The one thing that must be your reason for EVERYTHING

Passion_Word_Art_Poster

Saturday night, about 9:00, I was relaxing in my apartment all by myself. Watching comedy shows on tv while I fold laundry and enjoy a couple of Sweet Italian Brats. And I was smiling. Not because of the comedy show I was watching though. No, that was making me laugh. This smile was coming from a different place. It was coming from a place of deep satisfaction, contentment, gratitude and just….love, I guess you’d call it.

You see Saturday I installed this cool new feature on my fan page that allows people to actually type up a review and rate it with up to 5 stars. Well, I sent the word out to my mailing list, posted on my fan page, sent a few private messages, etc. Lo and behold, the thing wasn’t working correctly. People were trying to leave their review and were unable to. I was so frustrated! Frustrated and embarrassed, actually.

So now I’ve sent out all these e-mails with a link to something that isn’t working. Not to mention the promoted post I had out there. So after deleting the app and re-installing it, now I have to go “eat crow” and ask these people to do it again. I thought “oh man, they’re going to be angry because I e-mailed them again. Someone’s gonna complain I’m spamming them, or unsubscribe. And in fact one person did (that I know of).

But in the meantime something else was happening. Something wonderful. In the middle of my frustration I started to notice that my fan page was more active and busier than it had ever been in any one day. I was laughing and chatting and talking with people, and everything I was posting was getting comments and likes, and…wow! But that wasn’t the best part. The best part was that people were starting to respond to the call.

They were starting to come to the fan page to leave their reviews. And that was touching enough, but there were a couple of people who were so determined to share their kind words with me that they spent most of their morning trying to get the app to work, going back several times and leaving their comments. Not to be denied the opportunity to share how they had been blessed, several of them simply posted their wonderful comments right on my wall when the app wouldn’t work.

One of my subscribers has told me since day one that he doesn’t do FaceBook, period. Well imagine how I felt when a comment showed up with that little blank head on the left where the picture should be. It was him. He felt the need to share his appreciation so strongly that he actually created an account and liked the page just to do so. Overwhelming.

So in the middle of all this, the guy who created the app responded to my distress call. He came to my page to test it by leaving a review. While he was there though, he couldn’t help notice all the great comments, responses and love going on. “Wow, great page Ron! You have great content and such a responsive audience” I felt like company had just dropped in unexpectedly at my house and found it in absolutely pristine condition, with everyone dressed to the 9’s and on their best behavior.

So I’m reflecting on all of this at the end of the day and just marveling at how absolutely great it all made me feel. And I think I understood at that moment better than any other time in my life why I’ve dedicated my life to music ministry. It certainly hasn’t been because of days like this. No, days like this are rare indeed. This is not the norm, it’s the exception.  So what drives me to do this all the other days when there’s nobody there? It has to be something besides kudos and recognition, because often they are simply not there.  No, the single driving motivation for everything I do in this ministry is passion. Love.

 In music ministry and everything else in life you set out to do, unbridled passion for it must be the reason you do it. Not the promise of money, not the hope of eventual fame or recognition. Not the praise of the masses. It must be love. Passionate love. That kind of love, I discovered at that moment, is the thing that has made me come to that page all of the other days when nobody’s engaging or commenting or liking or anything else.  All of the other 364 days when nobody’s stopping by, or those days when I write a fantastic article that doesn’t raise an eyebrow.

Or when I drive that choir to the point that they almost hate me at rehearsal and then they absolutely sing us through the roof Sunday, but nobody says anything or makes the connection or says thank you. Or all those times I go to that other church and prepare their choir for their musicals and special occasions, driving 30 minutes one way on a Saturday (leaving my visiting kids at my place) 3 weeks in a row, only to hear them give most of the credit to their director and only casually mention that I “stopped by and helped out”.

Passion is the thing that drives you to keep doing it even when there doesn’t seem to be much of a payoff for you. Love is the thing that makes you HAVE to do it even after the 100th conversation with yourself that you should quit. It is the thing that makes you do it even when you feel nobody really appreciates it.

Of course, I knew this stuff.

