Holidays (Other)

7 Ways to Encourage Your Minister of Music

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and it’s coming up soon!
Show your minister of music some appreciation by encouraging him.

Originally published November 18, 2014

7 encourage MoM

Numerous articles have been written about how you, as a church member, can be an encouragement to your pastor- how you can constructively praise his sermon, pray for him, get him a great gift for Pastor Appreciation Month, etc. These are good things. Please be sure to support your pastor. Being a pastor is one of the toughest and most thankless jobs out there, and if you’ve read the statistics you know pastors need and deserve all the encouragement they can get.

But the pastor isn’t the only person on your church’s staff who needs your support. So does your minister of music. And, having been married to one for over twenty years, I can tell you there aren’t many articles out there letting you know how church members can encourage their ministers of music. Ready to show some love? Here are seven ways you can be an encouragement to your minister of music.

1. Make practice a priority.

Before you join the choir or praise team or volunteer to play an instrument, find out how much of a time commitment it will be, and consider whether or not you can diligently keep that commitment. Once you’ve joined or volunteered, attend rehearsals, worship services, and performances faithfully, and be sure to arrive on time. You have no idea how much it means to your minister of music that he can count on you.

2. Get to the church on time.

Think about how you would feel if you planned a dinner party, worked hard all week cooking and cleaning, and then one of the couples you invited carelessly showed up halfway through the meal. You’d probably think that was kind of rude and feel somewhat discouraged. That’s sort of the way a minister of music can feel when people (especially the same people every week) habitually arrive late to church for non-emergency reasons. Not only that, but it’s a distraction to others when you come in late, plus you’re missing out on praising God and getting your heart prepared to receive His word during the sermon. Being on time and ready for worship benefits everybody!

3. Sing.

If you were in a meeting at work or in a college class, would you pick up your knitting, clip your nails, walk around the room chatting with friends, or bury your nose in your phone the whole time? Probably not, yet, over the years I have seen church members do all these and more during the music portion of the worship service. It’s disrespectful to the God we’re supposed to be worshiping and to the minister of music who is trying to do the work God has called him to. On the other hand, I love it when we get in the car after church and my husband says, with a smile on his face, “Wow, they were really singing today!” We have an incredible Savior who has given us the privilege of praising Him, so let’s take Him up on it. Sing out! You can worship and be an encourager all at the same time.

4. Smile!

It’s pretty disheartening for a minister of music to stand up front, giving it all he’s got, and then look out over the congregation and see a bunch of people looking like they’d rather be at the dentist. Think about Who you’re singing to and all the reasons why you’re singing to Him, and I challenge you to keep a frown on your face! Just the simple act of smiling while you’re singing will do wonders for your minister of music (and for you!).

5. Think before you complain.

Has your minister of music said or done something that’s clearly a sin or false doctrine? If so, you have a biblical obligation  to go to him -kindly and in love- and talk to him about it directly.

Is your complaint a matter of personal preference- style of music, whether or not he wears a tie, etc.? Give it 24 hours. Does it still seem just as important? Could you possibly be a servant to him (and others in the congregation whose opinion is the opposite of yours) by overlooking an offense and not complaining?

If you do feel the need to voice your concern (and there are valid concerns that aren’t sin-related), approach your minister of music the way you would want to be approached. Instead of, “Turn that dadgum volume DOWN!” how about, “I was wondering if it would be possible to ask the sound tech to lower the volume in the house speakers a little? My baby’s ears are very sensitive and she gets fussy when it’s that loud. I hate missing worship when I have to take her out to the lobby.” Instead of, “Hymns are so boring. I don’t see why we have to sing them half the time,” how about, “I really loved those two worship songs we sang this morning! Do you think we might be able to sing more songs like that soon?” Christ wants us to be kind to one another, so show your minister of music a little “Golden Rule” love.

6. Speak encouraging words often.

It’s been our experience, and seems to be the general consensus among ministers of music, that the most common kind of feedback they get is negative feedback. People are much quicker to complain than affirm. Buck the trend. Did he choose one of your favorite songs for the service? Did a certain song help you to understand one of God’s attributes better? Did the choir do a nice job on their anthem? Are you praying for him? Tell him. He appreciates it more than you know.

