Thank you for reading last week’s article regarding Music in the Local Church. You can read it here! This week, I want to write specifically to you who serve as leaders in local church music. It has been wonderful to serve alongside so many of you and I have always enjoyed our conversations regarding so many of the matters I am writing about here. Consider these thoughts based on many of those conversations as well as my own observations.
- Remember that our standard is the Bible and the local church. It is easy to focus on my training, background, or preferences and forget to focus on God’s Word and His church. As leaders, we should continually examine our music program in light of Scriptural truth. Is it fresh? We are to sing a new song (Psalm 96:1). Is it doctrinally accurate? Through our music we are to “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly” (Col 3:16). Does it emphasize the melody so the congregation can not only sing it in worship but also sing it in their hearts over and over again (Eph. 5:19)? We should also examine our music program in light of our congregation. Does the congregation sing the songs that I am leading? Do they enjoy them? Am I helping to lead them into God’s presence or am I just singing “doing what I always do?” Does the congregation prefer a different style than I do? Keeping the Bible and the local church in view will make a huge difference in the church music program.
- Remember that congregational participation is more important than platform performance. I think we all know this. However, don’t forget to continually watch your audience. Are they singing? Are they “serving the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2)? Is the music encouraging them, leading them into the presence of God, and preparing their hearts to receive the preached word? When our primary focus is on platform performance (and this can become the focus whether the church is ultra-conservative or less-conservative), we can easily overlook the importance of the congregational’s participation. I know by experience that the music program can greatly enhance the message I am about to preach or greatly detract from the message I am about to preach.
- Recognize that one person who shares an opinion with you is frequently representative of many others who will never share theirs. It is easy to complain and be frustrated with people who vocalize their dislike of our selections or style. However, it is wise to listen to our congregations thoughts and concerns and to examine our ministry in light of it. After all, their gifts pay our salary and we are called to serve them. It is not to say that we have to change everything based on one persons complaint. It is just that we should always be aware of our congregation and listen to them and consider them. I would suggest that you do a follow-up with every person who “registers” a complaint or a critique. Listen to them. Acknowledge their concern. If their view is valid, consider how you might adjust things. If their view is not valid, do everything you can to win them to the right view.
- Resist the tendency to create a music program in your own image. This is perhaps just another way of saying what I said in the first point. However, it bears repeating. We are called to serve the church family! Keeping that as our focus prevents us from promoting ourselves or our own agenda in the music program.
- Work diligently to prevent your music selections from dividing an audience. A song that is difficult to sing (not for you, but for the audience), will divide the audience. It will separate them from singing and from your leadership. It can even separate them from each other. Drastically altering a music program can divide the audience as well. If your church has “always” sung old hymns and you decide to sing only new hymns, you will damage the unity in the church family. I have seen many churches lose those who have built the church and who are the primary givers simply because a music program abandoned them. Losing those who have labored and given sacrificially through the years is likely unwise at best and perhaps flat-out wrong at worst. Change is good and sometimes needed, but approach it slowly and prayerfully and do everything in your power to teach the church and lead the church through needed changes. Forced changes, or “surprise ones”, will quite frequently do damage that can take months to overcome. When hearts are not with you it undermines the churches unity and effectiveness!
- Gradually make needed improvements and changes. Do so with the goal of winning the entire church family. Be certain that any new song is powerful doctrinally and is easy to sing. Include some of the old and some of the new in every service – and remember that an old hymn done in a new way is usually still “new” in the hearts of many people. Teach the audience as you prepare to make changes. Remember that many restaurants can never recover from a menu change. Many of them simply have to go out of business. While we are not a business, we can certainly learn from their mistake and be wiser than they.
So there you have it – a few thoughts for those of us who lead in the church! What do you think? Am I right or wrong?
Thanks for reading,
Your sincere friend,