But Saturday I had an epiphany. You see there I was, basking in the warm glow of this Fan page love fest that was happening. And feeling sooo loved and sooo appreciated. But then I realized that The Music Ministry Coach.com (something I didn’t want to create) is the perfect merging of everything I love passionately. God gave me a love of music. He gave me a passion for teaching. And he gave me a joy of writing.

So before I ever joined the choir as a kid, I listened to the background singers while everyone else sang along with the leader. Before I ever had a blog I wrote poems at 11 years old. And beautiful essays in  high school, and love letters to my girlfriends, and songs, and articles that I did just for the joy I got from the creative release of writing. And before I was ever a vocal coach I loved teaching people things.  Anything. I taught several members of my family how to drive a stick.  My minister of music and I still laugh today about how I used to teach her songs on the piano before I could play myself.  In fact anything I knew and understood well, I could teach.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is true passion; a deep, undeniable love for what you do, is often found in the things you would do just for the joy you get from it. That thing you’d do if nobody ever noticed or said anything or gave you a pat on the back. That kind of love must be your single and most important reason for doing anything. That alone will sustain you, and drive you, and encourage you, and motivate you to strive for excellence in your service to God. It will stand alone as the single quantifiable, justifiable reason you to keep going when everything says you should quit. And it alone should be the acid test you use to decide if music ministry or any other ministry is really where God wants you.

I can tell you from over 30 years of experience that you had better not join any ministry for the fish and the loaves, or the praise. If you do you will certainly spend most of your time unhappy and unfulfilled. But when you find that thing that you do for no other reason than the joy and deep self-satisfaction you get from it,  it is then God blesses you with a day like I had Saturday. It’s then-when you’ve reached a place where you simply don’t care if anyone notices or pats you on the back or not- that you are reaching your highest level of real ministry, which is service. When you reach that place, even on your worst days you won’t have to ask yourself why you do it. ( Colossians 3:23-25 )

7 powerful scriptures for next level thinking

next level thinking

I often think about my business and my ministry here at The Music Ministry Coach. What is my mission, or calling? Of all the things I teach and write about, I wonder, what is the central thought, message or idea that keeps resurfacing? As I think back over the different articles I’ve written, teaching I’ve done, posts on my Fan Page and even things I regularly do to help me stay on point in my own music ministry, I see one thing that keeps coming up again and again.

Thoughts. Thinking. Mindset. Attitude. For me, this is the hub that everything I teach and write about music ministry stems from. You can see it showing up over and over again in blogs like  3 Powerful Steps to an anointed music ministry and The 5 second rule of music ministry . A while back a dedicated an entire article to the subject of taking your music ministry to the next level by adopting a “next level mentality”, I called it.

Many years ago, sitting in an unemployment office with no job, I found myself alone at the desk of one of the agents that worked there. She had gone to retrieve paperwork or something. My eyes started wondering around for something to entertain myself while she was gone, when I spotted something on her wall that would change my life. It was this:

In a Sunday school session one day we were talking about the mind and healthy thinking, and I mentioned this Charles Swindoll piece and the importance of positive thinking. The instructor disagreed with me that Christians should practice positive thinking. He believed that doing so somehow negated or weakened our dependence on God.

But positive, healthy thinking is very much a biblical principle. One that gets a lot of attention in the bible in fact. There are far too many of them to include them all here, but I’d like to share with you 7 of the most powerful scriptures regarding positive, healthy thinking. Keep in mind as you read these, a couple of things:

1. Very often when you see the word “heart” in the bible it’s meaning is synonymous with “mind”, thoughts or memory.

2.  These scriptures are great for meditating on as you seek to renew your mind for higher levels of service in music ministry, but they will elevate every area of your life you apply them to.

Just hover your mouse over these scriptures and the text will appear.

Phil 4:8

Psalm 19:14

Proverbs 4:23

Phil 3:13-14

Acts 24:16

2 Cor 10:5

Psalms 51: 10

Can you really  improve your music ministry by changing how you think? Absolutely.  I’ve heard from more than one person who shared with me that their whole view of music ministry has changed since they connected with me. Others have told me they’re suddenly excited again about serving God in the music department. Still others are more determined and encouraged than ever before, just from reading the blogs, posts and e-mails. People who were on the verge of leaving have decided to stay. People who were content where they were are now seeking new levels of service to God in their music departments. People who thought they couldn’t do certain things are now realizing that it’s not what you “can’t” do, it’s what you “don’t know how” to do. And since we can do all things through Christ, anything you don’t know can be learned.

