The Process of Ministry through Music

I am writing this week in response to a very special celebration in which I participated Sunday night as well as experiences of recent months that may have some questioning the value of their ministry.  We will set aside the “Question of the Week” format at least for this article, though next week’s question stems precisely from the reflections indidcated below.  Be sure and read the question at the bottom of this article and respond either in email (pclark@tnbaptist.org) or on the blog site at www.paulclarkjr.com

Sunday night I attended a service of celebration for Mrs. Peggy Williams at First Baptist Church Paris.  Peggy is retiring from her position as church pianist and as handbell director for the church.  I could write extensively about Peggy’s accomplishments through her groups of ringers, singers, her work in serving her community through music, etc., etc.  All of that is now a matter of record.  What I want to do instead is reflect on the ministry itself and the profound evidence of its effect for the Kingdom.

I know that I lost some readers when they saw “church pianist” (out of date terminology) and/or “handbells” as many see bells as a reflection of days gone by.  As one musician told me some time ago, “those things reflect the traditional church that died a long time ago.”  (the gospel according to his own senstibilities).  I admit I was surprised to see a full sanctuary Sunday night in Paris.  I was proud of a senior pastor who demonstrated love and appreciation for Peggy by encouraging such a service and participating in it himself whole heartedly.  I know that pastor and full house of people were there more to affirm Peggy and her contributions than just to hear a lot of handbell music.  The service presented an opportunity to say “thank you” and they were there in force to do so.

For those still reading…here’s the point of worship for me in what took place Sunday night.  The ringers who participated in the “reunion choir” were persons who had been in one of Peggy’s youth handbell choirs over those 39 years of faithful service.  They were there to express love and appreciation for what Peggy had meant in their lives, but the visual effect of those young men and women parading back and forth to the bell tables packed a dramatic punch.  Their very presence painted a powerful picture of a life well lived in service through music as ministry.  During hours of rehearsals and bus rides on annual tours the life of one determined lady had ministered Christlike love and patience and concern into the lives of these folks who are now young adults making major contributions to their communities, their churches, and ministries of all sorts in many places.

As all of you know, music does not just happen.  If a group is formed to present music whether sung or played, then there must be times of honing the craft, working the parts, shaping the phrases….just hard work.  Along the way, certainly, discovery of meaning occurs and touches the soul of those making the music, who pray that the touch will be passed along to those who will listen.

What I am saying is a truth I learned well when it was articulated to me in seminary long ago.  Namely that PROCESS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN PRODUCT.  I have found that the best process results in the best product, but the focus in ministry becomes the process itself.  This is why it disturbs me deeply that so many churches have tossed out critical ministry activities that provide splendid opportunities for meaningful process – yeah, even disciple-making.  In the process of teaching notes and rhythms, phrases and dynamics, form and lyrics we are demonstrating patience and care, determination and humility, servanthood and empathy.  Whether we are training worship band drummers or the next organist we do so as an act of worship ourselves.  Musical excellence is never its own end for the pastoral musician.  The deepest gratification never comes from a magnificent performance that rouses a roomful to their feet in applause.  Rather it comes from a parade of ringers and singers who are living out faith in their churches and communities serving themselves as Christ followers.  These things point us toward the ovation that is the deepest desire of our hearts, to step into the presence of Jesus to hear, “Well done thou good and faithful servant!”

Music ministry leaders, there are many among us who are hurting from pressure to change direction of music or program to something for which they do not feel qualified.  We need to pray for them and for one another.  There are several who have recently been asked for their resignation, or prodded to begin searching for other places of service.  We need to pray for the Lord’s will to be accomplished in their lives and that of their churches.  We need to hold one another up to be accountable in our ministries, and to find strength from the fellowship of fellow ministry leaders as well as among those in their own fellowship.  We need to pray that our pastors and church leaders would grow in wisdom before chasing patterns the Lord may be using in other places, and would discover what unique calling God has placed within the church body they serve.  Ministers, to help you all make it through times of transition and/or times of grand celebration – through feast or famine – consider who your parade of singers and players might include.

NEXT QUESTION FOR RESPONSE (replies will be kept anonymous):

 

What aspect of your ministry through music and worship leadership gives you the greatest sense of Kingdom accomplishment?

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Leading Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Uncategorized, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship thoughts

One Comment on “The Process of Ministry through Music”

  1. Shirley J. Reed Says:

    Paul I love the comments you have talked about in this article , I agree very much with what you said. Amen We need people today to stand for how we worship in praise, It effects our very being.


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