Entertainment vs. Ministry: by Carole Carnie

When is music in the church considered entertainment, or ministry? I’m attempting to tackle this controversial issue, primarily 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!”

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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 value, or significance to the church is continually questioned! Then add to that, your heart for minsitry being questioned by those asking, “is what you do entertaining, or ministry?” Now, as you read this blog, attempt to empathize with the musicians, and worship leaders by placing yourselves, and your skills at the center of this discusion.

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 benefit from good relationships!

Painting by J. Carnie.
Painting by J. Carnie.
I’m forever looking for the backstory in all situations, more often than not, this is where the “real truth” lies. Having a curious nature has helped me to see through the smokescreen people often put up in order to conseal what their real issues are. My past experience as a Senior Compliance Manager 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 people disparingly; supported my love for fairness, and diversity!  This is who I am, not what I do! I shared this information  about myself, to give you a better understanding of the individual writing this blog.

The controversy over music in the church has been going on 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,” continue to prevent unity in the church! This issue wether 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 a complex issue with many contributing factors, such as our cultural backgrounds; and within the same cultures there are different musical preferences. Even that can  be broken down futher within the same culture by taking age into account, because different age groups are drawn to different styles music. Now, take into consideration where an individual is raised, and that will also play a part in what kind of music is preferred. Now, I hope you are beginning to see the complexity of the question regarding music in the church! Then there is also the issue of some individuals being more expressive than others. Case and point,  I am passionate about everything I do in life, especially when it comes to music. Come to our church on any given Sunday morning, and I’m the one moving the most. And then there is my husband, JC who is calm, cool, and reserve in everything he does in life. I’m sure there are additional contributing factors which I may not be aware of which forms our prefences to certain styles of music. However, I hope you are now beginning to understand why I say this issue may not be about the music alone. What further complicates this issue is when a church is striving toward congregational diversity.  By adding diversity to the equation, the issues become even more passionate, and complexed.

I personally believe that there is often a “backstory” when discusing music in the church, By this I mean, there may be something not being said that has nothing at all to do with the 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 presented, is the music being expressed too passionately, and is it causing too much response from the congregation?  And in some instances, the issue may be “who” is leading the music.
In an attempt to move this elephant out of the room, (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. Stistics 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 gift, which is to glorify God, (not man) to come under such fire within the church; (a place which should be nurturing, and loving) by questioning the praise worthiness of their gift to God! It’s dangerous to think that you 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 tireless serve our congregations weekly, they are feeling that same sting, because their offering to God  is not being understood.

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 their 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 for those who may be part of the ongoing debate regarding “worship music,” I am curious about what criteria are you utilizing to derive at your conclusion? Especially when we know that God looks at the heart, and man looks outwardly. As mentioned earlier, our preference to music is a complex issue with many contributing factors.

In conclusion, if the music is entertaining for some, if it’s thought provoking for others, and if it’s spirit filled yet for others, that’s secondary to the true measure of music in the churc.  More essential is, if the individuals who are presenting the music is sold out for the ministry of God? I believe that’s how the music should be evaluated, by the personal relationship the individual presenting the music has with God.

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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