No pictures. No graphics. Just words….
I sat in a church meeting a few years ago where a few people voiced that they did not want a choir for a particular upcoming service. This made me raise an eyebrow for obvious reasons, but what stuck out to me and made me become more introspective was the reason that was voiced for not wanting a full choir, but instead having a praise team or small ensemble. The persons felt that removing some of the bodies out of the way would make more room for God to come to the forefront of the worship service.
While I found this statement to be interesting, I began to look at what choirs represent in my church and in many churches across the country. They often represent entertainment. Choirs should exist to bring variety to services, but instead of bringing variety, it often boils down to who’s choir can sing the best, the hardest, or even the longest. In this way, and in others, the choir sometimes represents separatism more than unification. Importance is placed on how many, who does what better, how much the congregation enjoyed, instead of how the atmosphere was truly charged or changed by what was presented. The choir should serve as an extension of worship by a larger group, but the choir’s “set” is often looked at as the end of worship and beginning “the show”. While the attendees at the meeting weren’t fully aware of the inner workings of music ministry, I believe that these underlying goals and motives cannot go unnoticed, even if they can’t be articulated by the general congregant. The typical church member may not know that choirs compete about which choir sings a song best, but what goes on behind the scenes is projected spiritually anytime you minister, good or bad.
Although many people believe that the choir is making a comeback, and many gospel choir heads have proclaimed that this is the season to #bringbackthechoir, I think the reasons stated above are in large part why the choir took a sabbatical in the first place, and why many church people overall don’t see a need for the choir. They would rather have fewer people and less drama if it means more worship and more of God. I don’t know all of the answers, but what I do know is that when showmanship exceeds ministry, we have a problem. When holding on to titles or entities that no longer serve purpose is more important than embracing changes that will unify the core, our motives are obviously displaced.
In one of my most noted blog posts entitled “Ten Reasons We Need The Choir“, I provide a plethora of reasons, spiritual and practical, why the choir has, and should have, a solid place in church worship and church ministry overall. I stand by this, and I promote this unapologetically. However, my fear is that as we move away from the intended purposes for the choir, and move toward more ulterior, aesthetic, and superficial purposes for having the choir (or even multiple choirs within one church), we will lose our effectiveness. How can a choir be a place that promotes unity but often has some of the most discord out of any ministry? How can the choir mirror the angelic host, but often find itself with an imbalance of people who live comfortably with sin and don’t care to improve? How can we reach others with our message if we can’t even reach ourselves? If we don’t feel encouraged, uplifted, healed, or refreshed when we come together, how can we expect that our “performance” will bring this freshness to anyone else’s life or situation?
For me, this was a wake up call of sorts. Not because I’m not very serious about ministry and specifically the ministry of the choir, but because I can see how I have allowed my surroundings to cause my vision to be skewed. Choir leaders, ministers of music, even praise and worship leaders, keep the main thing the main thing in your mind and in your heart. While our purposes differ, we have a distinct gift and a distinct offering to the people, but our power and effectiveness will be completely lost if we allow it to be.
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