Talent/Skill vs. Anointing; Does God Really Care If It Sounds Good Or Not?

Balanced debateI don’t expect that everyone who reads this article will be happy with it’s content. Because today I’m going to challenge one of those old sayings that people have heard recited and repeated for so many years that nobody ever questions it or even bothers to look for any biblical proof, one way or the other. But the bible is exactly where we’re going today to get some answers.

“God doesn’t care what it sounds like, as long as my heart is in the right place”. It may have been said slightly different one way or another when you heard it, but no doubt you’ve heard people make this statement many times.
But is that really true? How does God really feel about the quality of the music we offer up to Him? Does He care about skill or talent? Is it really even necessary to perfect it? Rehearse and polish our harmony and sound? Is it really worth it to train your voice and perfect your gift? Or is this all just vanity for the sake of our own egos?

Many don’t think He cares at all. In fact some believe as long as you’re singing for, to or about God pretty-much anything is ok. Often you see this argument come up when people are being pushed past what they can comfortably do with a minimal amount of effort and/or rehearsal.
For some reason people really resent any extra work, training, effort or rehearsing to perfect music done for God. Let’s set aside for a minute the curious change of attitude you find in the same people if they were, for example, rehearsing for a secular music performance. Perhaps we’ll discuss that in another blog.

Today though, let’s see if we can get some idea from the Word of God how He really feels about musicians and singers and what they offer in His service. We’re talking specifically about talent and skill, and what scripture has to say about it.

When you start to really study scripture relating to music ministry; in particular, musicians and singers; one of the first things you notice is that almost every time scripture speaks specifically about a singer or musician, it goes out of the way to point out that singer or musician’s high level of skill. Take a look at a few examples here:

Often when a musician is summoned, it is made very clear in the request that the musician be highly skilled:

I Samuel 16:17 “And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me.”

Psalms 33:3 “Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.”

Only the most highly skilled were appointed as song leaders and instructors:

I Chronicles 15:22 “And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was for song: he instructed about the song, because he was skillful.”

David had a choir of 288 voices, and all of them were skilled singers:

I Chronicles 25:7 “So the number of them, with their brethren that were instructed in the songs of the LORD, even all that were cunning, was two hundred fourscore and eight.”

I could go on here, but clearly when you really search the scriptures you see skill and cunning given high regard in music ministry. But you also see that skill alone is not enough. David was famous not only because of his high level of skill, but because of the anointing on his music.
In fact most of the time in scripture you see anointing mentioned in direct coloration to skill ( I Samuel 16:14-23, II Kings 3:15).

And yet even though we have scriptural proof that skilled playing and singing is clearly highly regarded in scripture, we’ve all seen that little choir singing in unison or that little mother stand up and sing a song and tear the church up- even though neither of them were necessarily “highly skilled” singers. The anointing definitely makes the difference, and breaks the yoke (I Samuel 16:18) .

That’s the quote you hear most often when people start making the argument that God doesn’t care if it sounds good. But let’s take a closer look at the real motivations behind this argument.

You see, often it’s not a passion or even a genuine concern for doing right by God that causes people to begin protesting against the work that goes into perfecting music ministry. It is the disdain for the work itself.
The truth is, to play or sing skillfully in music ministry does take a lot of work. Anointed Gospel choirs don’t just walk into the choir stand and automatically sing like that. Exceptionally gifted musicians don’t just wake up playing that way one Sunday morning. It takes work and hours of practice. It takes higher levels of training and study. It takes going over parts over and over. And quite honestly, there are many who would much rather phone it in every Sunday than to do that work.

Not everyone has the same level of natural ability, that’s true. But many people who don’t could certainly get there with some extra work. Or some training to hone their craft. But rather than do that work they would rather give themselves a pass by making the argument that “God doesn’t care about all that”, or it’s not about being perfect, it’s about what’s in your heart”. The problems often arise when these people want to be elevated to leadership positions often reserved for those with the highest levels of skill (I Chronicles 15:22) without having to put forth any extra effort to perhaps tweak or improve their offering.

Ironically that statement about how God really cares more about what’s in your heart couldn’t be more true. God doesn’t care if your gift is perfect. What He does care about though, is whether or not what you’re giving Him is your best. That explains why those singers and musicians and groups and choirs who train and practice and perfect their musical gifts and ministries are often bestowed higher levels of anointing.

It also explains why that little old lady singing off-key and that little choir singing in unison can also minister under the anointing. The anointing makes the difference but the anointing only comes when you’re giving God your best.
Sadly though, rather than give God their best, many people opt instead for Giving God their best excuse. (Gen. 4, 2-7).

4 Reasons People Don’t Lead Songs And How To Change Them To Yes

As directors, MOMs and worship leaders we often struggle to find enough lead vocalists. Which of course forces us to rely heavily on the 2 or 3 we do have who can step up and lead. Of course you know what comes next. Accusations of favoritism. But members in the stand seldom understand the fact that you’d rather do anything than have to use the same people over and over. Not only does it wear them out, but it places limitations on the whole group.

Still though, you understand better than most that you can’t just put anyone up to lead, even if they ARE willing to. They have to be able to deliver that song. So what do we do??
Well it’s been my experience that there are 4 main reasons most people are hesitant to step to the front and lead a song. Sometimes it may be more than one. But the good news is that all four can be addressed pretty easily.

Let’s look at each of the four reasons and briefly discuss a possible solution to help your potential new song leader overcome what’s making them hesitate.