7. Show tangible appreciation.

It is amazing what even the smallest gift can do to lift my husband’s spirits. A card of appreciation (I have come across cards that he has saved for years), something related to one of his hobbies, a church member buying him lunch at a fast food place. They might be small items monetarily speaking, but their message is, “I care about you, and I appreciate your hard work.” And that’s priceless.

We have been blessed over the last two decades to serve at several churches that had members who were very good at encouraging their minister of music. Their love and support made my husband’s ministry a joy. What are some ways you can think of to encourage the minister of music at your church and spread that same kind of joy?


This article was originally published at Satisfaction Through Christ.

Church, Complementarianism, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Six Questions for a Potential Church

Originally published March 27, 2015

church questions1

Have you ever had to look for a new church? Even with recommendations from godly friends, it can be hard to know which churches and pastors are doctrinally sound, and, of those doctrinally sound churches (because you certainly don’t want to go to one that isn’t doctrinally sound), which ones would be a good fit for your family.

There are lots of great articles out there with good, probing questions you should ask about the theology and doctrine of a church you’re considering. (I would recommend this one, this one, and this one. Also, make sure you understand these doctrinal issues and that the church you’re considering lines up with Scripture on these issues.) However, there are times when the answers to these types of questions don’t give you the whole picture of what is actually going on in a church on a day to day basis. In other words, sorry to say, a church can give you all the right answers on paper (or on their web site), but their practices don’t mirror those answers. Additionally, there are some non-doctrinal issues that are important to know about that questions about soteriology, baptism, biblical inerrancy, etc., won’t give you the answers to.

My husband and I are currently looking for a new church for our family. Since we are Southern Baptist and somewhat familiar with the handful of Southern Baptist churches we’re looking at, we already know the answers to the most important questions (the inspiration of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, the way of salvation, etc.) But I want to zoom in a little more on the finer points of belief and practices of these churches, so here are some questions I might ask the pastor of the church we would potentially join.

1.
Which Christian authors have had the biggest impact on your life, beliefs, and ministry?

When I ask this question (and look over the pastor’s shoulder at the titles on his bookshelf), I’m listening for the names of authors and pastors, living or dead, that I know are committed to sound biblical doctrine. If I hear a name like Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, Andy Stanley, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Rick Warren, Beth Moore, or any Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation personality, I’m going back to ask more probing doctrinal questions. If I hear multiple names like those, I’m outta there.

2.
Are you/this church complementarian or egalitarian?

Now you may not be familiar with those terms but any Christian pastor should be. It is a current issue in evangelicalism, and it’s part of his job to stay abreast of such things. I’m not looking for a pastor to be an expert on this topic, but he should be familiar with the terms and have a working understanding of the issues at play as well as the applicable Scriptures, and he should embrace and practice complementarianism as the biblical position.

Because I have been given the right “on paper” answer to this question in the past only to find out later that the church’s practices didn’t match up with its profession, I will probably ask the follow up question: “In what positions of leadership are women currently serving? Do any of them hold authority over men or instruct men in the Scriptures?” If I hear that women are (or would be allowed to in the future) teaching co-ed adult Sunday School classes, giving instruction during the worship service, serving on committees in which they hold biblically inappropriate authority over men, etc., that’s problematic.

3.
Can you give me some examples, from any time during your career as a pastor, of church
discipline issues that have arisen and
how you have handled them?

I’m looking for three things here. First, what does this pastor think constitutes a church discipline issue? If he thinks it’s necessary to discipline a female church member for wearing pants instead of a skirt, that’s an issue, because he’s disciplining someone who’s not sinning. If he doesn’t think it’s necessary to discipline church members who are unmarried yet cohabiting, that’s an issue because he’s not disciplining people who are sinning. Church discipline should only be exercised over unrepentant sinful behavior.

Second, is he afraid to exercise church discipline? Generally speaking, someone who has been a pastor for many years and has never handled a church discipline issue is either woefully ignorant of the biblical requirement of a pastor to rebuke those in sin, or he is afraid to rock the boat because he might get fired. Both of these are huge red flags.

