While there has been much discussion that musicians must excel to be part of a worship team, one wonders if Christian leaders often revert to snobbery rather than skilfulness when selecting musical players.
In the first book of Chronicles we are shown the selection pattern used in David’s tabernacle to determine those who were to have a ministry in music.
“And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest. And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem: and then waited on their office according to their order.” (I Chronicles 6:31-32)
The musicians selected were Levites, those separated to the work of the LORD.
“And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethern to be the singers with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.” (I Chronicles 15:16)
“… and four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith.” (I Chronicles 23:5b).
Musicians who could prophesy
King David was the great psalmist who could sing new songs unto the LORD. Others also recognized that when he played unto the LORD with a musical instrument, evil spirits would flee (cf, I Samuel 16:14-23). Therefore he required no less from those who had the responsibility of music in his tabernacle.
“Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the songs of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals…” (I Chronicles 25:1)
Asaph, who “made a sound with cymbals” (I Chron. 16: 5) was required to prophesy “according to the order of the king”(25:2). Jeduthun, prophesied with a harp (26:3), and Heman who was a singer (6:33), had sons who played “the horn” (26:5).
Twenty-four hour worship
Scripture indicates that Asaph had four sons, Jeduthun had six, and Heman had fourteen sons who;
“…were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, psalteries and harps, for the service of the house of God, according to the king’s order to Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman.” (I Chronicles 25:6)
The total number of their children “instructed in the songs of the LORD” was 288. These 288 individuals were divided into 24 courses consisting of 12 musicians each. These 24 courses ministered unto the LORD in music.
Many theologians believe that each music course consisted of one hour per day, meaning there was music ascending to the LORD every minute of the day. Hence, the theory behind 24-hour a day praise and worship centers which today are being launched from every corner of the globe.
Chosen by lot
When it came time to decide in what order they would play, it is written;
“And they cast lots, ward against ward, as well the small as the great, the teacher as the scholar” (I Chronicles 25:8)
The teacher as well as the student were all treated the same. In other words, the musicians were all considered equal!
I can’t imagine many situations, Christian or secular, where musicians are considered equal when given opportunities to play. Loud excuses will be uttered that an individual can’t play well enough to be on stage. Yet King David who was a great singer, composer, musician and musical inventor believed that the great and the small should be considered equal when it came to ministering unto the LORD.
What really then is the issue; lack of skill on a musicians part or plain snobbery on a leaders part?
Jesus Christ also waded into the controversy of worship in a discussion with a Samaritan woman. He reiterated that it is not the place of worship that matters as much as the heart of a worshiper.
“But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)
Jesus knew that out of the heart comes the issues of life. He taught that true worship only exists when it is expressed from a heart of gratitude to our Almighty Father.
Form of worship
About a decade ago, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that a number of Christian music leaders would be ‘put on the shelf’ because they were ‘teaching a form rather than true worship’. They were teaching the right songs, the right chords, the right sound, to release expressions of praise. But they were not teaching the people to worship in spirit and in truth. These so called worship leaders were more concerned about having perfection over the prophetic anointing in their music. They were conscious to select musicians who could play their personal style rather than choose those whose lifestyle was ‘separate and set apart’.
In the past years, I have seen many of these music leaders taken out of ministry and put ‘on the shelf’. Several have been disciplined by the Holy Spirit and have re-emerged with a greater anointing on their music. Some have become offended with this process and walked away into a wilderness. Unfortunately, there are still others who continue to mislead the people and teach forms rather than true worship. These are the ones whom the Holy Spirit continues to woo and offer the gift of repentance.
Skilfulness or Snobbery
How easy is it to discern between musicians playing skillfully unto the LORD and musicians demanding perfection to satisfy their own ego? Can this be determined by the lyrics of a song, the style of the music or by the degree of difficulty of a piece?
Is the Christian guitarist who only plays a three-chord progression any less of a snob than that of the concert pianist? Is the song, ‘Jesus loves me’ less or more anointed than a selection from ‘Handel’s Messiah’? Since man looks at the external and not at the heart like the LORD does, answers to these questions could not alone help us discern between skillfulness and snobbery.
All musicians who are called to minister to the LORD should strive for excellence in their playing. But musicians mostly need to strive for excellence in their heart so that they may worship as Jesus instructed, “in spirit and in truth”.