was ready to give up on Jesus. I just I just can’t do this anymore. The way you led that song pointed me to Jesus. The way that you pointed to Jesus, the spirit used that and ministered to me. And he kept me going. And now I’m here and we’re in heaven together forever. Now that’s the kind of eternal significance that we can see in this. It’s a really powerful thing. And that’s true of you. If you’re in the congregation and you think, how did you put it, your voice is like a cat being ironed or something, That’s worse, isn’t it?

Adam Curtis:
It is worse.

Ben Slee:
Well, even even if it is that bad and actually, you know what? Here’s another one for you. People can be brought to know Jesus for the first time. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul’s talking there about the gathering of the church, and he says, When you all come together and you prophesy, which I would take to mean speaking about Jesus saying the truth about Jesus, this unbeliever comes in and falls down and says, God is truly amongst you, and they’ve become a Christian like that on the spot. And you think, Wow, do we believe that could happen when we sing as church? That’s what we’re doing. We’re speaking the truth about Jesus together. We’re singing the truth about Jesus together. Well, I want to say to someone who doesn’t feel that they’ve got a brilliant voice, well, does that excite you? You and others become more like Jesus. His word dwells in you, and people can even become Christians. And and actually, you know, it is not one of those is about quality of your voice. Right. So Jesus is far more concerned that your heart is in tune with him than how good a vocalist you are. And I often say to our musicians, it’s not the X Factor I’ve checked, there’s no buttons underneath the chairs, there are no big red x is above the stage. You’re not here to perform, you’re here to to lead people in an authentic response of worship to who he is. I want to say to them, Look, doesn’t that make you want to sing? Doesn’t the gospel make you want to sing? And seeing how God uses that and works through you to service people and build you all up together? That’s an amazing thing. Even if you know you don’t have the best voice in the world, you can still do an amazing like work. God would do amazing work through you as you sing together with God’s family.

Adam Curtis:
Oh, that’s quite an encouragement there to know that you might have a voice with a cat being ironed and the Lord can still use it for his glory.

Ben Slee:
No animals were harmed in the making of this podcast.

Adam Curtis:
Ben, you’ve given us an incredibly beautiful and high view vision of music and of singing like just picking up some of your phrases like, through it people come to know Jesus as we sing, we’re beholding Jesus. We’re being transformed into him. Are there such things as good songs and bad songs, their songs which are going to be more helpful in in transforming us?

Ben Slee:
Oh yeah, absolutely. The question is, how do you think about which are good and which are bad? Come back to the goal again that we see in scripture. It’s the the word of Christ dwell in us richly. So I think there can be all sorts of different kinds of good and bad songs. I think if there’s a song that tells you the truth about Jesus. That’s probably good if it tells you something that’s not true about Jesus. That’s not going to be good, because remember, we’ve said like the power of music to drive these truths into us. You don’t be driving rubbish into you. That could be really damaging someone. I think it’s theologian called Gordon Fee has said, Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology. And his point there is what are you sing actually shapes what you believe. And so you’ve got to make sure that it’s it’s true and it’s about this message about Jesus and what he’s done and who he is. So I guess a bad song could be a song that tells you something that’s not true about Jesus or isn’t very clear about what Jesus has done. But also there’s the other element of dwelling in you richly. And if it’s just insanely complicated and it goes up down around the houses all over the place and uses confusing words that you don’t understand. Yeah, that’s probably not going to help you a whole lot, either, because if you.

Ben Slee:
If you can’t remember it even as a total non-musician, if you’ve sung it a few times ago, I have no idea how this song goes. Maybe it’s not doing its job and getting the gospel into you into richly, I guess, the best songs they fit, like an old slipper. It just feels like you’ve been here before, but not in a kind of familiar. Oh, it’s really trite. Every song sounds the same kind of way, but in a kind of this is fresh, but it feels intuitive. I think is probably the word I’d use, and I can I can sort of go with the grain of it. That’s a sort of big picture view. But yes, there’s definitely songs that will be more encouraging and build us up if they’re telling us about the truth about Jesus. Does it make you want to sing about Jesus? I think is the other other question there, isn’t it? And does it help you to do that? So. So there’s definitely good or bad songs out there.

Leah Sax:
And Benjy, you’re a songwriter. When you were writing your own music, just as a small aside. Sorry I’ve interrupted you again, Adam. Are there specific biblical goals and musical goals you have when you’re writing your own stuff?

