Posts Tagged ‘worship wars’

I am crazy about music.

In fact, as I’m writing, I’m listening to the aching beauty of Phil Keaggy’s guitar on iTunes.

But I can remember a time in the late 1970s when many Christians would go ballistic if they heard drums or a guitar in a worship service.  In fact, the 1980s featured the infamous “worship wars” in thousands of churches.

In some ways, the worship wars have subsided.  Boomers and their music are dominant in most churches today.  It’s rare to hear exclusive piano-organ instrumentation in services anymore.

But that doesn’t mean that music ministries are conflict-free today.  Far from it.

In fact, I believe there are qualities inherent in music ministry that readily lend themselves to conflict.

Let me share some of them with you:

First, people involved in music ministry want to sing and play perfectly.

I once had a discussion about music with Craig Bidondo, our music director in Santa Clara for three years.  Craig told me that he loved to play jazz on his keyboard because he was free to improvise, but if he played a classical piece, he had to get it note-perfect.

This is why vocalists and musicians rehearse for hours.  They want to present God their best when His people gather together.

But what happens if a backup singer is off-key, or the bass player keeps missing notes, or the sound guy doesn’t get the mix right?

That one person can affect everyone else on the team – and greatly upset the other musicians and singers.

But if they express their concerns, the offender may lash out or feel hurt.

Those of us who aren’t musical performers need to understand the stresses that singers and instrumentalists feel when they’re onstage.  We need to pray for them by name that God will use them to honor Him and touch people’s spirits – and that they will all support each other.

Second, those involved in music ministry want to look good onstage.  Microphones pick up every note played and sung to the congregation.  Lights reveal the various shapes and wardrobes and hairstyles of musicians and singers.

It’s natural for those onstage to want to look and sound their best – and this can make them feel self-conscious.

Those of us in the congregation do notice how people look and sound onstage, especially in churches where everyone up-front appears larger than life on giant video screens.

This magnficiation of people’s appearances and voices can make vocalists and musicians extremely sensitive.

25 years ago, I visited the Oakland Coliseum on a Friday morning to watch a Fantasy Baseball Game involving former members of the A’s.  There were maybe 100 of us in the stands.  At one point, I looked at the scoreboard and saw my face up there – and I was horrified.  If I had known I looked like that … I would have hidden my face between pitches … and I had no appreciable talent.

Christian musicians and singers can feel that way sometimes as well.  Just understand – and encourage them.

Third, the pastor and the music/worship director sometimes aren’t in sync.  This one is huge.

I was on the staff of an Orange County church where the music director was a woman.  She was a gifted accompaniest and vocalist – and I liked her personally – but boy, was she opinionated!  She liked a certain music style and was going to do things her way, and if you didn’t like it – tough.

She rubbed many in the congregation the wrong way.  They in turn constantly complained about her weight and aggressiveness and stylistic preferences.

When the pastor backed her up, she was fine.  But if he caved on her, she was toast.

She didn’t last very long.

My pastor is fond of saying that he doesn’t have to adjust to his staff – his staff have to adjust to him.

I’m in complete agreement with that sentiment.

I believe that the lead pastor and the worship director need to settle on a host of issues, including:

*the predominant style on Sundays

*the number of praise/worship songs

*the number of vocalists/musicians onstage

*the pre-service/post-service music

*a host of other issues

And just in case matters aren’t clear, they should put their decisions in writing.

While the pastor is ultimately responsible for the worship services, the music director is directly responsible for the music.

My preference was for the music director to suggest praise/worship/performance music.  I valued that input.  And if I had a song I wanted done, I would tell him.

I also had the right to veto songs I didn’t think fit, especially sappy songs that men couldn’t sing in church.

The pastor and the music director need to communicate constantly.  The worship director has the right to share his opinions, but he ultimately needs to abide by the wishes of the lead pastor.

And it’s the job of the music director to communicate and gently enforce the pastor’s directives for music to his team.

When the worship director can no longer do so, he needs to make plans to leave rather than use his musicians and vocalists to push back against the pastor.

J. Vernon McGee was fond of saying that when Satan fell from heaven, he fell in the middle of the choir loft.

While there are fewer choirs in our churches today, Satan still knows how to stir up trouble involving music.

But when everyone is working together, the music ministry can lead people into God’s presence and prepare hearts for the preaching of God’s Word.

Any thoughts on what I’ve written?

I’ll share more about music in my next article.

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