Worship: Not Just About Music“I constantly see God’s hand in my life, leading me through stressful, sometimes scary, situations [and] experiences, in countries and across continents with blessings I could never have dreamt of.”
The world would likely consider Jim Black to be very successful. After all, he retired at age 50 as a senior vice president and executive from a Fortune 500 Silicon Valley software company. He is basking in his “golden years,” spending time reading, flying small airplanes, writing and arranging music and playing with his grandchildren.
Born and educated in Scotland, he and his wife, Marion, moved to work in the United States more than 40 years ago. An accomplished musician, Jim is a lifelong Salvationist and is quick to point out that despite his love for music there is an even greater aspect of his worship and everyday relationship with God—it’s called faith.
“My conversion makes me a poster child for child evangelism,” Jim muses. “At age eight, I recognized that I wanted to be good, but bad kept creeping up on me the harder I tried!”
Jim’s parents were lifelong Salvationists and he admits he grew up with the burden of being “the corps sergeant-major’s son”—only adding pressure to uphold the standards of Christian living in his home and at school.
“I vividly remember the Sunday night salvation meeting where I knelt at the mercy seat, asking Jesus to forgive me and make me good,” he says. “I’m not sure I really understood what sins of commission or omission I had actually committed, but I certainly knew I wanted to be a better person than I was!”
During his time in university, Jim had what he calls two major epiphanies.
“The first was when I was studying astronomy and particle physics at the same time—the most immense and tiniest structures in the universe. I felt like the psalmist who said ‘When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor’ (Psalm 8:3–5). I really wanted to know why God cared; but fervently believed that He did!”
Jim’s second epiphany was the realization that God was not mad at him.
“He wasn’t always looking for ways to punish me, but rather was seeking opportunities to prosper me for His glory,” Jim says, referring to Jeremiah 29:11.
“I have found that entrusting Him with my future, knowing that His choices would be always for the best, has led me to adventures and opportunities I could never have otherwise imagined.”
Today, he serves as corps sergeant-major for the Concord, California Corps, where he also enjoys Bible teaching and study. For many years Jim served as the bandmaster, retiring from that post to pass the baton to the next generation. He is also a webmaster for several church websites.
For five summers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jim was a key staff member of the National Seminar on Evangelism (NSE) in Glen Eyrie, Colorado. Now that the pandemic has eased, he’s had the privilege of conducting several officers’ councils and serving as a guest instructor for evangelism and discipleship at the College for Officer Training in Chicago.
At his home corps in Concord, he participates in music: “We have a fine set of musicians who indulge my urges to write and perform.”
Jim’s corps officers, Majors Gwyn and AnnMarguerite Jones, can’t say enough about him: “Jim Black is more than in good standing,” beamed Major AnnMarguerite. “He is a faithful soldier and leader of this corps.”
Major Gwyn adds, “If every corps in America had a few Jim Blacks, we would all be doing so much better” for the Kingdom of God.
Jim also keeps busy writing a weekly Bible devotional for the corps newsletter and handling social media for several corps in his area and abroad.
“My faith does not impinge on my life; my faith is my life!” Jim says.
“My relationship with Jesus has changed and grown over the years,” he adds. “At this point in my life I am enjoying the serenity, peace and joy of His Holy Spirit. This is not something which non-believers understand, but they certainly find it very attractive!”
Jim originally studied and trained to be a physicist—but has never actually worked in physics. However, looking in what he calls the “rearview mirror of my life,” Jim sees God’s influence working on him, especially through some very stressful situations.
“Very often I’d get to the limit of my planning and when I finally said [to God], ‘Okay—let’s do it Your way,’ things miraculously worked out!”
That’s why, as involved as Jim is with music, it’s his faith in God that constantly guides him.
“I find people are very attracted to love, joy, peace—the fruits of the Spirit,” Jim says. “So, by living in the Spirit in a way which makes me available to those seeking truth, the source of those inner qualities becomes the question of the moment.”
When asked which book, apart from the Bible, has had the greatest impact on his faith, Jim’s answer is remarkable.
“Albert Einstein’s ‘General Theory of Relativity.’ The ‘God-ness’ of E=mc2 reminds me all the time of the awesomeness (in the truest sense of that word) of the God who has chosen to be friends with me!”
Jim cannot put a precise date on the Holy Spirit’s presence in his life, but he believes it is a gradual progression.
“The Holy Spirit’s impact on my life has been that I love to study Scripture and I have become more aware of the areas in my life which need further transformation before I am truly ‘like Him.’”
Jim gives much credence to faith and very little to doubts: “As a young man I had a minister who counseled me, ‘Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts; but never doubt your beliefs or believe your doubts.’”
“Doubting is a waster of energy. Just ask meaningful questions—God will (eventually) get you answers!”
But why so many forms of worship?
“God gave us each the privilege of worshipping Him in the way we choose,” Jim says. “And I think He seems to enjoy the diversity and multiplicity of worship. In reading the Bible (e.g., Romans 14 and 15), I am struck by how God wants unity but not uniformity in His Church.”
In keeping with Salvation Army doctrine, Jim is convinced that salvation is just the beginning of a relationship with God. “There are many acts of devotion which individuals find helpful for growth,” he adds.
So back to Jim’s music. One of his favorite pieces is Dean Goffin’s “Light of The World,” “especially the ending. I can’t even play it without choking up!”
Jim’s faith and worship enable him to constantly feel the calm reassurance that Christ is with him. “As we Scots say: ‘Better felt than telt!’”
Despite success as a Fortune 500 senior vice president and executive, Jim knows his life would be worthless without Christ!
“I constantly see God’s hand in my life, leading me through stressful, sometimes scary, situations [and] experiences, in countries and across continents with blessings I could never have dreamt of.”