Ben Slee:
Yeah, that’s a really good question. On the sort of biggest level I’ve always wanted to come down to, like, I want this to be be true about Jesus. I want it to be a fresh expression of that. I don’t want to just say something that someone else has already said I want. I want to help the church to sing. I want people of all musical abilities or none to be able to engage with this and sing it and sort of get this really sort of pumping in their hearts and their minds as well. Those are the sorts of things that I’m hoping to see, and I want it to be memorable. I want people to be able to go, Oh yeah, I remember that. So I want I want it to be creative and fresh in a way that takes us deeper into the ancient truths of the Bible that helps us to go deeper into what God has revealed. So I’m not making new stuff up, but I’m helping people see it in a fresh way. The best songs and hymns, all like through the history of the church, have done that. Yeah, hopefully trying to be part of that.

Leah Sax:
So we’ve seen about the real importance of song choice and how it is important to sing the word the truth of the gospel in praise, in response to the Lord and to our church fam. I mean, frequently what I hear is, Oh, the band are really good or my goodness that drummer was terrible or what was going on about that singer. Are there things that make a good or bad kind of band/AV team, whatever you’d like to call it.

Ben Slee:
Yes. So this is the thing we sort of touched on this at the beginning. Ultimately, this is God’s work, and he works through us. But there are things we can do to be more helpful or less helpful. That is definitely the case because he works through means and he uses us. However big your team is, it might just be you in your church. You might have a few people on your team. We want to come back to that goal of what is it that we’re trying to do? What in the Bible helps us see that. If I were to have advice for musicians and music teams, I think I want to start by saying, OK, well, first of all, be humbled and amazed by how significant this ministry can be, and we’ve talked a bit about that already. We get to be a part of this. That’s amazing. That means we need to take it seriously. We need to think these things through. It really matters what we do, but also realise how dependent we are. We can’t do anything without the Holy Spirit, like our music, can’t change people in a kind of moral way. We can’t see people saved through our music or strengthened or people who are suffering finding hope in Jesus. That’s through the gospel and that’s the spirit’s work. But amazingly, at the same time, he uses us through the means of grace that is singing together in church to do that.

Ben Slee:
So I think what I say to you, first of all, just recognise how amazing it is that we get to be part of this significant thing. But but also be really humbled by that. I think I’d say as well. We want to let the lens of everything we do come down to that basic principle of, OK, how do I get this word into these people? So I think I think sometimes there’s a temptation to kind of look at stuff on YouTube or like recordings on Spotify and things and kind of imitate them. And actually, I don’t think that’s the most helpful thing because what about your people? It comes down to this as ministry, we need to know the people who we’re serving, who we’re leading. Lots of them will be non-musicians. We need to think about what’s going to serve them, like what kind of instruments, how you use your instrument, those sorts of things. What’s going to really build up these people right in front of me right here? And that kind of leads them to another thing, which is just understanding what our role is. I think the thing I most want to emphasise to music teams and music leaders is is we’re there for clear leadership. That’s the big thing. So quality is important. So quality is a part of this, but there’s a purpose to it.

Ben Slee:
So. Bob Kauflin, who’s from Sovereign Grace Music, I’ve often heard him say we want to be the best musicians we can be for the sake of the church. We want to help lead them into singing. Or John Piper’s got a phrase undistracting excellence, which is one of our sort of real core values that the church really and I serve. And what he means by that is we don’t want to distract people from the substance of who Jesus is, either by shoddy ministry as in it’s so bad, like it’s so out of tune, it’s so loud or quiet that we’re just thinking about that, that that’s that’s not distracting excellence. But we don’t want it to be like, have excessive finesse where, you know, everyone’s doing all these like massive runs and everyone’s going, Wow, the music is incredible. I don’t wanna be too harsh to people who say that they’re just trying to be encouraging, right? But we don’t want that to be the sort of overwhelming essence of everything we do is the music sounds great because we want it to be undistracting excellence. We want to point to Jesus with everything we do. I want to say to any music teams or musicians who are listening. The goal is to get your congregation singing. That’s what we’re about, because that’s how that truth is dwelling in people. And that means some really practical things.

Ben Slee:
If I may get ever so slightly technical, one moment. We want the range of a congregation…

Leah Sax:
Please do Ben…

Ben Slee:
I thought you’d be up for it. Adam, you can tell me if this is this is makes no sense. But for a musician like think about the congregation’s range, I think we’ve all experienced it even if we’re not musicians, because sometimes it’s too low and the blokes can’t sing because it’s down here. And then quite often it’s too high and the ladies are like, I’m just can’t get there. But if we’re sitting between kind of an A below middle C up to a D, that’s a pretty safe range. We want to be doing things like leading people in clearly like making eye contact with people. Yes, I know they can be a bit weird sometimes, but just, you know, look at them and engage them and get them and bring them into the songs. It just serves them so that they’re thinking about not all. Where do I start coming in here? We’re thinking about how great Jesus is in the song and as well, I know the things. We want to lead people emotionally, if I can put it that way. We each have our own temperament, it’s going to look really different. But what is it like for you to model a kind of authentic response to the gospel? We don’t want to communicate that the gospels dull or uninteresting or isn’t as powerful as we claim it is In the words we sing because we look utterly bored were missing the words.