 

1. The song, or parts of it, is just too high

If the entire song is too high but you really like this person for it, then the simple solution is to drop the key! You do have to be careful when lowering the key of a song because sometimes doing so can really rob a song of it’s energy. But most of the time that only happens when you’re making a dramatic change that drops the key several steps down. In general though, you can safely lower most songs a half-step, and sometimes a whole step. A half step drop can make a big difference in the singer’s comfort level.

2. I’d have to do a lot of ad-libing, I’m not good at that.

Of the four reasons most people who want to lead songs don’t make the attempt, the fear of doing the ad-libing is probably the number one reason. But contrary to popular belief, ad-libing is not a skill you have to be born with to do well. It’s a skill most anyone can learn. If ad-libing is the only thing holding your prospect back, have them take a look at this 10 minute video where I go into detail about how to overcome that fear and actually learn how to ad-lib.

3. I can’t do all that stuff the original artist is doing. I don’t know where to go or what to do.

Good, because you shouldn’t. It is certainly important to maintain the integrity of the song. That is, to respect the original by staying close to the melody line and not changing the lyrics (except where there is ad-libing). But there are always several different ways to approach a certain melody line, riff or high note that is intimidating your prospect. If, for example, the whole song is good for them except this one part where the artist hits this really high note, simply help them find another way to do that part without hitting the note.
Tell your singer “Runs are great but you don’t have to do them if you’re not comfortable with them. Don’t pass on a song because the original artist is doing a lot of runs. Do YOU! Look for alternative ways to approach parts of the song so they fit your skill level better.”

4. I don’t feel it. It’s not my situation or testimony.

You must remember that music ministry is NOT about the singer, but the receiver. Not every song will be your personal situation. Does that mean you’re singing a lie? Absolutely not. Even when it’s not your story or your situation, it’s someone’s situation. That person might be in the audience. So if you like the song but you’re not especially feeling spiritually connected to it, you must first keep in mind that the message is for someone, even if it’s not speaking to you. You can always sing the song from that perspective, as a witness to or testimoniy/encouragement for someone else.

To be authentic though, you do need to find some personal connection to something in the song so you can sing it with conviction and honest emotion. Even if it’s just a couple of lines in the chorus, that’s plenty. It’s perfectly alright though, if you don’t feel like the entire song is about you. None of it is about you (smile). In the end though, it’s all about conviction. So if , even after you’ve shared this with them, a singer feels convicted about singing a certain song because of the subject matter, they shouldn’t.

So hold on before you accept that “no” to leading that song! Use these for tips with your timid new lead vocalist and turn that no into a yes.

 

From the choir to the praise team; 4 adjustments most singers fail to make

From the choir to the praise team; 4 adjustments most singers fail to make

It’s common, at least in smaller churches, to find members of the choir also on the praise team and vice-versa. Many don’t realize though, that the two are completely different when it comes to your vocal approach.

What flies in the choir stand doesn’t work in front of a microphone singing on the praise team. It’s a whole different ballgame. Here then, are the common mistakes singers make as they move from the choir stand to the praise team.

1. Adjusting the volume

As I mentioned above, the first big difference in singing in the choir stand and singing on the praise team is that most of the time every singer on a praise team is singing directly into a microphone.

Which is not at all the case in the choir stand where you’re standing there with a large group of other people, nobody on a microphone.

So choir members who join the praise team often bring that habit of singing really loud to make the sound carry and hit the notes along with them to the the praise team. Only now it’s way too much, because every singer has a microphone.

2. Not understanding/knowing your parts
The choir is a very forgiving place to sing. Numbers hide a multitude of faults, lol. Often people who are not as skilled at harmony can be comfortable singing in the choir because there are so many people around to help out and “lean on”. When you come to the praise team you really can’t do that anymore. You have to stand on your own and know that part. On the praise team that tends to go away. Praise teams are much smaller, so it’s much more important for every singer to really know and understand harmony and their parts. Often people who are used to relying on fellow choir members for their parts fail to fully understand that, so they struggle with that aspect of being on the praise team.

3. Not understanding/learning proper microphone technique .
Aside from those who lead songs regularly for the choir, most choir members don’t have much experience with the microphone.
It’s important to learn how to sing into it properly. How to hold up to your mouth, or stand in front of it in the microphone stand. How to adjust the stand quickly when you walk up to it.More importantly though, every singer should be taught how to pull the microphone away a little when you know you’re going for a really high, powerful note. This is a very important thing to practice on especially when you’re used to singing in the choir stand.

4. Not investing in vocal training

This is probably the most important thing a praise team can do as a group to dramatically improve their overall sound. Choirs can slide without vocal instruction for years because of the nature and make-up of a Gospel choir. But praise teams really don’t have the luxury of large numbers to camouflage things. The sad reality, in fact, is that the average Praise team in the average-sized Gospel church doesn’t do a very good job, I’m afraid.

Some simple training as a group would make an amazing difference in the ministry of most praise teams. I recently started a workshop series with the praise team at my own church where I’ve been training them on pretty-much every aspect of praise team ministry that Iv’e discussed here, plus a few I haven’t mentioned. Taken together, just about any praise team can realize a dramatic improvement in the power and effectiveness of their ministry by investing in this type of training as a group. Take your praise team from simply another musical spot on the program to a powerful tool God uses every week to change the atmosphere at your church and prime it for a move of God.

Did you find this article helpful? You can get it and 12 others like it for your praise team in my new e-book Praise Team 101.