Ministry expressed through music is very difficult to either define or describe.   One of the reasons I like to write is that it gives me time to gather thoughts before I commit them to the page or screen.  Sometimes when I am trying to share something verbally before a group or to another individual I struggle to find the right words to even articulate my thoughts and feelings, much less the actual efficacy of more ethereal realities such as art and spirit.  I know ministry happens, and I know it happens through music, but describing that ministry with any sense of accuracy can seem nearly impossible.  I think this gap between ministry observed or experienced, and ability to state or define the resultant effect may contribute to problems for us as church ministry leaders.  That seems to especially be the case in ministry through music.  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Some who struggle to articulate the effect of ministry in other ways resort to numerical reporting, which can leave an impression that the only result worth reporting is how many – how many decisions, how many in attendance, how many seemed “into it,” how many liked it, etc.  We have all fallen victim to this thinking that can so easily distort our perception of the Spirit at work in ministry and music.
  2.  Some resort to “feeling words” to the extent that sensation becomes the goal.  This kind of evaluation can whittle the work of the Spirit down to a big warm fuzzy, or to songs that make me cry.  A sweeping “B” section in a song can have an effect on my emotions, but big strings do not bring with them the Holy Spirit.
  3. Some avoid even trying to articulate that an effect occurs at all through music ministry, and simply “let the song speak for itself.”  While I understand something of this premise, it seems presumptive and misses opportunity to help non-musicians to appreciate music and ministry together in deeper ways.
  4. Having planned song selection and thought through the emotive characteristics of a service carefully, some leaders try to stimulate effect by pointing to an anticipated response by worshipers, often an emotional one.  This practice, as well, can seem to presume upon the Spirit’s work.

So how are we to articulate this work of music ministry in, through, and among us?  Seems to me some prerequisites help us.

  1. Recognize and declare that any work of ministry is a work of grace.  It is a gift of God.  As in all acts of spiritual worship, we pray with grateful hearts.
  2. Even when describing human response to the ministry and to the music, which are not synonymous but which may well be intertwined, confess the limitations of words in our articulation.  Note: this limitation is a wonderful opportunity to draw attention back to the power of music itself to step in where words fail, and what’s more to help other see how this art form can stir us to consider the mystery of grace.
  3. Rely upon the Word.  There is innate power in scripture.  If we have selected worship songs using biblical basis and theological filters, then biblical commentary may serve as the best interpreter of what the Spirit may be doing in our music ministry.
  4. Silence is golden.  There are times when simply allowing spiritual space for musical ministry to soak in by being still together are warranted.  In a culture that fills every moment of every day with noise, a moment of silence has a profound volume all its own.

Finally, we must recognize that our own experience is not the final word on worship’s effect.  When the sanctuary is half empty, the drummer decides to sleep in and so the new song has no rhythmic punch, and the best choir singers do not show up leaving the day’s anthem an enemic expression of praise, worship still happens.  Repetition of the God story, the Gospel of Jesus, is no less potent.

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those that earnestly seek Him.  – Hebrews 11:6

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church keyboard players, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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