Much like the deliberate renewing of the mind that is expected of every new believer, there is a renewing that happens in your mind when you become determined to adopt a higher level of thinking about everything you do. And scripture shows us that what we spend time thinking about becomes a part of our heart. It’s the key to happiness and success not only in music ministry but every aspect of your life.

3 powerful steps to an anointed music ministry

annointing

 

There’s a biblical phrase that comes to mind every time I think about being in a state of great anticipation or excitement that I find hard to contain. It’s found in Jeremiah 20:9  where he spoke the often quoted phrase “just like fire, shut up in my bones”.  But Jeremiah wasn’t excited or happy when he said it. He was actually talking about all of the bad things that happen to him when he speaks about God, and how that even though he desires to avoid speaking of God to avoid those things, he finds that he simply can’t hold it in.

For me, I think about that phrase after a great rehearsal where we’ve really worked hard, perfected the song and are excited to present it to our congregation. Over the years I’ve often compared the process of learning a new song to that of a minister’s preparation to bring the message on Sunday morning. When our hearts and minds are in the right place, the two are very similar. Music ministry, after all, is the message and the word of God in song; or it should be if we’re choosing the right song and focusing on the message as our main motivation for choosing them.

That being the case, a choir or praise team should go through a similar process a minister goes through when preparing to deliver his message. A minister consecrates himself. Prays that God use him as a vessel to deliver a word to His people.  A minister has a study somewhere, where he goes to prepare for his message. He digs into it,  searches the scripture for understanding, gets that message into his spirit.  In the process of doing so the message begins to resonate with him on a personal level. God begins to speak to him and give him things that he knows will be a blessing to the congregation.Then he organizes and formulates his thoughts so that he can deliver them effectively to the congregation. He knows he must be prepared or he won’t be able to deliver the message effectively. By the time Sunday rolls around a minister is often burning with anticipation to deliver that message because he knows how much it’s going to bless the people of God.

When we’re approaching music ministry correctly we should be experiencing something similar. I said to my sanctuary choir once that when we come to rehearsal what we’re doing is not unlike what the minister does when he goes into his study. The sanctuary choir stand, practice room or wherever it is that we rehearse, becomes our “study”. The process of learning and perfecting the song(s) is our way of preparing our message to be delivered to God’s people. When we get up on Sunday morning, that stage or that choir stand becomes the pulpit or podium from which we deliver that message to the congregation.

Often the difference in an anointed music ministry and a ministry that simply fills a spot on the program is the attitude and mindset that ministry takes toward every song and every rehearsal. Some of us are still missing the whole “MINISTRY” part of music ministry. Many of us are choosing songs because they’re popular, or contemporary, or older, or have a great beat. So we often miss the fact that some songs just don’t say much lyrically.

Other times we’re so focused on “the words” and “the parts” that we miss the message.  I think that’s a challenge for many music ministries (both choirs and praise teams) because we don’t fully understand that every song really is a mini-sermon. We don’t get the importance of understanding and connecting to it spiritually in some way, and we don’t fully understand or appreciate the importance of preparation to the effective delivery of that message.

Prime example;

There was a song once that the choir really liked but I didn’t feel we “got it”. There was no fire or enthusiasm at rehearsal. And even though it was a very simple song- the kind we learn in 10 minutes at any given rehearsal- we struggled, stumbled and really never got to that level of excitement and fire that we often reach with a new song at rehearsal. Sure enough, the first time we did it, it absolutely tanked.  We missed marks, guessed and fumbled our way through it and it went over like a rock.

At the next rehearsal we went over it again and it was much of the same thing. So I said to them, “look guys, we’re either connecting with this song spiritually or we’re not. We either get it or we don’t, and if we can’t find a spiritual connection with this song then we need to scrap it. There’s no way a song this simple should be giving us this much trouble. Not every song is for us to do, and we son’t always understand why. But we have to do songs we can connect with spiritually so we can minister.”

