Thinking about either starting or joining a contemporary praise band?
by Steve Brown
We are indeed in the midst of a worship revolution. Many WELS churches are starting to supplement and complement their traditional organ-based music with new contemporary praise bands.
Most people who volunteer to serve in these bands have gotten their experience by playing in a variety of secular music bands, be it folk, rock, jazz, country, classical or a school marching band and soon find out that things are a bit different. This is new to most of us, because in the past, if someone decided to learn to play the organ, it was most likely for only one purpose – to play in church. Following is a list of experiences you will most likely run across as you participate in a Praise Band:
- Your Praise band is open to all members. If your church is large, you will be doing some occasional auditioning for replacement or additional band members and the requirements for being a band member are much different than in the secular world. You might end up with some odd combinations – such as a two-piece band: piano and saxophone. In the church world, one important characteristic is “heart.” Each musician needs to have the heart of a worshipper. Each musician needs to see their participation as an offering and as a service to the church. Pastors and worship leaders need to value spiritual character over gifting when it comes to selecting musicians. Pursuing musical excellence and a tight sound are still important but become secondary issues.
- There is no need for an elevated platform, no need for special lights, no exclusive backstage area; in fact, the best place for the band is in the back where nobody sees you. Your mindset needs to be, “make more of Jesus and less of me.” Be willing to release that which you have, that you might become God’s channel of blessing in the life of another. “Freely you have received, freely give.” Mt 10:8b
- There is little to no need for long showy instrumental solos; OK a little riff or musical segue or turnaround here or there between the vocals can be done well and can be God glorifying but the motivation and mindset of the musician has to be right.
- The band is driven, and takes its direction, not from the band leader per say, but from God’s word, from the Pastor, and from the Worship Leader (who might also be a band member).
- Most secular bands concentrate on a particular set of music where they practice these songs over and over. This enables them to perfect the songs and memorize the lyrics. In the church world, this is usually not possible. In fact, you will typically be playing new and different music each week.
- Pop bands have a following and a specific clientele or age group or demographic that they cater to. In the church environment, your audience first and foremost is God. But you also have a roomful of people, ranging in age from newborn to pushing 100, and for the most part, the same people attend week-to-week; hopefully with a few new additions as well.
- You’re job is not to entertain. You are there to help lead worship. It is a high Calling. Since you are helping to lead worship; church membership, adherence to doctrinal beliefs, and fellowship with your congregation is a must.
If you are a musician considering this high calling; first get your heart in the right place. Here’s some help:
- Grow in the knowledge of God. Being a church musician has implications of studying God’s word and listening to hymns, Psalms and spiritual songs in your leisure time.
- Pray regularly for things like musical proficiency, discernment of song lyrics, leadership skills, your Pastor and your other band members, and also to thank God for the gifts he has given to you.
- Be humble, boast only in Christ, because all things were created through Him and for His glorification. You can do nothing without Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5
- You are part of a team. This requires cooperation and teamwork. Be prompt and diligent in your work. Listen carefully as you play and make every effort to fit in and blend musically with your fellow musicians.
- Realize that your part in leading worship is exclusively dependent and is grounded on Christ’s finished work at the cross. “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” – Colossians 1:18-20
- Seek the edification and opinions of others. Receive criticism graciously.
This doesn’t seem like a very rosy picture for church musicians. It seems so “Lutheran.” But the truth is that playing music in church and accompanying God’s people in songs of praise is an extremely rewarding experience. I look forward to it all week long and as soon as the Sunday service is over, I eagerly anticipate next week’s service. If you pursue church music, God will stir a hunger and a passion in your heart, and you will feel God’s presence in your heart. There aren’t too many feelings like it on this earth.
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10
A Prayer for Church Musicians and Artists