Monthly Archives: January 2012

Wrong Notes in Clay Jars


I love to serve my home church by leading the congregational singing. I enjoy the hours of preparation required to seamlessly tie the songs to the general theme of the bible readings and sermon. I receive a great sense of personal satisfaction from the vocal practice that I employ so that my singing enhances and guides the participation of my fellow worshippers. As recently as a couple of Sunday’s ago I was fortunate enough to lead one of our morning congregations through the songs that thematically centred on singing God’s praise through the generations. The service went smoothly and a deep shared sense of God’s presence rested on the meeting as we sang songs that connected us with lyrics taken from today, the 8th century, as well as words penned by David in the Psalms. One of our pastoral staff led us through Ps 145 and drew our attention to the centrality of Christ. Wonderful! Wonderful that is until I started the final song…

The song we had chosen as the final piece was the new song by Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman (2011), 10,000 Reasons. For those of you unfamiliar with the piece, the song commences with the chorus and then leads into verse one. I had decided that I would attempt to dovetail a solo presentation of the opening chorus neatly against the end of Ps Phil’s closing prayer. An excellent idea…until I missed the entrance note by approximately a 4th. “No problem” I thought…it kind of worked in a kooky indie kind of way…”I’ll just make a quick adjustment when I invite the congregation to join me for verse one…how hard can it be for a doctor of musical arts?” Ha! Very hard it seems…I couldn’t find the right key/note to save myself. Fortunately, after what felt like an eternity of ‘awkward’ I had a friend in the pews that came to my rescue by belting out the right notes so that the congregation could commence singing. Actually, in the end, what took place was beautiful. In the midst of my broken attempts to find the right notes the congregation’s voice rose above mine to the point that they were leading me. It was so good that every time we sang a verse (there are three) I handed the leadership of the melody over to the 100 strong voices of the congregation. I would go as far as to say that the service may not have been as rich an experience had I got the entrance into the final song right.

Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, reminds us that “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:7). A common vessel for grains, water and oils in New Testament times, the household ‘jar of clay’ was given to breaking and spilling its contents. Even the well-crafted glazed pot or jar was vulnerable to mishap and structural failure. While reminding us that we are made of fallible materials Paul celebrates our earthiness; our imperfection and vulnerability. Paul reminds us to revel in the way God is glorified and revealed in our weakness.

Admittedly, I am not going to go searching for opportunities to fail in my responsibilities of leading the congregation in worship. I am however excited to know that God is more than capable of using our wrong notes stored in clay jars.

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Vocals Only: Energy vs. Effort


Should we pay Church Musicians?


I recently had a great email conversation with a good friend of mine who currently resides in colourful Canada. The discussion was centred around a Q&A session with Bob Kauflin and John  Piper; two Christian leaders who we both admire and respect (you can view the video here). My friend suggested I blog my commentary…so here it is – almost word for word. I now eagerly invite you into the conversation also…

I just watched the video at length. Overall this was a good watch with some helpful insights. It’s always good to have our leaders speak their mind ‘unscripted’…it also reveals some interesting bias that runs subterranean to their ‘public views’.

The comments which grabbed my attention specifically were the points about unbelievers in worship and the discussion about ‘paying muso’s’ in church. Whilst I agree with the position that the worship platform is no place for the unbeliever I note that Timothy Keller utilises unbelievers in his services. In D. A. Carson’s “Worship by the Book” (2002) Keller writes, “…we often include non-Christian musicians in our services who have wonderful gifts and talent. We do not use them as soloists, but we incorporate them into our ensembles. We believe this fits a Reformed ‘world-and-life view.’ (p. 239). I guess there are a range of views on what constitutes as a ‘reformed world-and-life view’.

Secondly, it is also Keller who supports the payment of musicians for their worships services. Again in Carson’s text he writes,

…we use only professional and/or trained musicians for our corporate worship services, and we pay them all. The reason for this has to do with our commitment to excellence. We are one of many congregations today that hire only professional clergy for their staff. Ministers (and other staff, such as counsellors) are expected to be schooled and trained specifically for their work and then paid for it by the church. However many of these same congregations single out and treat musicians differently. (p. 239)

The concern I have with Bob’s position (it’s preferable to not pay muso’s) is that he is almost certainly on a payroll for a role which almost certainly includes playing in worship services. From all observations his remuneration does not affect his humility or his sense of calling; which he seems to imply would happen to ‘lay’ volunteers if they were paid for their service. Bob later references the idea of excellence and skill-standards suggesting that practice is required by instrumentalists and vocalists on worship team. Of course I couldn’t agree more…but let’s not forget that those same people volunteering their time on the worship team (without pay) need to work, aside from their service in church, to earn a dollar. The consequence is people are super-busy with little time to practice the very craft (instrument) that they are required to be excellent on. As Marva Dawn writes in Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, (1995) “Think of the musical experiences that could happen in our churches if we spent more to pay good church musicians. Very few parishes have well-paid musicians, and yet music is a major part of the worship experience!” (p. 45). The issue of ‘to pay or not to pay’ is not an open/shut discussion as is suggested by this Q&A.

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