So I told them at rehearsal that we’d try it one more time and if we don’t get it, we’re scrapping the song. Right after my little speech we went over the song again and the difference was amazing.  There was excitement and energy at rehearsal. Whether it was my little speech or the thought of losing the song is still a mystery. But suddenly everyone was engaged, enthusiastic and on fire.  And that next Sunday, you could feel the anticipation.

The message we missed was finally burning in our spirits, like fire. We couldn’t wait to deliver that message to our congregation-PROPERLY this time- from a different place than when we did before. We did, and it went over great. But it proved to me that it was there all along, and we had simply been missing something in the process of preparation. Sometimes it’s the wrong song. Sometimes it’s the right song at the wrong time for US. Often though, it’s our own mindset that keeps us from going to that next level.

So in summary, I believe if want a powerful, anointed ministry that you’re excited to deliver week after week- one that burns in you like fire the way Jeremiah’s message burned in him, you must:

1. Choose songs for the message.

Listen closely and critically to the lyrical content of songs and make sure they actually have a real message. Don’t neglect the importance of a strong musical arrangement though. Even a good message when coupled with an awful arrangement can fall flat. Just make sure though, that the arrangement alone is not the reason you’re choosing the song. Forget about how current or how old a song is. It is irrelevant if the message is powerful. Don’t sing a song just because it’s new. Don’t avoid a song just because it’s old.

2. Consecrate and  Connect Spiritually.

We must approach rehearsal and ministry prayerfully. Pray together at rehearsal. Pray that God uses the ministry to bless His people, and that everything you do is for His glory and not your own.  Then seek to find, understand and connect on a spiritual and personal level with the song(s) you’ll sing. If we’re choosing songs with powerful messages, then even if you don’t like the song personally you should still be able to find something in it that you can internalize and connect to in a personal way spiritually. It is very important that the song means something to your choir, group or praise team as a group and not just individually. It’s also very important that you’re able to recognize when a song simply doesn’t register with you as a group for whatever reason and be willing to table or scrap that song altogether.

3. Change the way you see and approach rehearsals

Many choirs and praise teams don’t show much enthusiasm at choir rehearsal because for many of us we’re dragging ourselves there after long days at work. We’re tired. And honestly, we just don’t see it as much more than “rehearsal”. This is absolutely a mindset/attitude issue.

Our results change dramatically when our attitude and mindset towards rehearsal changes from “rehearsal” to “preparation to minister to God’s people”. When you begin to see rehearsal as  preparation to deliver a word from God to His people, it takes on a different meaning. The work of perfecting a song can be something you dread or something you enjoy and see as a  necessary part of effective, anointed ministry. It can be one more thing you have to drag yourself to, or it can be a spiritual and emotional lift that gets you through the week. The difference lies in how you choose to see it.

There is nothing like being at a rehearsal where you’re excited, energized and spiritually ignited by the songs you’re rehearsing. That’s when you know you “get it”. But that’s a choice, and something we must decide to do if we want to have a ministry that is anointed and a message that burns in us like fire.

 

 

The blessing in being pushed

JB-09-APFT-001Many people who follow me or have known me for a while don’t know that I’m a veteran. I don’t tend to bring that up when people are talking about veterans though, or celebrating veterans. Someone asked me why one day. I told her that sure, I was in the Army for 3 years, but I never saw a minute of war. I spent the whole time state side. That’s hardly something I feel comfortable comparing to those who actually fought, saw friends murdered, sustained life-altering injuries.

But I did serve 3 years in the Army. The experience taught me a lot of things, but it taught me one thing in particular that I’ve never forgotten and still embrace to this day. That is, that you will never really know what you’re truly capable of until you allow someone to push you beyond what you THINK you’re capable of.  I absolutely hated boot camp. And I absolutely loved boot camp. I hated it because of the drill seargents, of course. At the end though, I loved it for the same reasons.

You see when you’re going through boot camp those drill sergeants are constantly in your face, yelling at you. Screaming at you. Punishing you for every little thing. Forcing you to keep going when you swear you can’t take another step.  We used to run for miles every morning. I remember one guy in our platoon who would constantly fall behind the formation, gradually through the ranks and finally out of the back. Every time he did though, my drill sergeant would turn the entire platoon around. We would all run back to the place he stopped, gather him up and continue on our way. We were so angry, but we were learning a very valuable lesson that created an amazing bond between us.