Third, how does he exercise church discipline? Does he follow the steps outlined in Matthew 18 and other Scriptures with a heart to see the church member repent and be reconciled to Christ and the church body? Is he harsh and condemning? Is he firm enough in his resolve to carry all the way through to disfellowshipping a church member if necessary?

4.
How much oversight do you (or an
associate pastor or elder) have over the
women’s ministry at this church?

With this question, I’m trying to find out how much the pastor knows about what’s actually going on inside the women’s ministry (if they have one) and how much responsibility he takes to make sure all teaching and activities are in line with Scripture. Does he research and approve all teaching materials before a women’s Bible study commences? Does a women’s ministry director have complete autonomy over all materials and activities? Are all of the women in leadership positions in the women’s ministry godly and spiritually mature? Would any of the women’s ministry leadership raise a stink if someone showed them from Scripture that a Bible teacher whose materials they use or a women’s ministry activity they enjoy is unbiblical?

5.
Does the music ministry at this church follow a
minister of music model or a concert model?

There’s nothing wrong with Christian concerts per se, but my husband and I feel strongly (notice, I did not say “the Bible says”) that the worship service is not the place for one. We believe that a minister of music, preferably one who is ordained to the ministry, should lead and take responsibility for the church’s worship in a pastoral role. He should be trained in the Scriptures, preferably at seminary, in order to rightly handle and apply them to the music portion of the worship service and other music programs. He should also be trained in music theory and conducting so that he is able to lead in the practical aspects of music.

By contrast, we do not believe that making the music portion of the service like a concert, in which a band gets up and plays in a dark room with a laser light show and a smoke machine and the congregation can sing along if they want to, if they happen to know the songs, and if they are able to follow the ad libbing of the lead singer, is conducive to worship. We believe this tends to make the worship band into entertainers and the congregation into spectators, whereas the minister of music model fosters an atmosphere of “we’re all pulling together to do the work of worship as a unified body.”

This is not about contemporary music versus hymns, it is about one worship model versus another. It is our conviction (again, not a biblical mandate, but our strongly held conviction) after more than two decades in music ministry ourselves, that the minister of music model – regardless of the genre of worship music used – is the one most conducive to strong, biblical congregational worship. So this is something we’re going to want to know about, even though it is not necessarily a doctrinal issue.

6.
Do you preach topically or expositorily or both?

Topical preaching is when the pastor selects a topic to preach on (parenting, money, etc.) and uses biblical passages that apply to that topic to form his sermon. Pastors who preach expositorily usually preach through a book of the Bible from beginning to end before moving on to the next book.

Both are valid forms of preaching as long as God’s word is rightly handled and applied. However, it has been my experience that pastors who preach exclusively topically have more of a tendency to lift Bible verses out of their context in order to make them fit the topic they’re preaching. This is usually not as much of an issue for pastors who preach expositorily because they are simply preaching the Word, verse by verse, in its context.

Additionally, expository preaching gives church members a better understanding of Scripture and how it fits together, and exposes them more thoroughly to a wider range of biblical truth than exclusively topical preaching does. Therefore, I am looking for a pastor whose preaching style leans mostly towards expository, but who isn’t afraid to preach topically if he believes the church needs instruction on a certain topic.

So, those are some of the questions I’m thinking about asking. What questions would you ask when considering a new church?


For more resources on finding a new church, or what to look for in a church, click the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

Sermons

Gathered 2021: Family Worship Conference Teaching

I recently had the exciting opportunity to attend the Gathered conference here in Baton Rouge.

The topic of the conference was family worship in the context of the local church – how parents must disciple their children in conjunction with the church body, and how the church body can, in turn, support those parents and help them disciple their children.

There were four plenary sessions by Dr. Scott Aniol. Currently a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Scott was recently named Executive Vice President and Editor-in-chief of G3 Ministries. And you’ll definitely want to check out his website, Religious Affections Ministries, a wonderful resource for churches, families, and individuals.

Other presenters included Andrew Pressley, Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church, Lindale, Texas (Tom Buck’s church), and Matt Sikes, Pastor of Discipleship and Worship at Pray’s Mill Baptist Church (Josh Buice’s church).

