In Defense of Joy


There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

Pursuit of excellence in music ministry can sometimes cancel out the sheer enjoyment of” “speaking out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices and instruments and making melody with all your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19, Amplified). I’m not talking here about personnel personality conflicts, nor the rigors of meeting a preset schedule. What I’m referring to is what happens when meeting an artistic standard eclipses the satisfaction that comes by simply contributing to the “one voice glorifying the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah” (Romans 15:6).

This syndrome affects professional and amateur alike; it happens in big and small churches, among music-readers as well as by-ear players. There are several unnecessary—and should I say, “demonic”—factors contributing to this:

1. Comparing yourself, your team, your equipment, or church to another perceived as more accomplished.
2. Condemning yourself for mistakes or failure, even when you’ve done your best in the given circumstances.
3. Dwelling on something–good or bad–in the past or some future event, rather than being “in the present.”

The result of these factors is no joy, no freedom, and no sense of accomplishment.

If joy, freedom and sense of accomplishment seem foreign to your theological conception of music ministry, I suggest you consider the following:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17, ESV)

Each one must carefully scrutinize his own work—examining his actions, attitudes, and behavior—and then he can have the personal satisfaction and inner joy of doing something commendable without comparing himself to another. (Galatians 6:4, Amplified)

Not every church provides an optimal setting for music ministry, but there are things any church can do to make the experience of music ministry more rewarding without sacrificing its mission or reverence toward God:

1. Allow experimentation, improvisation, and spontaneity, going “outside the box” of the normal musical procedures.
2. Admit the occasional necessity of “winging it”–those times when sufficient preparation isn’t necessary or eve n possible.
3. Avoid treating the music as an end in itself, rather than seeing it as one element of the Great Conversation between God and humanity. Divorced from prayers, confessions, sacraments, sermons and giving, worship music can fit just about as well in a concert hall, restaurant or nightclub.

I’ve seen joyless worship music suck the life out of a church service; on the other hand, I’ve been in services where the worship leaders’ joy was infectious. We need not be afraid to “get into the music”; it’s not—or shouldn’t be—drudgery!

Ray Andrews currently serves as senior pastor of Romans Eight Church in Fort Worth, Texas, after having been music pastor there for 30 years.  His involvement with music ministry spans five decades in many areas, such as composing, arranging, recording, vocal and instrumental performance and teaching.  Contact him at [email protected].

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