As a church musician, I’ve served as a music director and accompanist of local churches for many years including the life in S. Korea. I always thank God that he gave the music as my talent to praise and worship him. Also, God has always given me the chances to do something for the church, and my spirit has grown stronger through serving the church.
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However, when I just started my ministry at the church, my philosophy was more like a regular musician. I think I sometimes pride myself on my musical talent at church. I was inflated with pride. At that time, I dreamed fancy concert stage for the church service. I was a greedy music director to make something with using church members. Therefore, I sometimes got angry a lot when especially my ministry didn’t work well with the people. Now I realize that I was musically qualified but not theologically. I only had technical approach to my ministry, but my philosophy of ministry was not organized yet. Thus, here is my philosophy of music ministry even though I am still rookie of the area.
For many years, the music in the church has been debated a lot. There have been congregations who have built huge churches in a relatively short amount of time and have attributed the role of music as a leading factor in their growth. Others have avoided this trend and their music seems to be stuck in another era. How should we view music in the evangelical church? What kind of music ministers are needed for today’s church? And how should this be fleshed out in the life of the local church? These questions are necessary to be answered if the church is to fulfill its role for the glory of God. Evangelical worship music should be both objective and subjective, expressing our awesome wonder and praise of God who is beyond our imagination and also our love of, and communion with, God in Jesus Christ who lives in us through the Holy Spirit.
Use of Music in the Worship and Biblical Foundations
Should we have music in the church? In Corinthians, Paul told the Corinthians to sing with the spirit and also with the mind (I Cor. 14:15). In Psalm 33, the Psalmist exhorts us to “sing to the Lord a new song”, and “give thanks with the lyre”. In addition, Paul encouraged the believers to “speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). In Revelation 5:9, when the book was given to the Lamb, the surrounding elders and creatures sang a new song. This song is recognition of the person and work of Christ and that He alone is truly worthy. After the first Lord’s Supper, Christ sang a hymn with his disciples (Mark 14:26). We do not know the exact meaning of this song, but the example of singing is evidenced by our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In Exodus 15, after the Israelites were protected from Pharaoh and his army and were led safely through the Red Sea, it shows that Moses sang a song. He had just witnessed the great deliverance that God had ever performed on behalf of His people and Moses burst forth in a song to signify the event. In Isaiah, we see many prophecies about the coming Messiah. One of the works that he will perform is losing the tongue of the mute and enabling them to sing for joy (Is. 35:6). The ones who have been redeemed by Christ will have a song in their heart and on their lips as a response to his saving work. This list could continue for many pages, but I believe the point is adequately made, so music is a right expression for the believers to respond to God. It has been employed by the people of God throughout the bible from Moses to David and to even Christ Himself.
Our Effort to be a real Worshipper
I have often struggled to find most important elements in the worship. I feel the need of growing myself more as a worship leader to help others experience great worship. By the way, what is great worship? Perhaps, it is still difficult to tell shortly, but I was able to feel some key components of Christian worship through the classes I have taken at SWBTS. Not only academic elements, but also I was able to learn practical approach to worship.
Today’s Church and Where Should Our Ministry Go from Now?
There are still a lot of churches where losing the heart of worship although their outward appearance seems rich and brilliant. God wants our real heart of worship, and we, worshipers, have to be ready to put all of our effort to find that for God. Also, we, ministers have to be ready to sacrifice ourselves for others in the service. Since my philosophical attitude got organized more than past, I would like to mention one clear sentence that “the great worship should be about God not about us.” God will be moved by our real heart of worship, not by fancy concert or models that impress people.
There are some similarities in many churches’ service. The similarities are kind of trend in contemporary churches. They use a lot of contemporary Christian music for their own worship service. In fact, I agree that using contemporary materials are absolutely recommendable for today’s churches. It can be good motive to bring out younger generations’ hearts. Nonetheless, it is not always good elements for true worship. Perhaps, the problem is coming from worship leaders. Today’s worship leaders should recognize that we are not pop stars or pop musicians. Worship leaders sometimes misunderstand that powerful sound and energetic passion make true worship. It may catch the attention of audiences in church, but it is not going to catch God’s attention. I believe that true worshiper should give a bridge to connect between worshipers and God. Are worship leaders today interested in making the bridge? Or are they are just interested in reaction of audiences? Unfortunately, most of today’s young worship leaders are interested in the response of audiences not God’s response.
Once more, Worship has to focus on God’s glory, and also true worship will give recovery of our souls. In other words, we will need to see changes of worshipers if the worship was received by God. Not only approaching the trend of today’s Christian music for worship, but also we need to approach to worshipers’ soul.