We all thought they got some kind of sick pleasure out of torturing us. That is, until graduation day. At that moment, standing there in the best shape of our entire lives, strong, confident, self-assured men, it dawned on us what they had been doing all along. Pushing us beyond our own perceived limitations. Forcing us to go further than we thought we could.

And the “punishment” they inflicted on us? Exercise. Yup. Push-ups. One guy in my platoon couldn’t pass the push-up portion of the PT test. So every time we were anywhere   in a formation the drill sergeant would randomly call his name….”JOHNSON! DROP!!! And Johnson would drop to the ground and start doing push-ups. One day (and I’ll never forget this) the drill sergeant told Johnson to drop and give him 20. Only this time when Johnson went down, the entire platoon joined him (remember that bond I talked about?)  And we all did so every time after that. By the time we reached graduation Johnson could do about 80 push-ups in 2 minutes.

I could tell you story after story like that, but hopefully you already see where I’m going with this. You see I’ve worked out on my own off and on many times since then. I’ve been in some pretty good shape, too. But I have never again achieved the level of fitness I achieved during boot camp. Why? Because I’m incapable of pushing myself as hard as they pushed me.

That’s true of most people though. Very few people can push themselves beyond what they perceive is their limit. There is a very strong sense of preservation that is innate in all of us. It’s very difficult to circumvent that sense of self preservation. Even the most determined of us will only push ourselves so far, because it’s too easy to just stop. Even if we don’t want to, the feeling to do so is so overwhelming that it’s hard not to. Yet when when someone comes along and takes that option away from us we find that we can in fact keep going.

What does any of this have to do with music ministry? Everything. You see, most people who love to sing want to be in the best choirs, most awesome praise teams, most anointed groups. But very few people understand what it takes for those groups to perform at that level.  Many others join such groups only to find themselves constantly frustrated and angry about the work involved.

Behind every great, awesome, anointed choir, praise team or group, there is someone relentlessly pushing them towards perfection. There is some person; some director, some musician, some music director- who just won’t take “close enough”, or “not quite”. Someone who keeps making you do it again and again until the harmony is right. And he gets on your last nerve. Makes you angry. You can’t understand why he doesn’t just move on. He’s too much of a perfectionist, you say. You think about getting out of the choir or praise team.

But then something happens. What happens? Sunday comes. And you go forth in anointed, powerful, atmosphere-changing ministry. And God’s people are blessed beyond measure. And YOU’RE blessed. Souls are saved. Yolks broken. And at that moment, standing there basking in the spiritual down-pour, you feel amazing. Like you’re doing the very thing God put you here to do. Oh, to be used by God in such a powerful way!

After church you feel so good as the members come up and go on and on about how powerful the music ministry was today. And maybe you begin to share how the song was ministering to you so much that you were able to just lose yourself in worship. At that moment though, few people are able to make the connection between that, and that guy that was pushing you relentlessly at rehearsal.

It’s hard at that moment to see that the pushing brought about the perfecting, which brought about the praise. You see everyone wants to be a part of an anointed music ministry. But few understand that the most anointed choirs, groups and praise teams are those with the strongest, hardest, most ridged work ethic. And there is always someone at the head of groups like that who pushes, and drives, and insists on the best you can give, even when you feel like you can’t give any more.

Most soldiers don’t really realize how profoundly their drill sergeant has impacted and changed their lives until the end, when it’s time to go. The same is true in life, isn’t it? Whether it’s the hardest teacher, the tough boss or the insistent music director, very few of us really understand the impact they have on our lives until they’re no longer there for whatever reason.

So my challenge to you today is to not only allow yourself to be pushed, but embrace it. Having a mentor, a coach, motivator, a trainer- someone to push you past your limits- will always make you a much better version of yourself than you could ever achieve on your own. Join my mailing list below and start today getting the push you need to take your ministry higher.

