Over the years I have observed four levels of effectiveness among those who are involved with music in churches. These include praise team members, choir and orchestra members and production people.
1. The lowest level is what I call the song leader level. These are the people who do no more than show up and help with a few songs. They put no forethought into planning or purpose. If their job is to play an instrument, for instance, they often arrive just in time to throw their music pages together. They allow little or no time for rehearsing. They prefer to simply play and then leave. The same is true if they’re in the choir or ensemble. They avoid rehearsals or planning sessions at all cost. They just want to “show up” and sing or play – nothing more. I frankly believe God has little use for people content to stay at this level. This is at best “mediocrity.” That is a gentler way of saying their “lukewarm.” (And you know what Jesus said He would do with those who are lukewarm…)
2. The next level up is the music director level. These are people who want to have input in making the music the best it can be. They are not content with “just showing up.” They like to be prepared, and they want to know that the music is planned ahead. Their focus on excellence and organization is commendable. They struggle at times, however, with seeing past the music and getting everything “just right.” They know what to sing and play and how to do it, but they tend to forget why they should do it. Ministry to people and God often takes a “back seat” to being excellent and “appropriate.”
3. The third level is the minister of music. Folks at this effectiveness level can be used greatly of God because they understand that music brings praise to God and ministers to others. Like the soothing effect David’s harp had on Saul (see 1 Samuel 16:23), they want their music to affect, even change those who are listening. While they appreciate and even strive for excellence – and often achieve it – they are also committed to using their music to please and bless their God when they lead or play before others.
I saw first hand the difference in the Level 2 and Level 3 approaches to music in a service while I was still in college. A student was asked to lead the music at one of our “convocations” or campus services. He was beaming as he told me how he’d prayed and “felt led” to do some older hymns like “Victory In Jesus.” He was certain those songs would encourage and excite the students who attended (Level 3 thinking). I’ll never forget how badly I felt for him when he came back to me a couple days later. He said the professor in charge told him he could not do those songs (apparently despite how he’d felt led). Instead, he could only do “British” hymns that were more “suitable” for the British speaker who would be there (definitely a Level 2 mentality).
So, does Level 3 sum up our purpose as church musicians? When our music blesses the Lord and other people, is that all that is required of us? The answer is no. As strong as Level 3 is, we should not be content at this limited level. We must press on to Level 4. (To read about Level 4, go to the blog entry entitled, Striving to Be Ministers through Music.)
- Excerpt from Day 1, Week 6 of Praise More Powerful: Insights to Transform Our Worship (c) 2006 by Dwayne Moore