Music Ministry: Not for Quitters

Music Ministry: Not for Quitters
Joy C. Norris


Why am I doing this? Why do I think I can make a difference? Who am I trying to kid? There’s this great big world out there with different schools of thought and incredible problems and so many people ‘ what could I possibly do to change things?

Can anyone relate, or am I alone here?

Michael Clemons, Drummer with New Breed says’ ‘I’m with Israel in this! (deeper level commitment) By day 12 of our consecration, all I could hear in my head was, I can’t do this! I opened the Bible and quickly saw the word fear. I looked it up. ‘Fright, terror, alarm, panic, trepidation, dread, anxiety” These were all things I was feeling before seeing them spelled out in black and white.

After 9/11, many of us walked around in fear of not wanting to get on a plane. Being a father and husband, I fear not being able to provide for my family. These are typical human fears.

But there are also spiritual fears. The enemy wants me to be defeated before I even try to complete my God-given assignment. In my process of consecration, the evil one wanted to play upon the fear he thought I had. You see, the devil can PUT it in our minds that we can’t do something. But if we speak, believe and live God’s Word, how can faith and fear live within the same house?

Check out what the Bible says about overcoming fear: Psalm 112:7-8, Isaiah 41:10; and 2 Timothy 1:7.

Only a quiet time with God will chase these fears away.

Be a Lens’ not a Mirror

A dark place, especially for those of us who serve God very publically ‘ on a huge stage with big spotlights ‘ is our ego. For us musicians, we’ve worked hard at our craft, rehearsed, and spent years practicing our instruments. Then, after we serve God on a Sunday, people come up, pat us on the back, and say, ‘Good job!’ And not just to the music team. They do that to other artists team members and certainly to preachers.

They don’t do it to those who serve in certain other ministries. When was the last time anyone praised the folks in the nursery? ‘Great job changing that diaper during the first service!’ or to the parking lot attendant’ ‘That was amazing when you stood out there in the rain for an hour directing traffic!’ Or to the youth workers’ ‘What an awesome job you did of investing in those junior high boys for two hours Friday night! Way to go!’

Certainly there is nothing wrong with giving or receiving compliments’a little encouragement is great! But it is a small leap to adoration ‘ where we are accepting the praise, instead of giving it up.

For that reason, we are constantly reminding ourselves that we are to be lenses and not mirrors. That means we are to be looked through and not necessarily looked at. ‘we should take the gifts and ministry that God has given us very seriously. We need to walk humbly and graciously in the knowledge that others are watching us. We should not downplay the influence we have on others and begin to live our lives loosely.

New Breed works hard at our craft with countless hours rehearsing. So when kids come up thanking us and say how they love our music and listen to it all the time I want us to use that moment for God. Jesus said that, when you do a good thing, ‘do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.’Matthew 6:2

I want to tell them about all the great things that they are going to do for God. And the thing is, to do all that only takes a few seconds that God might use to shape the direction of a person’s life. So instead of feeding our own ego, we are really trying to seize those moments, look them in the eye, say a sincere thank you and make each one count for God.

Sister Sandpaper

You know how every choir has the one person ‘ I’ll call her Sister Sandpaper. She’s self-elected, and it is her civic choir duty to tell you what isn’t working. Every Sunday night, just before I’d quit again, Sister Sandpaper would come to me and say, ‘Well, that didn’t work.’ ‘Pastor doesn’t like that song.’ ‘It’s too high.’ ‘Your soprano’s dress is too short.’ ‘We heard that the drummer smokes.’

One Sunday night, God sent Sister Sandpaper to hit the nail on the head. She didn’t bat an eye as she told me that she’d figured out what my problem was and said, ‘You’re working out your stuff on our time.’

Ouch! Smoothing out rough edges hurts but you don’t get smooth without some friction.

But I had a realization that completely changed me in that moment. The ‘stuff’ that Sister referred to was WORSHIP. In that moment, I realized the only time I worshipped was during service.

When do you worship?

Be honest now. Is the only time you ever worship during those fifteen or so minutes prior to preaching?


I feel the weight of responsibility in this matter. I feel that any of us who have been given any kind of platform of influence in this world have no choice but to use what God has given us to make a difference – a significant difference ‘ in the lives of widows, orphans, and the elderly.

It was a bittersweet epiphany when I saw Bono, the lead singer of U2, introduce his latest social effort, ‘Product Red.’ This is a licensed brand that he created with such companies as American Express, Apple Computer, Converse, Motorola, The Gap, and Giorgio Armani. Each company has created a product that carries the Product Red logo and gives a percentage of the proceeds to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. In announcing the effort, he said, ‘Product Red is a result of us seeing a problem and forcing consumers worldwide to do something about it.’

Later, in an interview with Bill Hybels, he said, ‘We are doing this because the church of America has not. She’s still asleep!’

When I heard this, I felt angry and hurt because I knew he was right. Therefore, I restate my claim that it is impossible to call ourselves worshippers, or worship leaders, and not be moved ‘ even consumed ‘ with God’s ‘Deeper Level’ heart for justice, compassion, and effective change toward ‘the least of these’ in our community and around the globe. I refuse to do another concert, orhave another great gathering of believers, and not do my best to rally us as the body of Christ to consistent, authentic justice and measurable change.