Music ministry auto-pilot: 6 signs you may be losing your passion

Routine:

a:  regular course of procedure

b: Habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure

 

All of us have these, don’t we? It’s only natural, after all. Any one thing or group of things that you do on such a regular basis that you don’t have to really think about the process anymore will eventually become your “routine”. If I asked you to describe a typical day, you could certainly do it without hesitation. In fact most of us can include specific days and times that  events happen on a daily basis, like clock work. This is not a bad thing, really. A routine gives our lives order and helps us be productive. It helps us carry out the list of daily things we all need to get accomplished, and do so in a productive way. So, a routine in this sense is a good thing.

So, when is a routine a bad thing? When you remove that little “a” in front of it. Then the word takes on a different meaning, doesn’t it?  When something goes from being considered a routine to just being “routine”, something important has been lost emotionally. Many of us can easily find ourselves in this place with our service in the music ministry. After all, the process of rehearsing and then performing songs for the Sunday service week after week is very repetitive. Often without realizing it you can find yourself simply going through the motions.
Many of us find ourselves having slipped into this state of music ministry auto-pilot, if you will. It’s a place where you may still enjoy being a part of the ministry, but it doesn’t mean quite what it did to you before. Now you just do it because it’s a part of you routine. You go to rehearsal on (insert rehearsal night here), you sing on Sunday. That’s what you do. Because that’s what you’ve always done. Only now, what was once part of your routine has somehow slipped into becoming “routine”; meaning mundane, lacking any real passion or enthusiasm.  Sadly, for some of us it even deteriorates to the level of becoming a “chore” . It’s something that happens so gradually that it can and often does sneak up on us before we’re aware it’s even happening.
Here then, are 6 simple “warning signs” that you may be losing your passion for the music ministry. Signs that what used to be an exciting, passionate way to serve God is slowly becoming more like definition “b” above: A “habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure”.  

(that becomes more powerful to me every time I read it. There’s definitely something for me personally in that definition).

1. You see your service in the music department as your “job”.

It’s one thing to see your service in music ministry as something you owe to God for blessing you with the gift of music. It’s another thing though, to be in a place where you see it as your job in a natural sense.  Those who do actually receive monetary compensation for their services must be particularly careful to guard against this. This mentality will keep you dedicated and faithful to your position, but it will rob you of your passion and spiritual connection to the music ministry. Whether you’re getting paid or not, when you see your ministry as your job you will start to treat it as your job mentally and emotionally. Which brings us to the second sign:

2. You find that you don’t think about the music ministry except when you’re headed to rehearsal or Sunday morning services.

Most of us try to keep our personal lives separate from things that we “have” to do. Like work. When you start feeling like that about singing or playing in the music department, your feelings are starting to change.

3. You seldom feel the Holy Spirit when you’re singing or playing, except maybe during the performance of new material.

You sing or play every week, and you do enjoy it. But you find yourself just carrying out the mission of the day. Your service in the music department is more about providing an atmosphere for others to praise God and much less about you praising Him.

4. You find that you no longer like older songs that you used to love when they were first introduced.

A song that spoke to your heart and ignited your spirit when it was first introduced should on some level still do so. After all, songs may get old, but the message doesn’t change. If you find yourself becoming frustrated when the music department does older songs, you may be headed towards “definition B” above.

5. You don’t tend to express a lot of enthusiasm or excitement during performances, even when being coaxed to do so by the director or worship leader. And you feel like others who do are being excessive or “over-the-top”.

You find yourself being more and more reserved during song performances than you used to. You often kinda resent it when leaders are pushing and encouraging you to show more excitement and enthusiasm while singing/playing. This is often a sign you’re gradually slipping into music-ministry auto-pilot

6. You resist or find irritating, any kind of changes to the way things are normally done in your music department

We’re all creatures of habit, that’s a fact. But because music ministry is in fact a very repetitive thing that’s easy to get “comfortable” with, leaders are often seeking ways to bring new excitement and fun to the department by making changes. People who never want to see or participate in any kind of change outside of the norm are often in a very comfortable state of  “complacency” about their music ministry service.
The gift of music is a very special one. One that God doesn’t give to many people. It’s a honor and a privileged to serve Him with the gifts He gave us. But the reality is, like everything else we do week in and week out, it can become “routine”. We can get to a place where we sing the songs without really thinking about and paying attention to the message. A place where you’re there every Sunday because that’s part of your Sunday routine.
Take a good look at the list above. Do any of them fit you personally? What can you do personally to break free?  Have you been in this place before? If so, how did you get your joy and passion back? Leave a comment below and let me know.