You’ll find all of the main sessions and men’s breakout session (be sure to share them with your husband!) linked, but I wanted to feature the two women’s breakout sessions taught by Scott’s wife, Becky Aniol, who, among other fine pursuits, is a stay at home, homeschooling mom of four. She gave us a lot of biblical precepts and practical tips for family worship in her two part session A Family Worship Toolbox: Resources and Routines for Monday – Sunday. You’ll find them helpful with your children, grandchildren, or the children you minister to at church. I’m sure you’ll enjoy her sessions as much as I did.

Plenary Session 1: The Goal of Family Discipleship

Plenary Session 2: Practice Makes Perfect

Plenary Session 3: Q&A
(Scott and Becky Aniol, Matt Sikes, Andrew Pressley, and Laramie Minga)

Plenary Session 4: From Integration to Segregation

Men’s Breakout: The Father’s Responsibility in Family Worship Part 1

Men’s Breakout: The Father’s Responsibility in Family Worship Part 2

Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Axiom Questions, I’ll Tell You No Lies

Originally published May 1, 2015

axioms

Why do churches do church the way churches do church?

Ever thought about that? Moreover, have you ever thought about why churches take for granted that they have to do certain things or do things a certain way? Is there an unspoken assumption at your church that you have to have a sermon outline in the bulletin (or for that matter, that you have to have a bulletin), that Vacation Bible School is a non-negotiable event, or that the deacons absolutely must wear ties when serving the Lord’s Supper? Has it gone on for so long that now “it goes without saying”?

Don’t get me wrong- sermon outlines and bulletins can be very helpful, VBS is a great outreach, and I’m in favor of more men wearing ties to church, period. And I’m not talking about irrefutable biblical truths, either, such as, “faith in Christ is the only way of salvation,” or “God created the world,” or “women are not to instruct or hold authority over men in the church.” What I’m trying to get at here is that there are lots of church practices, preferences, and philosophies that we take as axiomatic. We never question them. We just assume they’re true. We act on them as though they’re immutable laws of physics or something. And every once in a while, somebody notices this and wants to change things up.

When it’s an axiom that’s been around for a few decades, the people who hold to that particular ideal are often chided (sometimes deservedly, sometimes not) by those who are pressing for changes. They’re called “inflexible” or “enslaved to tradition.” They’re labled as the “We’ve never done it that way before,” or “We’ve always done it this way,” people.

But have we ever stopped to think that, in many cases, the changes people seek to make today are the outmoded preferences of tomorrow? Often, we’re not making the church better or more biblical, we’re just adding a new premise here or trading one axiom for another there. Like rearranging deck chairs on a cruise ship. Or the Titanic.

Let’s take a look at some of those new axioms that have materialized over the last couple of decades and are now assumed to be a “given” when it comes to ecclesiology.

1. Pastors need to “cast vision,” and churches need a vision/mission statement.
No, they don’t. Christ is the head of the church, the CEO, if you will. Therefore, He is the only one whose place it is to have a vision for the church and to set a mission statement for it. And He has already done that for us. It was one of the last items on His agenda before leaving earth. It’s called the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

2. Churches have to be attractional.
Should you invite people to church? Absolutely. Should you be kind and welcoming to visitors? Of course. But that’s not what “attractional” means these days. Attractional means assimilating church into the culture so that lost people will think it’s a cool and groovy place and will flock through the door in droves. That’s why you see pastors coming out onto a stage and giving a Tonight Show-esque monologue while dressed like a teenager at a concert, churches playing music that sounds like what you hear on the radio (sometimes music that is on the radio) accompanied by bands that mimic whichever artist is popular at the moment, no choirs, no pews, no crosses, no pulpits, no hymnals, but a Starbucks in the lobby. Everything a sinner is used to in his daily life. Everything that will make him perfectly comfortable.

Where is this model of doing church found in the Bible? If you answered, “nowhere,” you’d be correct. The church, by definition, is made up of believers. Christ Himself is what is attractional to people who have genuinely been born again. And when we meet together, we have one purpose: to worship and grow in Him. The Bible never tells the church to make itself look like the world to bring lost people into the church. Christ tells us, believers, the church, to go out and make disciples, to go out into the highways and byways and urge the lost to trust Christ so that His house might be filled…with believers.

