The role that the music department plays in the building of a church is hard to overstate. It has the potential to serve as a vehicle which can help usher us into the presence of the Lord, and conversely has the ability to undermine godly leadership and usurp authority in the hands of those that lack wisdom. Music has long been associated with worship although the two endeavors are not synonymous. We see many examples; both in scripture and in contemporary life, of the good that it can help bring to a church service. From Elisha calling for a minstrel to usher in an environment conducive to the supernatural to David driving away the evil spirit from an apostate Saul, music has long played an integral part of praise and worship. There are also examples of it being used for less than godly purposes. Nebuchadnezzar well knew the hypnotizing effects of music when he had it accompany the worship of his golden image and scripture mentions Satan as having musical qualities actually created within his body in Ezekiel’s description of him. This leads many to state that Lucifer, “the anointed cherub that covereth” was heaven’s music minister.
Whether you subscribe to that viewpoint or not, most can agree that music has the power to heavily influence a worship setting. As members of a music department, those who would undertake the role of leading in worship by way of music have a great responsibility spiritually. Music must operate within the parameters of scripture for it to produce an apostolic dynamic. Done humbly and prayerfully it can be mightily used of God. David’s walk with God preceded his musical talent, causing God to inspire Samuel to call him “the anointed of the God of Jacob” and “the sweet psalmist of Israel”. If it is used to manipulate people’s emotions or to mimic a sovereign move of God, the results can be catastrophic.
Not having music in our founding of our church in Fort Myers, FL, I know firsthand the help that music brings to a service. One only has to endure an altar call without music to know the awkwardness of such an event. When we were able to add music, it was immediately apparent that music filled in the gaps. People were profoundly edified by the worship accompanied by the music, and God was able to move upon the lives of many. There is no more beautiful administration of ministry than that of the body of Christ ministering to the lost and hurting while accompanied by musical accoutrement.
While it can be quite an asset, there are some dynamics to music that a leader and a congregation must be aware of. It is important to note that music is not a gift of the Spirit, a fruit of the Spirit, or a part of what is known as the five-fold ministry. Its power to move the emotions of people can be a great asset or a powerful, seductive force that can manipulate people’s emotions to the point that they forsake truth in favor of an emotional experience devoid of saving grace. A music minister and a music team that is prayerful and sensitive to the moving of the Spirit of God is a powerful force for good. If they lack this spiritual sensitivity and insight they can serve to undermine authentic apostolic ministry.
I have found that care must be taken when mixing profit with music in the church. I know of many full time music ministers who have accomplished much good, and several that have made shipwreck of their faith, dragging down many with them in the process. I find it interesting that Judas sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and Judah did the same to Joseph for twenty. Judah is the original form of the word praise and Judas is a form of the same word. Both mean praise and when mixed with profit, sold out authentic ministry and the purpose of God. Metaphorically this is a dynamic principle with very real practical application. Too many music leaders and ministers have succumbed to the siren song of creative expression, being led astray by human spiritual endeavor.
Music is undoubtedly a spiritual endeavor. The world knows this all too well. When one plays or sings well they are “spirited”, “put their spirit into it” or “have soul”. While moving and impacting, it remains trapped in human spiritual endeavor, falling far short of the heights of theological worship. True worship takes us to heights in Christ that human artistic talent can never hope to emulate, and the Christian music leader must take care to know the difference between human spirit and being led by the Spirit of God. If care is not taken, the allure of opportunity and financial motive will cause the natural thinking minister to sell out apostolic ministry every time.
There has been much good that music has brought to apostolic ministry. There has also been much bad. Many pioneers were careful in their implementation of music. My grandfather Nathaniel A. Urshan, was personally very careful when it came to music. He did not care much for the use of drums in service. While that may seem archaic to us today, we must remember that this was a common view in the early 1900’s and that these are the men on whose shoulders we stand. Before we criticize or dismiss it, it is wise to consider the role that sensationalism can play in the church. The truth is that there has been quite a bit of compromise that has entered the church through carnal musical agendas. If we’re not careful, those who minister in music can entertain the thought that their role is equal to or even superior to that of the pastor or the other ministries. This can be a tempting thought as it IS a powerful tool. In the wrong hands however, it can lead a church into complete apostasy and rebellion. It has been suggested that this is even what helped cause the fall in Lucifer’s rebellion.
While many pastors employ full time music ministers and enjoy extremely talented music programs, others have moved away from this dynamic. Believing that it will eventually corrupt authentic ministry, these ministers utilize local musical talent. While this often means that the natural talent will be less, these ministers believe that the benefit derived from prayerful, local people in spiritual authenticity far outweighs any gains in talent that are realized with a full time music team. Whichever perspective you subscribe to, one must considerate the pros and cons of mixing profit and music.
While we should recognize the potential pitfalls that accompany music and praise, it is evident that there is certainly a place for its wise use. Services can be life changing; it can bridge the gaps in a worship service and serve as a portal through which people can come into the presence of God. The Tabernacle of David referred to in Isaiah and in the book of Acts was believed to be a place of vibrant worship filled with dancing, singing, and musical expression. Music in the hands of consecration and prayerful burden can help break through the walls of people’s resistance to God, and help them enter into a worshipful mindset.
In building the church in Fort Myers we utilized different approaches. We had music ministers who were very humble and willing to serve, and we had those who were critical and felt above the others in the church. Ultimately it comes down to the individual. The pastor that finds themselves in the latter state would be wise to deal with it expediently. Do not be intimidated by that attitude or allow it to fester. It will spread to others in the congregation and cause many problems if it is not addressed. If a music ministry team does not come under the auspices of servanthood and humility it does not have a place in the church. Replace them with someone who does have a servant’s heart. In my case I found it beneficial to learn the piano enough to where I could lead service myself if necessary so that there would always be the liberty of knowing that needful musical decisions could be made without fear. In addition to that, always train others to be used in this ministry. The more willing hands and prayerful minds that are available the less pressure a minister will feel when it comes to music ministry.
There is something so dynamic about pastoral leadership that is in tune and in sync with the music department and the worship team. When they are in alignment and flowing together, souls will be impacted, people will be blessed, and churches will grow. The blend of the doctrinal and the creative will give birth to a Davidic administration in a church that has the potential to build the house of God into a church that has dominion in a city.