Talent Or Spiritual Gift: What’s The Difference?

We’ve been talking a lot about talent vs. anointing on the fan page lately. I ran across this article on GotQuestions.org that really handeled the subject well. I appreciate the fact that the author gave scriptures for every point. The summary at the end really ties up the whole subject very well and makes a lot of sense. I’d quote it here but I’m afraid if I do you may not go read the full article, and if you don’t you’re going to really miss out in my opinion. So go ahead and check that out and leave me your comment on the fan page, or right here below this article.

How To Deal With Challenging Situations In Your Music Ministry

I was sitting at my computer one night- about a Thursday or Friday night I think- when I got an e-mail from the choir director. In the e-mail she explained that she had thrown her back out and needed me to cover for her Sunday. I joked with her a little bit, telling her she’d better get herself a wheelchair and be on her post, lol! But then I assured her that of course I’d stand in for her. Little did I know that was only beginning of what would seem like a snowball of challenging situations that would occur that Sunday.

So I get to church and there’s hardly anyone in the choir stand. As members started to come up the MOM and I realized that we had a skeleton crew for a choir. One Tenor, who was apparently having issues with his voice, about 5 Altos and NO Sopranos. The details as to why they weren’t there aren’t really relevant. The point is we had a situation. One not unlike situational challenges we all deal with week in and week out in our music departments.

My MOM and I sit right next to each other, she on the organ and myself on the keys. She turned to me and said “I guess we won’t be doing the two songs we’d planned to do”. “I guess not!”, I replied. So after a little discussion we came up with two alternates we thought we could do well with what we had.

So the time came for us to do our first selection, and I took my place in front of the choir. Ironically (and not intentionally) we had chosen to do a song called “With God I Can (get through this)”. It was a song with no leader that we thought was easy enough for us to do but still far from a “crutch song”.  As I looked at the faces in the choir stand I could see the frustration and…I don’t know, fear? Anger? Hard to describe. But suffice it to say the choir was “affected” , both emotionally and spiritually by the situation at hand. It was all over their faces, their countenance. There was just no life, energy or enthusiasm there.

I approached the song as I always do, smiling and directing with the same level of enthusiasm I would any other time. But it was just not happening. We struggled and hobbled through the song, not really giving anything to it. Glaringly noticiable facial expressions beaming towards the audience that seemed to scream “I’m not into this at all”.

So I did a shorter version of it, sat everyone down and went back to my seat. It was only then that I allowed my own frustration to show with my back safely turned to the audienc. But my frustration had nothing to do with the situation we were dealing with. No, my frustration had everything to do with how we handled it.

My MOM turned to me and said “boy that was an appropriate song” (with God I can get through this). I said “Yeah but we were singing those words but our faces didn’t reflect what we were singing. “That’s why we have to sing to the Glory and honor of God”, she replied.

The experience stayed with me and really got me thinking. Usually when I start thinking the first place I start is with my own thoughts. I have a tendency to examine my thoughts and hold them accountable. I ask myself why I’m thinking what I’m thinking. Feeling what I’m feeling. I question my motives. Even my own emotions. It’s called “Introspection”. And I remembered the first thought I had when I realized we wouldn’t have any Sopranos. Now, I knew that everyone was kinda freaking out about this.

But I guess I’ve been practicing this stuff so long that I’ve just developed a different way of assessing things. So the first thought I had when I realized we’d have NO Sopranos, was: “Ok, so we’ll sing with 2-harmony instead of 3-part harmony. It’ll still sound fine. The audience could care less.” And I fully expected that we would go on to deliver the song just like we do with a full choir stand. With all the praise and enthusiasm that we would any other time. But that isn’t what happened. We allowed the situation to completely defeat us. And because we sang to the situation we completely failed to sing to the Glory and honor of God.

