Anyone who is involved in worship ministry desires to have the musical portion of a gathering be excellent and compelling. For this to happen, talented, proficient musicians are needed. Like how an expert event planner helps facilitate a beautiful and streamlined wedding, having a musically fluent team will produce a more aesthetically pleasing end result.
But should the only criteria for those who serve on a worship team be belief in Jesus and musical ability? What about professing believers, who are talented musicians, yet continue too indulge in drunkenness or pornography? What about those who persist in sinfully mishandling their finances and refuse to pursue help and change? What about the person who is walking in righteousness and carries them self well, but cannot carry a tune to save their life?
Character and competence. How much of each is required for a worship ministry volunteer? And how can worship leaders help their team grow in both of these areas so that their music ministry is full of people, who play skillfully unto the Lord (Psalm 33), and do so from a life of personal holiness? As Christians, whether leading the team or participating as a band member, we are called to make disciples and to equip them to do ministry (Mt. 28; Eph. 4).
The New Testament calls believers to a particular way of life: the way of Jesus characterized by love for God and love for neighbor. There are unique qualifications given for elders and deacons (Titus 1; 1 Tim. 3). However, upon examination, these lists give characteristics that ought to be pursued by and mark the lives of all Christians in increasing measure. Paul calls Timothy to set an example for others in “faith, love, speech, honor, conduct, and purity” (1Tim. 4) He calls the Colossian church to put off old behaviors and to put on Christ (Col. 3). The writer to the Hebrews calls us to lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely to us (Heb 12). Jesus commands His disciples to baptize people and teach them to observe everything that He commanded (Matt. 28). The Scripture calls believers repeeatedly to confess their sin and walk in the light.
The call for all Christians is to make disciples and to pursue growth in Christlikeness. Are you as a Christian teaching people to obey Jesus, to put off the old man and put on the new? Are you walking in the light, confessing your sin, pursuing accountability, and seeking to bear the fruit of genuine repentance? And are you helping others to do the same?
If not, our music on a Sunday is a clanging cymbal, a resounding gong to God. It is harsh and unpleasant at best, and disdainful at worst (1 Cor. 13). Are we honoring Him with our lips while our hearts are far from him (Is. 29; Matt.15)?
Study the Scriptures with your people. Engage the desires, and commitments of their hearts and invite them to increasingly submit their life to king Jesus. As you do this, the teams you lead and the people you disciple will grow, bit by bit, into the men and women of character that Jesus calls them to be. This must take precedent over an excellent band or a well-executed service or event. What is not required for a volunteer is perfection, but rather an earnest pursuit of Jesus where sin is confessed, His word is studied and applied to life, community is engaged, and the gospel is being shared. Our call is to encourage one another toward this kind of relationship with Jesus.
Just as we call people toward faithfulness toward growth in Christlikeness, we should also call them to be faithful stewards of the musical gifts that God has given them. The Psalms call us to play skillfully (Ps. 33). The first person ever filled with the Spirit was a skilled builder and designer (Ex. 31). The faithful worker was the one who invested and cultivated the talent he was given (Matt. 25). So, what are some practical ways to help our teams grow in their musicality?
Record your services and listen back.
In my experience, there isn't anything that will give you a better ear into where the weak points are musically, than listening back to the band from the week before. And listen with your team! Were the drums out of time? Was the acoustic guitar rushing? Did the bass match the kick pattern? Was the electric using too much delay? Were the harmony singers singing the entire song? Listening back enables you to learn where growth is needed.
Poets craft words beautifully because they have mastered their language. Music works the same way. You can create something more musically beautiful the more that you understand and can speak the language of music fluently. This is why we have Craft Training at The Worship Initiative.
Invest in Training
Whether it is in private lessons, YouTube videos, or training content like here at The Worship Initiative, find a resource that will help you and your team grow in your gifts.
Ask those that you trust to listen to service recordings, or to listen live to where things can improve. Having an objective ear who is skilled in music is a great resource for you and your team.
Character: a life characterized by the genuine pursuit of Jesus and growing in conformity to Him.
Competence: an earnest desire to grow in and steward the giftings given by God, for the sake of honoring Him and blessing His people.
God calls us to growth in these areas, and to help others grow, as we learn together how to live as apprentices to Jesus.
Questions For Reflection
- In what ways have you cared more about musical excellence than the care and discipleship of those under your leadership or those you serve alongside?
- What steps will you take to encourage those in your ministry to pursue Christlikeness?
- In what ways have you been overly restrictive and lacking grace and patience, requiring moral perfection of those on your team who wrestle with longstanding, besetting sin?
- In what ways have you as a leader or team member failed to faithfully steward and cultivate your own talents and provide resources to those you serve with to grow together musically?