As mentioned, some of worship today suffers from the shallowness of those who are prone to flashy displays. Worship doesn’t have to be luxurious or brilliant for audiences. However, I was also one of them who had misunderstanding of worship. When I just started my ministry at the church, my philosophy was more like a secular musician. I was sometimes pride myself on my musical talent at church. I was inflated with pride. At that time, I dreamed fancy concert stage for the church service. I was a greedy music director to make something with using church members. Therefore, I sometimes got angry a lot when especially my ministry didn’t work well with the people. Now I think I got more peace in my mind than past. Even though, my philosophy of worship became simpler than past, I feel more Jesus from my recent service. Now I understand why I need to try to make my ministry becomes all about the “state of the heart” for worship first, and then state of the art. God wants our heart of worship that can make connection between God and us, and I am ready to put all my effort to find it for God.
Qualities for the Minister of Music
The minister of music should be characterized by the guidelines found for those charged with church leadership in Timothy and Titus. He is to be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, able to teach, not addicted to wine, or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money, he must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity, not a new convert…. and he must have a good reputation with those outside the church” (I Tim. 3:2-7). None of the above qualities can be lacking because the testimony of the church and its Savior is at stake.
He, music minister, should view himself not as a musician who happens to be employed by a church, but a minister who happens to be a musician. He must be gripped by the great commission and see his calling first as making disciples by teaching them to obey the things of God. His primary focus should not be on having larger musical productions for the sake of musical productions, but teaching the word through music and also through his lifestyle and conduct (2 Tim. 4:2).
The training of the minister of music should include musical training, but more important element is that we must have a solid biblical foundation. What is worse, singing a song with bad tone quality or with bad theology? I would propose the latter is much worse. The minister of music must be able to spot the misleading notion in the texts of music and clean them up from congregational use. Does this mean that the musical growth under his care is of no value? The answer is obviously no! But theological clarity is the most important goal for the music minister (Titus 1:9).
In addition, the minister of music should be involved in the pastoral ministry. The minister should seek to comfort the sick and bereaved. He should find to make disciples on purpose. His ministry must be one of building the body in many ways. The burden of the flock must not be laid on one man alone, but on several overseers of which the minister of music should qualify to be a part. The music minister should take great care to minister to the ones hurting even if they do not happen to be involved in the music ministry of the church. He should also be actively involved in the community with the local schools and other events and organizations in order to build a relationship with the lost in the surrounding area (2 Cor. 5:11).
The minister of music should also be a man of discernment (Phil. 1:9). There have been many men who have tried to change things too fast. He or she must take time to view the current situation and move prayerfully and slowly to institute changes. The music minister’s concern must be for the good of the people and he must be careful not to needlessly offend them. He should know that people do not care what you know unless they know how much you care.
He also must be a man who knows how to manage his time and efforts well. He must be driven by a desire to accomplish certain tasks by formulating a daily schedule to execute the details. He should learn how to hand over responsibilities throughout the church without losing his responsibility.
As music minister, the ability of sociality is one of the most important elements. I have seen many ministers who sometimes failed in their ministry area due to their limited socializing skills. Our natural personality is also one of the elements that are very effective a lot to our team ministry. Some might say that bad personality or unopened mind will never be able to success in team ministry. Nevertheless, I believe that there is still possibility, although he or she doesn’t have natural-born like good personality as minister. We can put our effort to improve our weak area, and here are my ideas to be better a leader in team ministry.
First, keeping the faith one another is most important element in our team ministry. We sometimes doubt about others’ abilities. Thus, sometimes we tend to do too many things alone for any event in church instead of sharing the work one another. Even though, there is sometimes skeptical moment in our team ministry or somebody’s ability seems weaker than others, we should remind ourselves that everyone in our church are called by God not by you or me!. We should try to give a chance to others to get involved in. Since they got chances, they might have some trial and error process which is natural. Then it is time to help them. Helping their weakness is minister’s another job, and it is starting point of team ministry.
Because the team ministry is organized by people not by only one person, there might be some trouble one another. Some might demand too strongly, and do not agree with others. If their opinions are different with yours, then we should take a time and think again instead of just being against to them. If you believe your opinion is still right, then you need to have specific plan to persuade them. We should never forget that people in your team ministry are supposed to be on your side, and you need to use them in a good way. They are not there in order to be against to you. They are with you to be helpful for team ministry.
As I suggested, we, music ministers, need to improve our weak portion. Do not just give up the portion which has been weak to you. It is like an assignment from our God. We need put our energy and effort, so that your leadership will grow. We are in the position of leader in our team ministry, and all the assignments are already given since we became ministers. As mentioned in the introduction part, our fundamental thing such as natural personality is not that big matter. All we need to do is putting our effort and devotion as a leader in the team ministry. Ministry is demonstrated within the community of faith with the love and edification of God’s people-brotherly love and mutual benefit. Music of edification is an astonishing tool in teaching and in bringing people together. Church is like a tumbler and rocks bump into each other and get refined: bad rocks becomes powder, good rocks become more glistening.
