The Scripture says, “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 3:8). These are the words of the Apostle Paul to the church at Thessalonica. They reflect the heartbeat of the great church-planting Apostle concerning the churches he established. In his absence, the greatest monument of gratitude for his investment in their lives was their steadfastnesses in the midst of tribulation (I Thes. 3:4-7), their charity (I Thes. 3:6), their faith (I Thes. 3:6), their testimony (I Thes. 1:8), and their anticipation of Christ’s return (I Thes. 1:10). No wonder the Apostle John said, “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” (III John 3-4)
Great men have children, and what brings those great men joy is that those same children walk in truth! Paul’s epistles themselves display the trophies of grace on the mantle of his ministry. As Timothy stood fast in the Lord and continued in that which Paul delivered to him (II Timothy 3:1-11), Paul lived! Even after Paul’s earthly life was over, he continued to live through the obedience of his disciples. Did not the writer of Hebrews say of Abel’s obedience, “[He] offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it be being dead yet speaketh”? (Hebrews 11:4).
Distilled down into one Bible truth, the illustrations above are all about influence. Timothy cannot joy in his obedience. Abel cannot boast of his sacrifice. The church at Thessalonica cannot gloat of their reputation. Gaius cannot personalize the glory of the Beloved’s adulation. All of their glory was in Jesus Christ and the human instruments God used to deliver that body of truth we call “the faith” to them. Jude said, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3).
When someone makes kind remarks regarding your standing fast in the Lord, to whom do you give credit? Yourself, or the human instrument God used to “expound unto you the way of God more perfectly”? (Acts 18:26).
As a trepidatious, fourteen year-old teenager, I walked into the home of Dr. Earl Holloway. Dr. Holloway was the director of our Bible college’s choir and also taught private voice lessons in his home. He had come to my hometown after his second “retirement” from the music ministry, but retirement from influence and discipleship was not in God’s will for his life.
Dr. Holloway was classy. Reared on the banks of the Red River in Adams, Tennessee, he developed a love for the opera as a young boy. Enthralled by the sounds of the Metropolitan Opera, he sat spell-bound near the radio on Saturday evenings as he listened to the greatest voices of his day. His love for music became a hot pursuit of it. Receiving a quarter every weekend from his father, those twenty-five cents afforded him a round-trip train ride to Nashville, a hamburger, and a music lesson in the city. Those were the beginnings of something wonderful the Lord was doing in his heart.
Entering his home that day, all that I saw was an old man. I was too immature and too ignorant to see what the Lord had done for him on the train tracks of life from Middle Tennessee to East Tennessee. However, the steps of that good man were ordered by the Lord, and the Lord delighted in his way.
Impeccably dressed and impressively articulate, he lovingly and graciously picked me apart that day. The song of the hour was “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.” If I remember correctly, I did not reach the chorus that day. If I could not get it right, we did not go further, because “It’s for the Lord, Daniel,” and the Lord deserves our best! I shamefully admit, I hated that first session and promised myself never to return! He hurt my feelings and so bruised my country twang that it never fully recovered! However, I did go back. For six years, I went back. I went back until he became the dearest person in the world to me.
After his family, for good reason, had taken his driver’s license away, I went back to pick him up for church. I went back until I could tell his stories, finish his jokes, and do things just his way.
A few years later, I went back to see a dying man. Not long after retiring his director’s baton, he took his peaceful journey to Glory. Again, I went back. I went to pay my profuse respects to that dear man of God, and I report that even to this day, he being dead yet speaketh. He vicariously lives through my ministry. When conducting my choir, singing a solo, giving voice lessons or even in conversing with others, he still speaks. He influenced me so earnestly that, like Timothy, I fully knew his doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith and charity.
So, I turn my previously asked question on my own head: When someone makes kind remarks regarding my standing fast in the Lord, to whom do I give credit? If I were to be honest, all the glory goes to the Lord Jesus Christ and to Dr. Earl Holloway, the human instrument God used to expound unto me the way of God more perfectly. Man worship, you say? Not at all! The Lord Jesus said of Mary, “Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” (Mark 14:9).
You see, it is all about influence. I thank the Lord for the day Dr. Holloway became my musical influence. I am a debtor to his investment in my life.
He taught me the principle of excellence
He believed that our music is for the Lord and that we should always do our best. He was a staunch believer in the excellence of the music minister. He believed that our attire ought to reflect a reverence for God. Among his quotable quotes is my personal favorite and oft-used expression, “It doesn’t cost much more to go first-class!”
He taught me to sing like a man. He would say, “Think big, son! Think big!” Excellence also means memorizing the lyrics, even to Handel’s “Messiah.” He would say to the choir, “Beloved, put your music away!” It is for the Lord!
He taught me the principle of kindness
To him, everyone could sing. I said, “Mr. Holloway, I am not so sure about that!” “Nonsense,” he said, “God gave everyone a voice to sing!”
He taught me that “my wife may not always be right, but she is never wrong!” He gave me three words to keep my home a happy place, “I was wrong. I’m sorry, and I love you!” He built me with the bricks of encouragement. Even when I felt like he was “blowing smoke,” I did so earnestly want to believe that what he believed about me was true!
Lastly, he taught me the principle of balance
He opened my eyes to great music within the color prism of what is Christ-honoring, Biblically- accurate, and distinctively-sacred. Growing up in country churches, my worldview was very limited. We sang out of the old red-back “Church Hymnal” and canonized its pages. I still value that music to this day, but I am grateful that Dr. Holloway came my way and gave me a telescope to see a giant galaxy of godly music hidden from my view.
He is now in Heaven, but I am still here. Now, I sit in the seat of influence. Oh, how cautious and Christ-like I ought to be!
You see, young ears are developing a conviction of right and wrong by what we allow them to hear. The next generation of Christian leaders sit in our college classrooms. In none of our halls of Bible training may the attitude be adopted that we can flirt with contemporary, man- centered worship and still produce a holy progeny of preachers!
What our soloists sing in moderation in the pulpit will be adopted in excess by those in the pews! If we date the world and its music, we are soon to adulterate true worship!
May every pastor, choir director, music teacher, church soloist, congregational pianist, and Christian worker think soberly today on this thought: What manner of legacy am I leaving behind, and to what destination will my influence lead my disciples? Selah!