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Music Myth: Everyone Can Play

July 25, 2017

One of the most beautiful things God designed into the church was the great diversity in gifting. It is truly amazing to view all of the different ways God uses people to do kingdom work, and to see how He maximizes the uniqueness of each individual believer to enrich the lives of the church both locally and globally. Paul spoke of the diversity in spiritual gifts in his first letter to the church at Corinth, and shares the same sentiment.

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 – There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

This diversity allows kingdom work to take place in all facets of both personal and corporate church life, and especially so when everyone is serving within the strength of their giftedness. It is inspiring to behold a local congregation functioning in unity with each other as each person gives of their giftedness in the various ministry opportunities! Unfortunately, what happens more often than not is that our fallen humanity cracks God’s beautiful design. When that happens, we end up with a system that doesn’t function as it should because sin has gummed up the works. Instead of looking to the interests of others (Philippians 2), we begin to look to our own selfish interests and try to do things we simply aren’t designed to do. Working outside of our true giftedness puts the entire system out of balance, and we end up perhaps taking a space from someone else who is uniquely gifted for what we are doing. In turn, they either serve outside of their giftedness, or choose not to serve at all, thus putting God’s design even further out of whack.

During my time in ministry, I have seen various forms of functioning outside God’s giftedness occur: pastors who were better equipped to be college professors, ministry team leaders who great “do-ers” but weren’t skilled in leadership, and kids ministry volunteers who didn’t even like kids!  No matter what the scenario, each of these instances has one thing in common, which is people working outside the boundaries of the giftedness God has given them. That theme is no different in worship ministry.

Worship ministry is one of those places that people find to be a potentially exciting place to serve. We get to be on stage, sing and play songs to the Lord, and be an aid to the congregation in worship… and it is really fun! It is also a TON of work (see next week’s post), and takes a certain musical skill level to execute. Many times in my years of ministry, folks want to be involved but may not have the skill-set to do so. The only way to figure out whether or not they are a good fit is to have an evaluation process of some sort. Where I currently serve, we have an audition process to determine the spiritual health, personality type, and musical aptitude of those who want to serve on the team. These are all important, as those on the stage are considered by our leadership to be lay-ministers. Our process assesses the following:

  1. Are they morally pure? (Exodus 20; Psalm 24:3; Luke 12:2)
  2. Are they humble and teachable? (1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6-7)
  3. Are they willing to submit to spiritual and church authority? (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 2:13)
  4. Are they dedicated and willing to work hard? (1 Chronicles 6:31-32)
  5. Are they musically gifted and working to improve? (1 Chronicles 15:19-22; 16:4-7; 25:6; Psalm 33:3; 73; 83; 137:5)

If one or more of these considerations are not met, that becomes a red flag in the audition process, and can give cause to not offer an invitation to join the team.

When that happens, there have been instances of resentment and anger because everyone should be able to play!  The “Everyone Can Play” myth in worship ministry is a tough one to overcome, as opponents of the audition process tend to invoke the old adage, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called,” based upon Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1 and Romans 8.

1 Corinthians 1:26-27 – Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Romans 8:30 – And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Once these scriptures are used to establish the initial support, then the “I can do all things through Christ” passage from Philippians 4 generally gets added as an additional leg to prop up the position. At first glance, these appear to make a solid argument for the myth, but one must look deeper to understand just how flimsy the argument really is. When the passage from 1 Corinthians is read in context, the true argument Paul is making is that the message of Christ’s sacrifice is true wisdom, and God chose to use ordinary people rather than influential ones to ensure His redemptive work would not be attributed to a human source. Similarly, the passage in Romans is not about serving where we want to serve, but about God’s salvific work through Christ to redeem humanity. And lest we forget the Philippians reference (which could use an entire post of its own!), Paul was speaking of his contentment in Christ that allowed him to continually serve God no matter the circumstance. As you can see, once these passages are looked at in-context, the myth becomes a straw man argument.

The Bible does have much to say about music and musicians, and every one of them show leaders putting those specifically gifted with a high level of musical ability in positions of leadership for the tabernacle. In today’s paradigm, that should be no different. Now, let me add a caveat to that statement: Excellence does not equal perfection!! No one is perfect, and we all have work to do. Excellence is simply giving God our absolute best at all times. Some churches have more people with superior musical skill than others, so their version of excellence will look and sound different. Our church in Tonganoxie doesn’t have the same musical skill level of Bethel, Elevation, or Willow Creek, but we still strive for excellence by giving God our best. We do that by interviewing and auditioning those who desire to serve on the team, which allows us to prayerfully discern whether the candidate’s spiritual, personal, and musical levels are a good fit for what we do. If it doesn’t match up, we work hard to help that person find a place where their gifting is a better fit and they can thrive in ministry, because we WANT them to serve in their giftedness.

“Everyone Can Play” is a myth, but “Everyone Can Serve” is the truth!

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