Music Ministry in the Local Church and Functions of Church Music
The local church’s most visible aspect is often music program. The first element that is visitor will likely notice could be something about the music. When that person leaves, what impression will he or she have of the service? The goal for the church is that people leave not with the idea of how marvelous the production was or how finely the choir or soloists sang, but with a sense of the power and majesty of God.
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Knowing that music should be a part in the worship of God, what should it sound like? The music in biblical times did not know of electronic sounds. Their focus always seemed to be on what was sung rather than how it is was sung. When Paul instructs his readers to sing with their hearts, he was emphasizing the personal nature of right singing.
We know that while men look at outward things, the Lord looks at the heart (I Sam. 16:7). Music that is acceptable to God must first find its root in the heart. The unbeliever does not have a heart for God. His heart is wicked and needs to be changed by the grace of God (Rom. 3:11). Right music should come from a heart that is right with God due to the fact that God changes its nature.
I use the word ministers because this responsibility lies not only with the minister of music, but with the senior pastor as well. The pastor must heed his call to give his people the constant, frank word of God. A scriptural worship service must have biblical expository messages (Acts 20:27).
The pastor and music minister relationship is vital for the health of the church. A pastor must not place unhealthy demands upon the minister of music by asking him to make sure certain emotional chords are struck with the congregation. The minister of music must see the preaching of the word as a vital part of the growth of the church. Both men must have a common view of the worship in the church and if this is not developed, there must be a calling to different places of service unless these differences can be reconciled.
When those involved with the service begin to formulate it, there must be a concern for the glory of God. There is a need for the service to be relevant for the participants, but what is a more relevant starting point than coming face to face with the God who made them and calls them to repent and trust in Him (Rom. 10:9-10)? He alone is the supplier of every need and deserves all the attention. He has spoken sufficiently through His Word and everything that takes place must have its root in the teachings of scripture (John 17:17).
The focus on the musical end of the service should be on congregational singing. Calvin rightly stated that the first choir is the congregation. This should be fleshed out by much corporate singing. Included should be songs of praise, confession, meditation, supplication, stewardship, dedication, thanksgiving or remembrance and dismissal. These songs do not have to be present in every worship service, but over the life of the church all should be found. The inclusion of all these forms will help the believer have a full worship experience before God and will aim at transformation of the believer.
A full-orbed gaze upon the music ministry should see that many songs are being used in the worship of God. If only a few songs are used over and over, there is a tendency to fall into the trap of singing only what is known and can slip into sentimentality. The use of songs just to evoke an emotional response should be avoided and the people must be taught to learn new texts and melodies. There must be careful attention to place new and fresh applications of favorite songs. Those adaptations must seek to bring the focus of the song back to the text (Matt. 15:8). The attitude of the heart must match the words of the lips.
Before a music minister makes significant changes he should recognize where his people are musically. Then, he should plan and begin to see that spiritual and musical growth will take place. There should be a moving in the direction of improving vocal quality and encouraging the singing of songs where the music is well played and well crafted. God deserves our best and we should endeavor to achieve the best of our ability, but this goal should be secondary for the biblical development of the people (2 Peter 3:18). When a minister of music leaves a church or after a period of time has passed since his arrival, the people should have learned the value of texts and quality music. The minister of music should not seek to manipulate the people by using songs that excitement for the moment, but encourage a deeper spiritual effort for an eternity.
When the minister of music is developing the worship service, it is important that he keep in mind the varied musical tastes of his congregation. He must be careful to employ many styles in the service, not with the hopes that a few people will be satisfied part of the time, but so that he can reflect the diverse ways in which God created us. No church should seek to please only one group of people, for that is antithetical to the fact that God calls people from all walks of life and of all nationalities (Rev. 5:9, 14:6). There is much value in selected singing by choirs or special groups provided the focus on such singing is not on entertainment but on true expressions of worship. The choir serves as a great help for the overall singing of the people and provides necessary leadership. It is encouraging for the congregation to hear ordinary people using their voices corporately to worship the Lord, but the focus of the group must not be on style or feeling, but on what they are singing. Musically, the words must be clearly articulated and there must not be any obvious musical flaws that would detract from the text. That is why it is important to include the text of the music in the bulletin for the congregation to follow. It would be a travesty if the congregation went away humming the tune without remembering the words. The soloist is in particular danger here. When the average person is selecting a song to sing, the basis of choice is often only what they like or what will complement their voice. Much caution should be employed and the text must have prime value. St. Augustine well said that if he enjoyed the voice of the singer more than the words that were sung, he confessed to have sinned.
