Ministry vs Entertainment: by Carole Carnie

When is music in the church considered entertainment, or ministry? I’m attempting to tackle this controversial issue, because it’s a dispute that many musicians, and “worship leaders” face as they serve their churches each week with dedication, with their hearts, and with their “God-given” skills.” Imagine with me if you will, that the skills you “know” God has blessed you with, to serve Him is constantly under scrutiny; and its significance to the church is continually questioned! Then add to that, your heart for ministry being challenged by those asking,”is what you do entertaining, or ministry?”
Now, as you read this blog, attempt to empathize with the musicians, and the worship leaders by placing yourselves, and your skills at the center of this debate!

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I’ve always been a curious individual! My curiosity is stimulated by my love of life, and people! Developing healthy relationships is extremely important to me; healthy relationships fuel my desire to understand why people act, do, or say what they say! By having a better understanding of people, you are able to cultivate better relationships. By investing in good relationships, essentially you are investing in your own happiness. Studies have shown that when we have good relationships, we are happier, healthier, and are our most productive selves! Of course, the added bonus is that our churches, and communities benefit from the building of good,and healthy relationships.

I’m forever looking for the back story in all situations, more often than not, thi
s is where the “real truth” lies. Having a curious nature has helped me to see past the smokescreens people often put up in order to conceal what their real issues are. My past experience as a Senior Compliance Officer at a major bank has served me well. My training to look for, audit, and ensure that the Bank did not violate customer’s, or employee’s rights by treating them despairingly, supported my love for fairness, and diversity.””This is who I am, not what I do.” I shared this information about myself, with hopes that you would have a better understanding of the individual who is writing this blog.

This controversy over music in the church has been on going for many years. This issue is divisive, and will continue to be so until God’s people realizes, “enough is enough!”  It’s erosive, and tears at the very heart of God’s principle found in John 13:35, By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”This “divide and conquer strategy” presently existing in our churches, continue to prevent unity among the congregation! The issue whether music is entertainment, or ministry may also violate another principle of God, and that is “not to judge!” The judgement of others is “spiritual malpractice,” because God  admonishes us against judging one another. However, as we continue the battle over this issue, our attention is diverted from what is known as, the “Great Commission,” which is making disciples of man, found in “Matthew 28:19-20 As our American churches continue to decline in growth, I pray that God’s people will wake up and realize that while we are fighting amongst ourselves, people’s very salvation is at stake!

This is such a complex issue with many contributing factors, such as our cultural backgrounds; and even within the same cultures there are different musical preferences. You can break down likes, and dislikes even further in the same culture when you take age into account; different age groups are drawn to different musical styles. Now add to that where an individual is raised, and that will also play a part in what kind of music is preferred. I hope you are beginning to grasp the complexity of the question regarding music in the church. We haven’t even discussed the fact that some individuals are more expressive than others. Case and point, I express passion in everything I do in life, especially when it comes to music. Come to our church on any given Sunday and I’m the one moving the most. And then there is JC, his approach to life is calm, cool, and reserved. I’m sure there are many more contributing factors, “which I know I’m not aware of,” which contributes to forming our preferences to certain styles of music; however I hope you are now beginning to understand why this issue may not be just about
music alone. I’m sure there are many more contributing factors to why we are drawn to certain music, however I hope you understand why I believe the issue of music may not be about music alone. What further complicates this issue, is when a church is striving toward congregational diversity, the issues become even more passionate, and complexed!.

I personally believe that there is oftentimes a “back story” when discussing music in the church. By this I mean, there may be something not being said that has nothing at all to do with music.The conversation surrounding the topic of music may be a smokescreen to cover what really needs to be discussed! That could be the style of music, how the music is being presented, is the music being expressed too passionately or not, and is it causing too much response from the congregation? And in some instances, the issue may be “who” is leading the music.

Painting by J. Carnie.
“Worship” Painting by J. Carnie.

In an attempt to remove this elephant out of our sanctuaries, (entertainment vs. ministry) one thing that I know for sure, is that this potentially explosive issue which has been simmering for years, has to stop if churches are to expect any future growth.Statistics show that our American churches are on the decline! I encourage you to consider this, “it can be disheartening” for any musician to have their God-given skill, which was given to them by God to glorify Him, (not man) to come under such fire within the church; by questioning its praise worthiness to God! The church should be a place that is nurturing and loving to all. It’s dangerous to think that anyone can look at what’s being offered up to God as praise, (music) and determine the sincerity of the deliverer. I’m going out on the limb by asking, why do we consider it acceptable to question the gifts of our “worship leaders,” however we would never dare to label the pastor’s gifts as “motivational speaking.” For some, I know this comment may sting, but allow me to assure you that each time this debate takes place about our “worship leaders,” and the musicians who tirelessly serve our congregations weekly, they are feeling the sting of their offering to God being misunderstood.

The definition of ministry is, any service which is done for a religious purpose. Now, if the worship leader was not singing for the purpose of glorifying God, it would be safe to say he/she is an entertainer. Follow me, if a pastor is not speaking for the purpose of God, he/she would be a motivational speaker. My question to you is, why can’t music be both entertaining, and ministry, with neither devaluing the other? We all know pastors’ who deliver the message with passion, and yes they are entertaining, but does that somehow take away from the fact that they are ministering the “word” of God, for God, to the people of God? And to those who may be driving the conversation regarding music in the church, I am curious know, by what criteria are you using to derive at your conclusion? Especially when we know that God looks at the heart, and man looks outwardly. As established earlier, our preference to music is a complex issue with many contributing factors.

Recently, an article was published where a member of a church was requesting advice from Billy Graham about the musical styles in her church. She was complaining about the contemporary music in the church, and went on to say that she preferred hymns. This is a condensed version of his response, “we have a singing faith, and God has given us the gift of music to praise Him.(Psalm 63:5) He urged the writer to ask God to help her to be grateful for all music that points us to God, new or old. He further said, while you may not like the music, others may, and God can use it in their live to encourage them and bring them closer to Christ.”

Musical Trivia: Until the last 1800’s, the organ was the church’s primary instrument, and the piano was considered a secular instrument, unfit for church.

 

From My Heart to Your Heart,

Carole Carnie

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Created for Carole Carnie Ministries by Carnie Studios (C) (P) 2015.

In association with “Loving Hands Ministries Inc.” 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organization

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