But the truth is this situation is not unique by a long shot. Music departments all over the world deal with these kinds of issues on a regular basis. That’s not the devil, that’s life. And usually the minute we realize that there is some kind of challenging situation at hand the first place our attitude goes is south. We become so frustrated and angry about the situation itself that the situation overshadows everything. So now we have to get up and try to minister in this negative state. And you know as well as I do that ministry just isn’t going to happen when our heart isn’t right.

So what do we do? After all, circumstances are going to continue to happen. That’s just the reality when you’re dealing with groups of people who all have their own lives, challenges and problems and yes, attitudes to deal with. So since we can’t change that, there’s really only one way to address these situations.

if you can't change the situationIn my opinion every situation we deal with in our various music departments will fall into two basic categories:

1. Situations We CAN’T change.
2. Situations We CAN Change.

On any given Sunday we may find ourselves dealing with anything from several members out of town on vacation or at a confrence, key personnel out sick, unexpected work schedule changes that prevent people you counted on being present from being on their post, etc. These are all situations we can’t really do much about. But in these situations we must remember that our charge and level of responsibility to minister doesn’t change. God doesn’t deserve any less from us because we’re in our feelings about whatever challenge we happen to be dealing with this week. We must be on our post and we must give God the best we’re capable of, period. We must sing from a sincere place, and we must sing to the Glory and honor of God.

When we find ourselves in challenging situations it’s only human to react emotionally.  In fact talked about that in another article, The 5 Second Rule Of Music Ministry. It’s frustrating and I’m not saying pretend not to feel it or that you’re wrong if you do.

Where we go wrong though is when we fail to move past that initial frustation, anger or whatever it happens to be for you at the moment, gather ourselves and re-focus our minds and hearts on the charge we’ve been given.  When we can’t change the situation we MUST change how we see the situation. We must change our attitude.

Often because we’re “music people” we tend to forget that the audience doesn’t see things the way we do, nor do they care about all the little details we obsess over.  For us, an entire section missing is catastrophic. It changes everything. We can’t minister effectively (or so we think). We’re not gonna have 3 part harmony. How dare all those people not show up! Whatever. But what we don’t realize is the audience could care less about any of that.

They don’t even know a “section” is missing. They might be able to tell you’re few in number, but they still fully expect that you will go on to minister in song and let God use you. And they don’t care if you do that with 2 parts or 3. With or without a leader. Full band or no bass player. Or no music at all. It just doesn’t matter as long as you get up there, sing from your heart, sing under the anoiting and let God use you.What they are affected by though is our attitudes. Facial expressions. Lack of sincerity, enthusiasm or any sign that you even care what’s happening at that given moment.
But what if we decided to let situations like this make us that much more determined to go on and give God our best in SPITE of the situation? Oh man, we don’t have any Sopranos. “Oh well, we’re going to use what we have and sing to the glory and honor of God andway. We’ll just have 2-part harmony instead of 3-part harmony.”

See we’re the only ones that care about stuff like that. All the audience wants is to be blessed by the music ministry. And the audience will always be blessed if we’re giving God our best from a sincere and real place. In fact the audience is MORE likely to be blessed by your ministry when they see that you refuse to let a challenging situation change your whole attitude about the song you’re about to sing, or even showing up that day.

And that’s true for any situation, whether the leader didn’t show up (ok so we’ll sing another song, or use a back-up, or sing the song without the leader), or the musician didn’t show up (ok so we’ll sing one of our a cappella songs ( you do have a couple of those for just such an occasion, right?) or we’ll simply sing the songs we planned to sing, just a cappella). You get the idea.

What I’m getting at is when you can’t change the situation you have to concentrate on the thing you CAN change, and that’s how you feel about the situation. How you choose to see it. How you’re going to react to it. But attitude is a choice. We can’t often change what happens to us but we can always change how we react to it.  Resolve, no matter what, every Sunday, regardless of the situation, that nothing will stop you from Giving God your best praise when you sing that song. Know that if you do He will use your ministry in a mighty way, because perfect praise will always overcome imperfect situations.

