My wife graduated with her Bachelor of Music and Ministry degree from a Bible college in May, 2011. This program was surprisingly technical. She studied voice, music theory, orchestration, music history, conducting, worship technology, and vocal pedagogy. She learned to play piano and handbells and performed major singing recitals. She was required to complete an internship at our church, where she has led worship for over two years.
My wife’s degree fully equipped her to make music, but not much more than that. She was hardly required to study what the Bible says about worship. She was not expected to develop a theological understanding of worship. She was not challenged to integrate the Bible’s teachings about worship into her life and ministry. This betrays a harmful trend that runs deeply in modern worship ministry.
This trend equates music with worship. It sees music as worship rather than as a means to worship. This produces two harmful results. First, although they are entrusted to lead us in worship, most worship ministers don’t really know what worship is. They have no biblical definition of worship so they resort to vague phrases like “leading us into the presence of God” or “bringing us before the throne of God.”
Second, worship ministers focus solely on the musical quality of their worship. They forget that what makes their worship acceptable to God is not its musical quality but its spiritual authenticity. Sadly, many worship ministers are just musicians and many worship services are just religious concerts.
How To Be a Christian Musician
Equating music with worship will determine your approach to worship ministry. If worship is nothing more than making music for God, you will be consumed with musical quality. You will strive to produce the best sound possible and equip your volunteers to improve as musicians. You will also be consumed with technological concerns. You will want to purchase newer instruments, equipment, or software. You will also be consumed with issues related to stage presence. You will make every effort to appear professional and put on the very best performance.
And all the while, you will give your congregation the impression that worship is nothing more than music that is acceptable to God only when it is led by a qualified few.
How To Be More Than a Christian Musician
In the Old Testament, people offer sacrifices to God as an act of worship. But the sacrifice alone does not satisfy Him. He is always more concerned with obedience in the worshiper’s heart than the quality of their offering. Samuel rebukes Saul for his disobedience with the question: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22).
God is more concerned with how willingly we do what He wants than how well we sing and play. What makes our worship acceptable to Him is not its musical quality, but the obedience of our daily lives. This is what Paul means when he says, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1).
So how can you be more than a Christian musician? Focus on the spiritual authenticity of your worship more than its musical quality. Rather than expecting yourself and your volunteers to practice music, encourage one another to regularly spend time with God until the music is a genuine expression of your loving relationship with Him. Build your integrity by aligning your daily lives with the messages of your songs. Only then will you lead your church to pour out their hearts to God in acceptable worship.
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