Ben Slee:
Be humbled, amazed by what we get to do. Make everything about how to get the word to dwell in the people that you’re leading and just think about some really simple leadership practises that will help you to to lead people. You don’t have to be the best musician in the world. You don’t have to know all the chords and play all the things. But in fact, sometimes it’s better to do things simply for the sake of being able to lead people in clearly and help them feel secure so that they can just soar and go off and sing. I think as far as the music team is kind of in accord with those principles, and that can be the difference between a good team that’s there to serve or or maybe a team that loves its own sound and isn’t really too worried about people singing. That’s a real shame from what we see in the Bible. Actually, the emphasis is there on the most important instrument, I suppose, is the congregation. There’s some thoughts on musicians if there are any listening, if they’re not a slightly pointless, but there again, I’m sure many musicians in your church, maybe they should listen to that bit.

Adam Curtis:
Oh no, I hope there are musicians listening because that’s just so helpful. So changing our focus a little bit onto that regular congregation sort of member. We’ve heard a real strong vision about the importance of singing on a Sunday singing. Singing thus feels too important just to be a Sunday activity. How do we push singing into the rest of the week or does it not have a place there?

Ben Slee:
Oh, no, I think it absolutely does. There’s a few ways that we can do that. Some churches do sort of still print service sheets and stuff we do because this actually part of the reason is we would love people to take them home with you and sing it through a few that do that at our church. If you’re really not sure where to find good resource and that, I’m sure, ask your church leaders, I’m sure they’ll be able to point you to some of the songs that you sing as a church. Gather the family around or the flatmates and or the friends of your home group and sing through these out. But it’s just something we do as a little family devotional time. So Sarah and I have two kids with Abi, who’s nearly three, and Elijah, who’s nearly one. We have our little devotional times at the end of each day. And I say Abi because she’s the only one who’s old enough to understand what I’m saying. Abi, what

Leah Sax:
Sarah’s old enough to understand as well?

Ben Slee:
Yeah, sorry. Sorry, Sarah to Be really clear, Sarah. I just yes. Yes, that’s that’s a good point. Yes. Sarah too understands yes. Anyway, I’ll say Abi, which song would you like to sing to Jesus tonight? And we’ve got a little group of about 10 or so songs that she can get a bit of chorus or something, and she chooses the the song and we sing it together. And then we also have something called her her night night hymn, which is an old hymn which my parents used to sing to me, which is called Jesus Tender Shepherd. Hear me and we sing that every night as we put her to bed. Little things like that. I mean, as well as, you know, having good Christian music and by good, I mean, all the stuff we’ve already said playing in the home or whatever on your running playlist

Adam Curtis:
I Feel like there might be someone listening to this who is like, Oh, I’d love to teach 10 songs to my to my little ones. I love to know 10 songs, but in reality I go into church and I don’t know any of this music. This is all just so new to me. What sort of advice would you give to that person?

Ben Slee:
I think the first thing is just what to do in the moment. Like, you’re in church and you don’t know the song what you do. But then there’s also the kind of like, how do I grow in learning. When we’re in church it can still do us great good. And so I would encourage people to look. If you don’t know how the tune goes, you don’t if it goes up or down or sideways or whatever. I think we can still take those opportunities to pray and thank God for the truth that we see there and just kind of have a look at the words and think about them and focus on and go, Wow, this is this is amazing. And hopefully, again, if they’re good words about Jesus at that point is to him and go, Wow, this is amazing. This is true and wonderful, and just kind of absorb the sound of all your brothers and sisters around you singing their hearts out to Jesus. And, you know, have a little look around the room and you’ll see people, you know and you’ll know their lives and you’ll know the good things they go through and the hard things they go through.

Ben Slee:
And actually seeing them sing in a way is profound encouragement. It really is. In fact, some of the most precious times of singing I can think of have been with people who have really suffered and struggled. But they want to praise Jesus and worship him with great joy. And actually that ministers to me so much because such an encouragement say, even if we don’t actually know where the song goes, that can be a helpful thing in the moment just to pray through those words and and just kind of absorb and be encouraged by those around us. And all the while, I guess we want to learn, learn how they do go. And I guess again, taking the service sheets home and asking your church leaders, Hey, where can I get my hands on some versions of songs that we do? I think the big thing I’d say as well is, don’t worry, you’ll get their music, as we’ve said, has this nature of getting in us and over time you will get them OK.