This is already pretty long, so let’s tackle the second category- Things We CAN Change- in a part 2 blog post next week.

Be blessed!



Are We Becoming “Too Professional” With Our Worship?

I came across this article on davidsantistevan.com recently, and I was instantly intrigued by the title. The article was a thought-provoking read for me personally, because I believe we often fall short of making the effort to give God our best in the service and presentation of our ministries to His people.

In fact one of my biggest pet peeves over the years has been that thing we have a tendency to say when a a bit more effort is required to perfect a song? Or when a piece is more challenging than usual? When we’re having to press through frustration to get the parts right, memorize the lyrics or just understand how a song flows? You know that bail-out phrase “We ain’t no professionals”.

But there’s a flip-side to that mentality. The other extreme, where we get so obsessed with perfection that we lose sight of what (and whom) this is really about. This article does a great job of really challenging that thin line that separates the two. This one will challenge your thinking on some levels. Click the image below to go to the article. Give it a read and let’s talk about it on the Fan Page.

Are we becoming too professional?

7 Biblical Purposes For Music In The Church

I think one of the main purposes God pushed me into this direction with my business/ministry is to help people understand that music ministry is so much more important than just a spot on the program for entertainment. It’s so much bigger than us, our feelings and what we want or don’t want to do or sing.

As often as possible I try to use scripture to illustrate the importance of music ministry in the bible. I believe the more you read about music ministry and it’s role in the bible the more you come to understand how important this calling is, for all of us. So when I came across this article I really appreciated that it included not only 7 Biblical purposes for music but references for all seven purposes that it covers: Worship, Thanks, Rejoicing, Consecration, Edification, Evangelism and Preservation of Faith.  The article was written by Paul Chappel and you can find it on his website, PaulChappel.com . Just click below to go directly to the article.

7 Biblical Purposes for Music

February 8, 2010 by Paul Chappell



How To Identify Keys On A Piano (every singer should know this)

You’ve heard me say it before if you’re a regular reader, but every singer should at a minimum be able to tell the musician what key they sing a certain song in. Especially in Gospel churches where most music is done on the fly and you often don’t know who’s playing for you. Knowing what key you’re going to sing in insures that you won’t start in a key that’s too high or one that you haven’t been practicing in. We’ve all seen that happen and it ain’t pretty!

Even if you’re not interested in learning to actually play, learning your keys on the piano is easier than you think. In fact if you can say your ABC’s (you don’t even need all of them, just the first 7) and recognize a very simple, very repetitive pattern, you can learn the keys on a piano in minutes. Look at this graphic of a piano keyboard. piano-notes-and_keys

The first thing I want you to notice is that, as I said, we’re only using the first 7 letters of the alphabet, A thru G. Now look at the black keys. See the pattern? All the way up the keyboard, you’ll see groups of 2 black keys and then 3 black keys. Now let’s look at the key of C. Notice how the key of C is the first white key to the left of the 2 black keys. Because this pattern repeats the entire length of the keyboard, every time you see 2 black keys the first white key to the left of them will be the key of C.

Once you know where the key of C is, it’s as simple as pressing down the next white key and saying the next letter in the alphabet. Look at the graph again: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. We started over at A when we got to G because in America these are the only letters we use in music.

So what about the black keys?? The black keys represent the sharps and flats in music. This can get involved if you’re actually studying music theory, but that’s not our purpose here. We’re just learning how to identify what key we’re singing in. For that we can use this simple rule: The first black key to the RIGHT of a white key is it’s sharp. The first black key to the LEFT of a white key is it’s flat.

So let’s look at the key of C again. Where is C located? First white key to the left of the group of 2 black keys. So if we look at the key of C, what’s that black key to the right of it? It’s C Sharp! Or, you could call it D Flat, since it’s the first black key to the left of the D key. This also works all the way up the keyboard. For example what is the black key to the right of the A key? You could say “A sharp”, but it’s more commonly referred to as B flat. Either way, if you said it to a musician he’d know where to put you.

