The Problem with Music in Church Worship – A Lack of Excellence
I seem to find myself in an interesting conversation with regularity these days, in fact for the last several years. The simple desire or question is: "how do we make our music for church congregational worship better?" To me the answer seems obvious, but I do feel that I am in the minority in my conclusions. Grant it I am accused of being black and white on this issue, but walk with me.
In my opinion there are two major factors at play.
Firstly, it is church, so you need people who are established in their faith in Christ, and frankly, relatively mature as Christians, and therefore as people, to make up this team. I am not suggesting necessarily the qualities of an Elder, as the Bible describes, but not far off, possibly that of a deacon. Please note, no reference to gender here. The reason this must be the first quality in the people on the team is it answers the "heart", or motivation, or attitude question first. Why is this important? Because the second criteria, although seemingly the most straightforward, is the one where all the controversy comes in.
Number two: THE MUSICIANS MUST BE VERY GOOD!! "Ohhhh but Cliff, they have such a great heart!" Bully for them. So when they finish playing on Sunday do you walk up and say, "great heart, playing needs work, but great heart." No, most likely that is not what happens. Everybody either secretly whispers between each other that the music was not good, even though they like the person, which breaks unity in the church at some significant level whether you like to believe it or not, or they lie right to the person's face justifying the lie with some thought of practicing the gift of encouragement Does no one else see this as horribly dishonest?
Psalm 33:3 paraphrased says when you worship God do it with skill. 1 Chronicles 15:22 talks about the talent of the leader being the reason he was chosen to lead. We are all given to understand King David was skilled at his instrument and writing.
Here is my compromise; the musicians must be at a semi-professional level of play. "But we don't have anybody that good." Hmm, that raises a couple of other issues, which I can't begin address in this post. So let me point to some questions worth exploring to find your own conclusions.
1. If God created the earth and everything in it, including the overtone or harmonic series (which gives us our sense of tune and harmony), and calls us to play skillfully to Him in worship, what makes us think that we should compromise on this Biblically? Another way of exposing another discussion point is, why have we elevated volunteerism (people willing with a good heart) over God given gift and obvious work ethic leading to skill.
2. If the skill doesn't exist in your congregation is it possible that a) your church isn't ready for public gatherings or b) that your church body should be a part of another body which has sufficient leadership and skill present?
3. Is it possible that we have lost our way in our desire to multiply and/or follow a Senior Pastor's "new" vision and embraced society's individualism (e.g. every church having their own logo and vision and building etc.) at the expense of true humble community, where we actually nurture, encourage and develop those with gifts in many areas to the end of a much healthier group of communities that are ONE church rather than a series of denominations and churches.
I will personally never understand a leadership of a church that does not practice truth, in love, and place those in spiritual and musical leadership who actually possess the skills to accomplish the tasks necessary. This very notion, I know, creates some tension and controversy, but that tension and controversy to me reveals not that my premise is wrong, but that there are unrelated sub-issues allowing this elephant in the room to propagate in many churches. What is the elephant? That the one or both of the qualities above are not represented properly in the music teams of the church.