The older I get the more I realize the great blessing of a Christian home. Some of my earliest memories are about music in our Chicago church. At four years old, a friend and I sang duets in church. I recall joyous congregational singing of the great old hymns. I sang these songs everywhere I went and through them I learned much about our heavenly Father and our Savior.
When I was seven years old in a small country church in Merton, Wisconsin the Lord opened my eyes to the gospel through my pastor who explained to me that I had sinned against a righteous God and that only Jesus could save me from eternal punishment. I knelt with my pastor and my dad as I accepted Christ as my Savior. It is difficult to express the regenerating transformation of a child who has seen little of the world, but I can testify that even for the very young the change is real. It is beautifully expressed in Wade Robinson’s hymn:
Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen:
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
Flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.
Although young, I found myself increasingly desirous of sharing the gospel and reading God’s Word. For many years my parents enrolled me in Bible Memory Association. For a book or a trip to camp, I was expected to memorize about seven verses per week for about ten weeks. A child’s mind and heart are very receptive, and my parents sought to fill both with things worth knowing and remembering. Over sixty years later I still praise God for that program. I cannot count how often the Holy Spirit has brought those verses to mind just when I needed them.
I started playing the piano under my mother’s tutelage when I was five. When I was about seven we moved to a larger city and I had access to a piano teacher, whose expertise enabled me to progress rapidly. I was enrolled in the Milwaukee College-Conservatory of Music at age twelve, studying under Alvine Sineps, a concert pianist who had fled Latvia during WWII.
In my early teenage years, I prayed that the Lord would use me to bring glory and praise to His name however He saw fit. He graciously directed my path so that I would be trained and mentored by knowledgeable, talented, godly people. Dwight Gustafson, Frank Garlock, Gail and Alice Gingery have done much to mold me as a Christian musician, both by their teaching and by their lives.
One of God’s greatest gifts to my husband and me has been exposure to Spirit-breathed, fervent preaching. I recall messages we heard at Bob Jones University that caused our hearts to rejoice, to grieve, to be elevated, to be contrite. At BJU we heard eminent preachers such as Ian Paisley, Bob Jones Jr., Bob Jones III, Charles Woodbridge, Ken Connolly, and others who led us to search our souls and were instrumental in helping us to grow in grace. We were also privileged to sit under the godly preaching of Rev. Alan Cairns, our pastor at Faith FPC for almost thirty years. He did not take his calling lightly to be the mouthpiece of God. He taught us the unfathomable gospel and led us to greater Christlikeness and conformity to the Scriptures.
Most musicians grow by hours of practice enabling artistic performances. For composers, however, an artistic performance is more involved. If no one uses the piece or if the performers are limited in skill, the composers’ work never reaches its potential and musical growth is limited. At BJU there was a constant need for composers’ works and fine musicians would perform them. This gave me a unique opportunity to hone skills I had learned and talents God had given. Although often demanding and stressful, the Lord always gave help and strength. He also greatly blessed.
Much of my ministry has been training musicians. I am extremely thankful that the Lord has extended my ministry by using the musical gifts of my students to serve Him across the world: some in small ministries, some on the largest stages of the musical world.
Some time ago, a friend pointed out that every Sunday I was helping people to praise the Lord all around the world. I was taken aback. Yes, I have written hundreds of hymn tunes, sacred arrangements, and choral anthems. Many have been translated into several languages. A number of hymnals used by churches around the world contain my hymns. The Lord has done all of this, and He alone receives glory.
As a teen I prayed that God would use me to bring glory and praise to His name. I never dreamed that He would so abundantly answer my request. It is a boundless joy to be a Christian, and as a Christian musician—indeed “my cup runneth over.”
“Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart;for consider how great things He hath done for you” (I Samuel 12:24).
Joan Pinkston, and her husband Bill, live in Taylors, S.C., and attend Faith FPC. in Greenville, where Joan has served as pianist for nearly forty years.