The Stirring of Change

For me, this began around 1994 when I started to make visits to Africa once or twice every year. In 2005, we released a live worship CD that was recorded in Cape Town. The people there have always captivated me. When we play there, I see the radiance of the faces of these people who literally walk miles to hear us play. I know their feet hurt. I know that they are either going to walk back or cram onto a bus with a bunch of other people in order to return to a home that is nothing close to our American standard of a house. It is probably constructed of tin and has no air conditioning or even running water. And yet I watch them in worship, saying, ‘Jesus, I love You. You’re the greatest!’ It’s amazing.

At some point, I decided that I couldn’t experience all of that and then go back to Houston and lose it within a week. I was moved, and I tried to figure out why. I kept feeling God’s heart so close. It wasn’t about me feeling bad for being affluent or American. I think it was simply God showing me that these were people I liked hanging out with. But He was saying, ‘If you want to hang out with Me at a deeper level, you’re going to have to tap into this.’

The Least of These

Not too long ago, I felt myself in this moment of worship, and I was saying all the right things: ‘God, You’re here. We just sense Your presence. Blah, blah, blah. ‘ and I truly heard God say, ‘Dude, I’m not even here.’

That tripped me up because there is nothing theologically correct about it. Obviously God is omnipresent- ever present, everywhere. And I certainly don’t think that God goes around calling people ‘Dude.’ I just know what I heard.

That led me into Scripture, where I saw the kind of people Jesus was drawn to, and conversely, the people who got under His skin. I was really struck by His words in one particular passage of Scripture in Matthew:

‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)

It has become clear to me that, according to this passage, Jesus not only cares for the poor and the broken; He identifies with them.

He is with them, and they are a part of Him. They are one and the same.

Where you find them’ you will find Him!

Definition of quitter: One that quits, one that gives up too easily.

How would you define the phrase ‘too easily’?

A look at the life of Cain (Genesis 4)

* Being his brother’s keeper was not in his ‘job description’
* He became jealous, angry, selfish, and sneaky after his sacrificed was not honored.
* His punishment? His groundwork would not produce.
* He was sent out of the presence of God.
* Because of his jealousy, and bitterness he found it easier to run and become a fugitive than to face the music (so to speak)
* Music is first mentioned (in the context of this world) in the Bible as being a part of a descendant of Cain, (Gen. 4:17-21) Jubal.

But Later, God establishes the ministry of music via the tribe of Levi.

When Leah birthed Levi, she was encouraged because she felt that finally, this child (Levi) would now join her to Jacob and bring unity. Many times when we think of the ministry of music we think of Judah (meaning praise) but the music ministry was not from that tribe, the music ministry stems from the tribe of Levi which means ‘to unify or make one’. The Levites were also in charge of anything that had to do with the tabernacle. (Could that possibly mean that they were even made to wax floors and change toilet paper rolls, or clean the bathrooms on occasion? Just a thought)

Could it be possible that because of this call to unity, that Satan also realizes that if he can stir up trouble in the tribe of Levi, he can dislocate the head, therefore sacrificing the body. I think that is why there is a tendency for so many problems in the ministry of music so that unity cannot be produced.

Because Cain ran from his mistakes, he became a wanderer, a refugee.

But, Levi and all of his descendants had a special place and that place was in the tabernacle doing whatever needed to be done.

Why people quit:

* Bitterness
* Jealously
* Envy
* Feelings of inadequacies
* Burnout
* ‘The grass is greener on the other side’ syndrome
* Hurt feelings
* Possessiveness of your ministry
* Misunderstandings
* You look at your ministry as more of a ‘job’
* Betrayal
* Abandonment

A look at the relationship between Jesus and His Disciples

At the last supper, on the eve of what was going to be Jesus’ most horrific days of His earthly life, He was betrayed by Judas, but not only betrayed, Judas lied to Him, to His face. He was abandoned by Peter. His own disciples could not even pray with Him one hour in the garden (burnout). Yet Jesus did not become discouraged, offended, bitter, possessive, hurt. He did not act on His human feelings of inadequacies. Instead, He chose to serve the disciples the wine and the bread and to even wash their feet.

Jesus had every logical excuse to turn and run, quit, get out of Dodge, but He chose to stay and face the beatings, scourging, humiliation, and crucifixion to accomplish the task at hand.

When you feel like quitting:

1. Pray (‘nough said?)

2. Ask yourself, ‘What can I do to help this situation?’ Many times we want to change everybody else’s mind, when it really comes down to my mind and my attitude.

3. Call a fellow minister of music for counsel. Keep in mind that this person needs to be someone that is fairly removed from your situation so you can receive an unbiased opinion. Look for someone that has been in the trenches. It doesn’t have to be someone in the music ministry but remember, you don’t need a ‘yes man’, you need someone who can talk with you honestly about your situation, and then tell you things you ‘need’ to hear, not necessarily what you ‘want’ to hear.

4. Ask yourself, ‘What is God trying to teach me through this situation?’ Step back and try to see things through the other person’s eyes.

The above article, ‘Music Ministry: Not for Quitters,’ is written by Joy C. Norris. The article was excerpted from IBC’s Music Festival, 2008.

This material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, ‘Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.’