The outward appearance of our music, as well as other spiritual exercises, must not have showy, self-centered features (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16). The singing of songs that provide themselves to the flashy nature of the voice or that is chosen to showcase the talents that God has given can evidence this. It will also be an obstruction to true worship when the purpose of singing becomes driven by entertainment rather than an expression of the heart. Many churches have a visual emphasis for the musical performance with the hopes that they will make the audience’s emotions into a certain state that allows them to respond to God.
When it comes to the worship of God, we must be careful to get out of the way and place the focus on the one who is worthy to be praised (Rev. 4:11). Today, there have been two trends in church music. One is to reject all that is new and the other is to reject what is old. There is so much rich heritage in what has passed before us that we abandon it to our danger. These writings are not perfect, but they do take the weight of centuries of God’s faithfulness to people. The observation of many generations is important. With the new material, there must be proper discrimination because we do not have the testimony of time on its side. We must evaluate the content and musical elements and then use it often. There needs to be an encouragement of new material as we live our lives of faith and trust, but it should be carefully selected.
Planning My Music Ministry
On reflection, my music ministry has had a lot of mistakes and fails. I was a totally rookie as a music minister when I first started it. Without enough experience, my ministry did not work out well, and there was often no specific planning on every Sunday. I was a kind of self-educated music minister, so that it was not often enough to be a well-prepared music minister. With all the experience, now I feel the importance of planning as a music minister. The first thing should be making a plan. We all know God will give us a mission and even plan our steps for us, but we have to do our part. We should not just sit around, and waiting on God to bring everything for our ministry.
Planning the service must not seek to manipulate the people by appealing to their emotions alone. They must diligently expound the scriptures. The building up of the body should be the goal of the whole service. The ministry of the church must be viewed not by what is only outwardly successful, but by an adherence to the Word of God. There must be an understanding that true worship is not the one-hour event on Sunday morning, but the whole life of the believer that is poured out and sacrificed before the Lord (Rom. 12:1).
I have planned many events for my church and local communities. Most of the events were successful, and I thank God that he gave all the blessings for my effort. The most of successful events were made by well-planned arrangements. By the way, what is the well-planned arrangement? When I was a younger music director, I thought that it was all about my detail preparations and efforts. However, I often missed most important part for the planning. The first step had to be praying. I believed myself and my knowledge first then I pray after everything had already done by my plan. Yes, it was the reason why some of my events impressed only men not God. I shouldn’t forget that in a Christian music ministry, I am representing God, so I have to be with him before I start my journey. However, the first step is often missed and forgot by a lot of ministers in the world today. After the first step which is asking God before we plan something, we can start all other steps. The material we received in the class would be wonderful resources to plan any event, and also you can find thousand of materials that can help our practical plan for music ministry. Nevertheless, again, we should always not forget the first step that is praying, and take that first step with all of our faith. In fact, there are many big musical events coming up this year and next year I have to plan and direct, but I know that anything will not be successful enough if they are not planned by God not by me.
According to Bennett, in his book “You Can Plan and Select Music”, he says “Even those who have extensive musical training and degrees are often found lacking in the tools to plan and select music for the church”. Also, Bennett says “Too often, the church musician is one who may be well trained in music but may not understand the relation between music and worship in the church situation”. In fact, when I first started the music ministry at my current church, I struggled a lot because there was a lack of practical knowledge although I was pretty well-trained musician. However, since I started to study and read some practical music ministry books, my ministry has been better. Even though we are well-trained musicians, there can be a lot of variables during our music ministry lives. Therefore, we really need to know and be ready in more practical way than rigid theory. Bennett also mentions that “We all need reminders; like all arts, we learn our basic skills and procedures from books but we learn best from actually doing it”.
Learning music ministry in the U.S. might be a little different than music ministry in my native country. Thus, it may be applied in different way a bit, depending on what country’s church you serve and each church’s background or denomination.
Music ministry is challenging, and rewarding experience. It must be driven by a desire to please God and not men and seek to glorify Him in all aspects of life. When we look at the surrounding families and see their need, we realize that it is not a need for a more exciting church service, but a saving relationship with Christ (John 3:16). Only when we have a passion for God’s glory and true passion for those individuals without Him will we exhibit a biblical understanding of music ministry (I Cor. 10:31). It has been many years since I was involved in church as a music minister, and now I think I got more peace than past. My philosophy for music ministry might have become simpler than past, but I feel more Jesus from my recent service. I try to make my ministry becomes all about the “state of the heart” for worship first, and then state of the art. Also, I have to be ready to sacrifice myself for others in the service. I am a musician, but also preacher who can speak in music. The church has always been very good place to me, and I thank God for giving me the most wonderful place for me to present my music to heal and save the souls. I will use my talent as much as I can in my life, and praise him where ever I may be.