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Student helps people express devotion to God through music

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Dave Hawley said his seminary education is helping him appreciate both traditional and contemporary forms of worship and church music, but in his own church setting he still wants to turn up the electric guitar.
“On the whole, the one thing that is important to me is seeing that we communicate the gospel in a language that people can understand,” said the second-year music student in the Bill and Pat Dixon School of Church Music at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, Calif. “On the flip side, I want to give Christians the opportunity to worship God in a musical language they already know.”
Born in Oakland, Calif., Hawley serves as music team administrator at the three-year-old Bayside Covenant Church, Granite Bay, Calif., just east of Sacramento. He leads a band for one of the church’s three services, which 3,200 people attend every Sunday.
“We’re doing songs that stylistically sound like what the majority of people are listening to — both Christian and not,” he said. “We’re trying to use music that not only energizes and stimulates people and touches their hearts, but also has an element of fun in it.”
Growing up, that was the music he liked the most. Though he started playing piano at age 5, he started focusing on guitar in his early teens. He had accepted Christ at a young age during a Vacation Bible School, but the worship services at his church were too traditional for his taste.
“I was part of an excellent youth program, though, that had contemporary praise and worship,” he said. “Contemporary Christian music was taking off, and I really started listening to it.”
A church called Warehouse Ministries in Sacramento also held Christian concerts every Saturday that Hawley attended. The concerts often featured top Christian acts of the time. Combined with the punk and New Wave music playing on secular radio stations, those influences comprise Hawley’s musical roots.
“But I didn’t see the church translating that music into an expression of faith,” he said. “My church’s music didn’t relate to my own musical world. I couldn’t relate to the choir or to the organ, and I didn’t feel comfortable bringing my non-Christian friends to church. I could take them to the concerts, but not to my church. It would have been too much culture shock for them.”
In college, he joined a Christian band that attempted to bridge both worlds, playing in parking lots and Youth for Christ events. After the group broke up, Hawley entered a period when he began to question Christianity while taking university courses that challenged his beliefs.
“I quickly jumped into a secular band that played in nightclubs three nights a week,” he said. “I did it for the experience, but it led me on the wrong track for a couple of years.”
In 1988, a church-planting pastor moved to town and made contact with Hawley. “My mother worked at the Youth for Christ office, and he was connecting with them to ask about musicians who were interested in producing culturally relevant music in a church. She recommended him to talk to me because I was wayward,” Hawley said with a smile. “It took me a while, but I agreed to help him, and we planted the church together.”
The church had a goal from the start to use contemporary music. “I got to integrate many of my stylistic influences, while tailoring them to match the age groups of those who came. I got to incorporate a lot of my playing style.”
Hawley served for eight years working part-time for the church, but he eventually desired to serve full-time in ministry and get more in-depth training. In 1997, he entered Golden Gate Seminary.
“Golden Gate’s music school has the uniqueness of focusing on both ministry and music. I didn’t want just a music degree or just a theology degree. I saw the degree program as the best match for what I was looking for without relocating to a different part of the country. This is the only school on the West Coast that has this combination.”
He said Golden Gate has also helped him think out a working philosophy of music ministry through the various courses he took. “I see music as a neutral tool that God has given us to use to whatever intent our hearts hold. What I want to do with that tool is use it for God’s glory as a communication bridge between God and man, particularly our own culture, reaching both Christians and non-Christians.
“Anyone who is a musician and wants to get more depth in ministry and musical skills should come to Golden Gate. It’s boosted my confidence and my competence, and my exposure to other leaders, whether professors or other students, has influenced my character in a positive way.”
Hawley hopes to work full time at enabling a congregation to worship by equipping and developing musicians to facilitate that process. He left the church he helped start before enrolling in seminary in 1997. In fall 1998, he began serving part-time at Bayside Covenant Church, where he is incorporating praise choruses and contemporary Christian songs into highly evangelistic services.
“We worship by using non-performance-oriented participatory music done in a contemporary way with a high level of energy and joy.” he said. “The church has committed itself to developing not merely followers, but leaders for Christ, which I believe is helping the church to grow.”

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