Dear musician, Dear Critic (2 open letters)

2008.11.12 - The letterDear Musician,

You’ve been on my heart lately. I hope it’s ok if I just talk to you for a minute from there. You see as a music lover and a musician myself I understand what it’s like to be you better than anyone. I know what it’s like to love your craft so much that you spend hours, weeks, months and years enhancing and perfecting it. But I also know the other side. The unfortunate, ugly side. I know that often the same people who silently criticized you for not being up to standard often openly rebuke you once you’ve reached that level of excellence.

I know that other musicians who haven’t reached that level often criticize you of not really being sincere. Playing for self-glorification. Using your gift for personal attention and fame. See, it’s easier to do that than to support and enjoy the gift of God working through you. It’s easier because to do that would mean admitting that you’ve simply worked harder, been more dedicated and practiced more than they have. And that’s very hard for some musicians to admit.
I can only imagine how it must feel to hear someone lambasting you in a round about way over the PA system, apparently for no other reason than because you play with a high level of excellence. I know that you often get criticized because you get so many accolades for your gift. People follow you, become groupies almost. You don’t ask for it, you don’t seek it. But you do get criticized for it.

I want to encourage you, anointed musician, to continue giving God your very best. I know the talk is hard to hear. I know it’s discouraging to hear you peers hate on you. But TD Jakes said once, “favor ain’t fair”. People will talk. People will give their opinion of how sincere you are, or whether you do it for the attention, or for show. But the thing is, nobody could possibly know that but you and God.

So since you know that He knows your heart, be sure that your heart is pure. Play for Him, and only for Him. Accept no glory for what God does through you. When the Complements, Kudos and praises come, take no credit. Deflect them all to Him. Remain humble and always be a team player. If the spotlight is cast your way, make sure it is God who focused it on you and not you yourself.

I’ll be praying for you as you continue to serve God with your gift.

Ron

Dear Critic,

There is something that has been bothering me a little and I hope you’ll allow me to share my heart with you respectfully and in love.  I’ve been at a few church events that you were at also, and I’ve heard you speak pretty passionately about some musicians that were there. You had some pretty tough things to say. I’m not here to say you were wrong, by any means. I believe with all my heart that a musician should play to the glory and honor of God. I believe it should NOT be about show, and I believe that every musician playing in church needs to be doing it as his ministry and service to God,  period. Not for any glory or fame for him.

So my problem isn’t necessarily what you say, but how you go about it. At the end of the day, none of us know from the outside looking on where a musician’s heart is. And I think it’s wrong to assume that every musician who excels to a  high level though hard work and diligence should automatically be labeled as fake, or not sincere, or doing it for show.

But that’s not even the worst thing for me. For me, it’s the public way we tend to do it. Criticism like this is often said in a very public way, over PA systems and from podiums; often with the musicians still there. You never use names, of course, but it’s usually pretty obvious. To me this is a very sad and unfortunate element of our culture. It does not seek to teach or edify in any way, only to tear down. If your heart is in the right place, why not go to the musician privately if you think there may be an issue with his focus or true motivation? Why not offer a word of prayer or an understanding ear as you speak to him about your concerns in love? Can we stop using public forums to tear each other down and criticize each other?

Finally, I would ask you to do one other thing. Just like nobody could really know the true heart or motivations of the musician (unless you know him personally) only you and God know your true motivation for the criticism. You see, it’s a fact that most criticism musicians get comes from other musicians who play the same instrument. And the fact is, many times the musician doing the criticizing has not reached the skill level of the musician he’s criticizing.

If you’re not a musician but you feel the need to openly criticize and rebuke one, I urge you to ask yourself why. Deep in your heart, are you doing this out of concern, or is it to get a reaction from the congregation? Only you and God know. But I pray the next time you find yourself in the same situation you would pray for guidance before you speak. I pray that you would choose to act with compassion and understanding rather than malice or hatred. At the end of the day, the only reason to publicly rebuke a musician or anyone else, is to draw attention, glory and praise to yourself. And that’s kinda what you’re criticizing the musician for….right?

In love,

Ron