Adam Curtis:
Thinking about someone else you might be might be listening in to this and be like, Ben I Love singing, if I think it’s amazing, but when I go to church, I just don’t like the music there, and it just it’s just I just find it quite a painful experience. Any words of wisdom for that person?

Ben Slee:
Yeah, that’s a hard place to be, isn’t it? I guess firstly, we’re we’re part of a church family. One of the guys who I’m greatly indebted to and trained me used to have the picture that church services are a bit like Christmas dinner in that when you have Christmas dinner, you’re together for the sake of being a family and no one has their ideal meal. Although some people would rather sit in front of the telly and some people would rather have burger and chips or whatever. But for the sake of being together, we come together. And church is a bit like that in that no one has quite their ideal situation. They’re all things we’d like to do differently and change. But we come together to be together as a family. So I guess there’s that’s more sort of helps us in our kind of disposition of heart as we go on a Sunday. Praying Lord, you know how I’m struggling with music right now at church? Help me to love my brothers and sisters. I guess I would say participate in the singing with great joy, because actually, these truths are still true when the musical wheels come off and it’s all a bit rubbish. Musically speaking, if we’re singing truth about Jesus, Jesus is still that good. We want our response the way we engage in singing, not to be determined by the means ultimately, but by the saviour who who brought us together. And that’s hard. That’s not an easy thing to do. You know, that’s not to negate anything we’ve just said about working really hard to do it well, and it might be that someone listening to this is a total non musician. It might be that they’re quite musical. I guess I’d want to say if your musical get in there and serve like, say, if you can come alongside and help. And I’m sure there’s lots of training and resources that we can point people to,

Leah Sax:
We will in the show notes.

Ben Slee:
Yeah, I was going to say in the show notes. I’m not in charge of those, Leah’s in charge

Leah Sax:
They’ll be in the show notes!

Ben Slee:
Well in that case I can vouch for them. They’ll be excellent. So, yes, maybe direct people there to ways that they themselves can grow and they might be able to encourage their music teams. Often people serving in music teams, it could be a hard job. And so we want to encourage them and help them and equip them and actually Often people would be so keen to have a bit of help, either someone else on a Sunday, getting involved or even just knowing where to look for for good things to help them.

Adam Curtis:
Wow, what an absolutely massive vision of music, Ben just gave us. If we thought that the songs we sing on Sunday were just there to sort of like fill time. This like squashes any of that. It’s Truth, which is going to shape us. It’s truth, which is that we’re going to feel like it’s to God, it’s to one another. It’s to our own hearts, it’s to the the lost who might be in the building. That is just incredible.

Leah Sax:
Yeah, our goal is to behold Jesus. And that’s just so much more than just coming along and having it like a little sing song. Like there’s something God is at work when we sing and the word of God is dwelling in us richly. Which I must say when I’m tired and I’m just singing songs, I know really well and I become quite stale. It’s quite humbling to remember, and it’s I must say it also slightly rebuking. You’ve got to come into a Sunday. Sorry, not a Sunday. The whole week we just talked about this!!!!

Adam Curtis:
Your whole Week!

Leah Sax:
haha!! I feel I should know this. I’m the one that’s on the Music Team!

Adam Curtis:
We’re not just Sunday Christians here Leah!

Leah Sax:
Yes. Yes, I’m so sorry. It’s a completely different way of thinking about it, isn’t it? And just knowing thatL be expectant.

Adam Curtis:
Yes, be expectant because this matters. This has spiritual weight and significance. Be expectant. Boom.

Leah Sax:
Ben we like to ask our guests one bonus question as a surprise, and for season 2, our question is who has encouraged you most in your faith?

Ben Slee:
I think that the all encompassing category of the people who have shared their life, as well as what they believe with me, which is a cheeky way of getting in about five or six people. But but from parents to youth leaders to my wife to friends, dear friends like Leah. The thing that I’ve really appreciated from each of them is they point me to Jesus, but they do so in a real way when they share, their life as well. And it’s all done in the context of real deep community.

Leah Sax:
Thank you so much to Ben Slee for being our guest on episode six of Delight Podcast. We can’t wait to be with you again next week for episode seven of Delight Podcast when we’ll be exploring the topic of evangelism with a fabulous Caz Dodds. Do join us. This is Adam and Leah Delightfully signing off. Bye.

Adam Curtis:
Bye bye.

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