Each week I have the honor of working with a special group of ministers! The Venice Church of the Nazarene Choir is a really great group and I am humbled to have shared ministry and music with them for almost 4 years. As a music director/worship leader, I have some high standards for this group! Not just because I know how great they are, but because what they do week after week is not for their personal glory...but for His.
This summer, as I was challenged to begin this blog, I was inspired by my musical family to write the enclosed blog. Though this writing is not directly about them, it does capture the spirit of who they are as a ministry and their importance not just in the life of our local church, but to me. Recently, I was sitting in a small group at a conference when the subject came up that the church choir was dead. Those that know me know that I was caught off guard by this statement…especially because of my personal fondest to that group of servants. I begin to listen as people stated there personal reasons for approaching this topic. People used words like ancient, old, out of touch, not relevant, to describe this ministry that some churches treasure! Finally one person concluded that it was his belief that it is not worth the time or energy to train a choir to worship.
I was struck by many statements this person had made. I was saddened because I realized that 1. We, as a church maybe missing a really good ministry opportunity for people with the concept of a choir, and 2. Maybe we are confining worship to a style or art form as oppose to it being a daily act. I must confess that the “choir nerd” within me wanted to scream out at these words. It would be easy to jump back at those comments and critique his musical abilities…but I needed to take an even bigger step back and look to the Word. 1 and 2 Chronicles shows us an image of God’s purpose for musicians in worship (corporately speaking). As we read in the Old Testament, there were 38,000 Levites set aside for service in the temple. Of those Levites, 4,000 were selected to be musicians. I know we use musician as a broad term, but this would include those that sing and therefore they would be considered a choir!
We know that music is a tremendous gift from God. In today’s church we know that worship is expressed through music and song; and that musicians serve an important part of our expression in our corporate worship. When the congregation looks in at the choir loft and sees “Susie”, who is battling cancer, lifting her voice…God moves. When they look in the 3rd row and see “Ben”, who has lost his job, lifting his voice…God moves. When our congregations, who needs to hear from God, looks to our platforms and sees their brothers and sisters lavishing praises to the Lord…despite the personal situations, they are reminded that they are not alone. They are reminded that there is hope and that they have come to the place where his spirit dwells. That atmosphere is created by musicians such as a choir being willing to be used by God. To some that statement may sound arrogant, but you have to put it in the prospective of obedience. They are being obedient to the call to worship with people as well as lead them. The choir and all musicians are responsible for preparing His people to receive him! What a high calling!!!
To say that a choir is out of touch and ancient may be a misuse of words…at least in my choir loving mind! Maybe it is a matter of repurposing this ministry so that it can continue to be used by the Spirit to ignite a person’s heart to experience His presence.
As time passes, we understand that there will always be issues of conflict over worship styles and formats. I am sure that in 20 years there will be a new issue that involves some new form of worship music…and the cycle will continue. Worship music is here to stay. There may be different forms of it, but there will always be a song or musical way for us to worship the Lord. But we must be challenged to take that word worship and apply to the other days of the week beyond Sunday. Worshipping God daily will look different to every person. We have to remember that if we want to experience God in our worship, both corporately and privately, it is going to take sacrifice. Are we ready to look beyond the sheet music of praise and offer Him our all? Are we ready to turn down the noise of the world in exchange for the unique melody of his voice as he shapes and orders our steps? If we say yes together, with mighty voices, the unison sound of the redeemed will vanquish our sorrows, and grief’s. So let us sing along and sing loud as we proclaim His goodness!