Last week a friend of mine shared Mark Gungor’s post titled Attention All Worship Leaders. Musicians and Singers. In it, Gungor identifies four “big problems when it comes to music” in the church today. While I agree with some of what he says in the post, I believe he’s completely off base in a major way when he talks in big terms about the role of music leaders in the church. Some of what he says is, well, just down-right disheartening and, to be quite honest, I’m glad I don’t attend his church – and if I did, I think after reading this post I would have to seriously reconsider whether I did or not.
My major disagreement with him starts fifth paragraph of his second problem. He writes,
In my church, musicians are on the stage for one reason: They can sing or they can play—period. They are not pastors, apostles, prophets, evangelists or teachers—they are musicians. They hold no special status like that of an elder or deacon. Quite frankly, their spiritual status is of little matter and in some cases, not required at all. We don’t put the musicians on our platform through a spiritual filter anymore than we would ask that of the construction workers who built the building. We do not hire a construction worker based on the condition of his heart, but on the status of his skill. So it is with our musicians. (emphasis mine)
I can not disagree with him more. The spiritual status of the musicians on his stage are of primary importance. Gugnor’s position here reflects a key misunderstanding of the role of music in worship. Let’s assume for a second that everything is about the music. If that’s the case, then Gungor’s position is perfectly defensible and even understandable. If what you are looking for is people to lead and perform music, then, yes, find the best musicians you can find regardless of their character.
But, if you are looking for worship leaders to lead people then character is the utmost importance! Here’s the point: worship leaders are not called to lead music, they are called to lead people. Now that doesn’t mean they have to have “special status like that of an elder or deacon,” nor do they have to be “priests of worship” or have a special “anointing” or “power”. What they do need to understand, though, is how to relate to people.
If you think I’m misunderstanding him, read these excerpts from his post:
It is always ideal and preferable to have a committed believer lead the music; one who understands who God is and what it is we are trying to do. But at the end of the day they are up there for one overwhelming reason: They have musical skill….Again, our singers and musicians are up there because they can sing or play—period, not because they have some unique Old Testament version of an “anointing”. (emphasis mine)
Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not suggesting that you can put someone on stage with no musical skill who has a deep walk with the Lord, because both are needed. What I am saying, though, is that musical skill does not trump one’s walk with the Lord or their leadership ability (though one’s walk with the Lord should certainly trump musical skill, contrary to what Gungor says).
While he’s got plenty of other statements in his blog post that I disagree with, my point here is not to go line-by-line in rebuttal of his position. I will ask this final question, though, and I’d honestly love to hear (or read) the answer… Gungor writes,
[C]onsider this: Many (if not most) of the musicians you hear on Christian recordings are not believers in Jesus at all. Some of them, frankly, are quite accomplished heathens and pagans (I know—I’ve met them). You think when you hear that big string section on your favorite worship CD that they are all committed followers of Christ? Hardly.
I’d like to know who he’s talking about here – which artists that I listen to are accomplished “heathens and pagans?” I’d honestly like to know. This is not something you can say without actually backing it up with some truth. And I’m curious, has Gungor called them out on their “heathen and pagan” practices? Does he pray for them? Has he challenged them? Has he brought other believers in to hold these people accountable since due to their hypocrisy they will actually suffer even more in Hell than if they just lived in open rebellion to God?
Again, Gungor’s position is, at it’s heart, a basic misunderstanding of the role of the worship leader in the church. If leaders are called to lead music then, yes, he’s spot-on in his arguments. But leaders are called to lead more than music. They are called to lead people. And that, Mr. Gungor, is a completely different role than the one you apparently desire at your church.
If you’re looking for proper perspective on the role of the worship leader, I would recommend avoiding Gungor’s post and instead reading the post entitled 4 Characteristics of Great Worship Leaders by Laura Singleton.