If you have a pretty good ear- meaning you can listing to music and find that key on a piano, then now you know how to identify what that key is so you can tell a musician. But if you can do that, then why not take it one step further and just learn how to play! Learning to play keyboard will absolutely transform your singing, and you can learn it on line.

By far my top resource on-line for learning about piano, no matter what level you’re on, is HearAndPlay. These guys have a ton of free information that will help anyone at any level understand more than you ever thought you could about playing the piano. It’s really a good thing to be on their mailing list if you’re someone who is serious about learning how to play. You can get some free lessons just by visiting this link. Check it out!
Free Piano Lessons

The Real Reason All Gospel Singers Should Take Vocal Lessons (It’s Not What You Think)

By far the biggest challenge I face daily in this ministry is convincing naturally gifted singers that they too need to invest in vocal lessons.

But that’s because so many people think vocal lessons are about teaching you how to sing. Well if I already know how to sing, and I was born into a family of singers, why would I need lessons, right?

But let me ask you for a moment to think about the last time you sang. Probably last Sunday. Whether you sang lead or background doesn’t matter. What matters is how you felt. Think back. Was there ever a time your attention shifted from the message you were singing about to the task of singing itself?

Think back. Did you at any time start to feel discomfort? Did you find yourself at any point just kinda wanting the song to be over?  If you did, you must understand that in moments like those your mind, heart and spirit are no longer available to God.

Physical and mental limitations become a hindrance to your ministry when they take your focus away from the message. You really can’t be a proper conduit for the Holy Spirit to flow through if the connection is broken.

That is the real reason all singers who proclaim the Gospel through music should invest in vocal training. It’s not so you can hold a note until the audience starts clapping in celebration of how long you’re holding the note. That’s about YOU. It’s not about being able to sing notes so high that they become almost irritating to the listener. That is also about you.

The real reason it’s important for Christian/Gospel singers should take lessons is to remove any physical limitations that distract you from the message. Physical limitations lead to mental distractions. Now your mind is somewhere other than focused on what you’re singing about.

Training your instrument simply makes you a better instrument for for God. It frees you from things that distract you. Things that keep you from being able to go when doors open. Makes you unable to focus your heart and mind on what you’re singing about. So when you take lessons you are taking steps to eliminate those things so that you can be more effective when you minister in song. Not by holding notes longer or singing notes higher, but by eliminating anything that breaks that spiritual connection to the message that you need to really move from performing to ministering. And that’s about God, not about you.

Listen, I can definitely understand the hesitation many people have to spending the money to take vocal lessons when they aren’t really sure they’ll benefit at all from them. You may have even been told as much by someone who took lessons. But you really can’t rely completely on someone elses’ opinion on things like this. There are too many variables.

Many people sign up but they quit after one lesson. Some continue to take lessons but they don’t practice at home so they don’t see results. So only you can decide if they’ll really improve your ministry, and you can only decide that by trying them.

I know that’s a scary thought for many people though. So I wanted every singer to have an opportunity to try vocal training for themselves without fear or reservation. To do that I created a free 5 day vocal training course. You can get this course by simply signing up for my mailing list. You won’t need a credit card, you will never be charged. It’s simply an opportunity for you to see for yourself what some training can do for your ministry.

You’ll be introduced to some simple, basic vocal lessons and concepts. If you take them seriously and actually do them, in a few days you’ll notice changes. At the end I’ll give you an opportunity to continue your training at a deeply discounted rate. Completely optional, of course. Some people go on to up-grade to the full home study course, but many more simply enjoy the free lessons and go their own way, more educated. Whether they upgraded or not though, thousands of people all over the world have taken this course and raved about it. You’ll see hundreds of testimonials below the video lessons when you join.

So take the the step right now by filling out the simple form below. If you do the exercises I’m going to show you in this course you will fill different by the very next time you sing. The next step will be up to you.