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Saturday, November 17, 2007

facedown, pt. 2

Encouraged by some responses to the "Facedown" post, I'd like to press a little further in two ways.

The first has to do with musicians and worship. I feel free to write this because 1) I am a lifelong musician; and 2) the music director I work with agrees and understands this 100% and has helped diagnose the challenge. I believe one of the biggest challenges facing church musicians (and church music) is the reality that nearly all serious musicians train from an early age to be performers. I was one of them. I started playing piano when I was five, started classical training at 7, and continued that formal training until I was 22. Yes, I studied the art and the theory and the interpretation, but it always ended with recitals and public performance with me taking a bow. And it's not limited to formal training. I started writing and recording music (and playing in band) in 9th grade, and that has continued in various forms until today. We were either looking for places to play for an audience or submitting our recordings to record companies to "hit it big." In some variation, that is the background of many musicians, including church musicians.

So, what does that mean when we bring someone who has been performing organ recitals for 16 years in to be our organist? What does it mean when we bring a 20 yr. old guitarist in to lead our praise band? Do you see the problem? And the solution isn't as easy as saying, "Play for the Lord." Musicians - and I - are nearly hard-wired for performance.

Secondly, for all we smug, spiritual pastors nodding knowingly about the musicians we work with, we face the same reality, but it's ever so more subtle. Again, I point the finger first at myself. Is not the pulpit our instrument? Do we not go to seminary and train in public speaking? (At least I did.) How do you use gestures and intonation and pitch to best communicate the text? How easy it is for the focus to move off the text and onto me! And then there's all the stuff from the first Facedown post. What is a "successful pastor?" Do I run the church well? Do I have good business sense? Do I visit often enough? Do I entertain from the pulpit? Is the church growing in numbers and budget? Will I one day become a "tall steeple pastor?"

In addition to the training I've described above, I was also raised to be a go-getter, 110%, smart, successful person. I've competed all my life - in school, sports, and anywhere else I can.

Yet I am convicted that good pastors (and good musicians) must deflect attention away from self and onto Christ. We point away from ourselves perhaps only after we have experienced godly brokenness, humility, and dependence. That's Jesus' model for ministry, but boy doesn't that sound weak?


George Saylor said...

In many ways I'm light years away from this conversation now that we've launched a new church. (I've aspired to be a big theatre pastor, not a tall steeple pastor!) But still, the battle continues. This is why I've spent more time with my two worship leaders, publically declared my support for them, stood beside them in putting together our teams, and prayed without ceasing for them. And yet each time we cut a musician because they don't fit, the backstabbing and hate-emails start to fly! It's part of the gig in this world.

robert austell said...

I'm glad to hear it, George. One of the points I was trying to make (maybe didn't do it well?) was that this is not an old/new musician issue, but one that cuts across music styles... musicians in general are prepped to be performers, which is a huge obstacle to overcome for worship.

I know your musicians are blessed by your support!

Dave Moody said...

Good post Robert. Our's is a pretty traditional quite congregation, the whole praise band thing just hasn't caught on here... different comment than what I want to make in that.

What is a 'good sermon,' what makes a good pastor? You're answer, I believe is the correct one- deflecting folks to Christ. But, the 'theatre' (voice, actions, etc...) that goes into preaching is what folks hear.

I don't know... It can be a maddening thing, when one is uncertain what to measure.


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