3. Church should be fun.
Nope, not going to find that one in the Bible either. Worshiping Christ should bring us the deepest joy we can fathom, but that’s not the same thing as rock concert, bouncy house, stand up comedian, outlandish props and gimmicks, music video back up dancers, cash and prizes giveaway, “fun”. Church should be joyful, welcoming, warm, and pleasant. It should also be reverent, solemn, and, often, serious. Worshiping Christ, handling and learning His word, partaking of communion and baptism– these are not frivolous things, and the climate of the church should reflect that.

4. When it comes to the size of a local church, bigger is not only better, but more spiritual.
I see articles from denominational leaders and church growth gurus all the time that start with the presupposition that if your church isn’t constantly growing until you’ve reached thousands in attendance and have to go multi-site, you need to get on that problem, pronto. Or that if your attendance numbers are “stuck” around the 200 or 300 mark, it’s a crisis that needs to be addressed. Pastor, you need to do something about that. It’s assumed that you want to do something about that.

Says who? Says people who have made a lot of money selling church growth materials and want to make more, that’s who. The fact of the matter is, mega churches are the exception, not the rule. The average size of a church in the U.S. is 186 people, and 94% of church goers attend a church of under 500 members.

There are many perfectly legitimate and biblical reasons why a local church might be small. Smaller churches foster intimacy in fellowship, accountability in discipleship, and make it easier for pastors to shepherd individuals and small groups. Certainly, a church should welcome any newcomers wishing to join and should seek to minister to the surrounding community, but if zeal for the gospel is in place, there is no shame in being a small church.

5. Our worship music has to be contemporary.
Why? No, really. Why does it have to be pop-contemorary style? Because we’ll lose or fail to attract young people? First of all, there are plenty of young people who, believe it or not, like hymns and traditional worship music. Why aren’t we concerned about alienating them? What about the older people who like hymns? What about the young people who like country music, or classical music, or rap, or screamo, or death metal, or opera? How come we don’t cater to any of their musical preferences (assuming that’s the basis on which you choose the genre of worship music) during the worship hour?

Up until the early ’80’s or so, when you went to church, you expected to sing hymns out of a hymnal. There’s nothing wrong with adding new songs here and there to the church’s repertoire, but there is something wrong with trying to replicate what’s going on in the world in order to entice lost people into the church. When people go to a funeral they expect to hear funeral music. When they go to a fais do do they expect to hear Cajun music. And have you seen how incensed people get when somebody tries to put a fresh spin on the National Anthem? It’s perfectly all right for church music to sound churchy. We don’t need to apologize for that.

6. Leaving a church (or deciding not to join one) because you don’t like contemporary worship music is selfish, petty, and reeks of spiritual immaturity.
Really? I thought you just said we had to use contemporary music to get young people to join and keep them from leaving. Are they selfish, petty, and spiritually immature for having their music preference catered to? Why don’t they have to suck it up and sing hymns? Would you go to a church that used only a genre of music you hate, like rap or opera? Does that make you selfish, petty, and spiritually immature?

It’s time we stopped shaming people for wanting to leave a church that has changed to a genre of music or a worship style that they hate. There will be times in every church when a particular song (or maybe even several) is sung that you don’t like. That’s normal no matter which genre your church uses. But music is a huge part of our worship services, and if, even after making an effort to embrace the music, you are so distracted by the genre that you’re incapable of focus on Christ, you need to go to a church- a doctrinally sound one, mind you – where you can worship.

We make a lot of assumptions about the way we should do church. Maybe it’s time to start questioning some of them.

What are some other church axioms you’ve noticed?

Sermons, Worship

Sermon: Biblical Worship

It’s not often you get to hear a great sermon out of Leviticus, so I wanted to share this one with you, preached by my friend Laramie Minga, Pastor of Worship and Discipleship at Woodlawn Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

If you’re a new Christian or maybe you’re just coming out of an unbiblical “church” and you’re not quite sure what biblical worship in a doctrinally sound church is supposed to look like, this sermon will help. And even if you are in a solid church with biblical worship, Laramie’s sermon will be an encouragement to you. The worship pastor at your own church might even enjoy giving it a listen.

The text for the sermon is Leviticus 10:1-11.

Here’s the visual for the elements of worship around the 37:34 mark:

I hope you’ll enjoy this great teaching from God’s Word as much as I did!