By Mark Roach
When Morning Star Church started 15 ½ years ago, I was lucky for multiple reasons. One of those reasons was that I was literally able to help form the DNA of the Music/Arts ministry. We certainly don’t all get that opportunity, as many of us have signed on to serve in a ministry with a pre-existing DNA. While there’s nothing remotely wrong with that, I’d submit to you that there’s one inherent danger: trying to embody the existing DNA of a church can sometimes—if you’re not careful—compromise your own artistic DNA. Now, hold up...before you start thinking that I’m suggesting your Arts or Music Department’s DNA should be all about you, please let me clarify: that’s not what I’m saying. Growth, an open mind, willingness to stretch and learn, collaboration and delegation—these are all keys to great leadership in ministry. There is, however, something significantly powerful about being able to truly operate—artistically and otherwise—in your sweet spot. When you go into a church to worship and can feel the musicians, the Pastor, the drama team, the host, the dancers, the people praying, truly being who God made them to be as they worship, it’s powerful!
This is one of the reasons the ‘worship wars’—arguments about contemporary vs. traditional, hymns vs. modern worship songs, or choirs vs. bands—are so problematic. If a phenomenal choir director is asked to act like a lead singer of a modern worship band, chances are nobody is gonna end up happy—the musicians OR the congregation—and a whole lot of head-scratching may end up happening when attendance declines. I’ve actually sung in multiple choirs in my life, and really enjoy doing so. I’ve sung under the direction of some brilliant choir directors and I’ve been brought to tears by the spiritual moments that were emoted.
But me? I’m just not a very good choir director myself. So if we were to add a service with a full-on traditional choir, the best thing we could possibly do is hire the leadership or assign it to a volunteer who is highly gifted in that area so that the DNA isn’t an artistic mismatch. Am I making sense?
Here’s the thing: I love ‘modern worship’ music. I do. Leading in that environment comes very naturally to me. But I also love to experience great music in other genres. I love to worship at churches with a gospel flare, led by someone who obviously grew up engulfed in that element. They can sing things, play riffs, and provide transitions that would make me look like a fool if I tried them! I also love to worship at churches with amazing choirs, with directors who can steward the rich, beauty of a strikingly well written choral piece, organists who understand how impactful an instrument can be when it’s literally part of the building’s architecture. Art—particularly indigenous art—created by people from their God-breathed gifts, is an impactful part of the worship experience, regardless of style or brand. So the next time you sit down in a meeting to decide where the future of your church Music Ministry is headed...the next time your Pastor asks if you can direct a handbell choir, or lead the new contemporary service, or the orchestra or the drama team. Remember, if it’s gonna honor God, it should be something God designed YOU to do with passion and excellence. If not, maybe a skilled, passionate volunteer or future employee is waiting to jump in! If you want to make God-honoring, inspiring art, it has to be YOU.