My time is short, but my mind is swirling with the thoughts brought up by a comment made by Rubber Chicken Girl, who is actually my very dearest friend Shellie. You can find it on my last blog post.
My previous post is on the pros and cons of the company Christian Book Distributors. The many excellent comments that have been written touch on, among other things, aspects of the Christian faith as a commercial commodity, on craftsmanship and quality, and on the idea of Christian elitism, and the available pool of Christian craftsmen vs. secular craftsmen.
Shellie brings up some very thought-provoking ideas. (In general, I find that we think similarly, but Shellie tends to be much less jaded than I, and a fair bit more passionate.) Please read the post and comments if you haven’t already.
One of the thoughts I had, after I read her comment was, “Am I, then, a Christian elitist since I want Christians to do things well?”
Something that I’ve come to, though, is that much is dependent upon whether or not the Christian’s ministry or area of influence is public.
I’ve been involved in public ministry since marrying my dear husband, Martin. He is the worship pastor of my greatly-beloved church, Vineyard Phoenix. He’s done this for (I think it’s been) 17 years. During a Sunday morning worship set, Martin plays an acoustic guitar, and usually an electric, too, depending on the song. Also on stage, you’ll usually find an additional electric guitarist, a keyboardist, a bass player, a drummer, a percussionist, and three backup vocalists.
During our nearly-13 years of marriage, I have seen a lot of the inner workings of the worship team, its members and musicians. I am especially acquainted with the vocalists, as that is my area of personal responsibility. I arrange vocal parts – SAT – and make the schedule, as well as instruct the new vocalists.
In my years of observation and involvement, it’s become apparent to me that the most effective members for this area of public ministry (that is, we’re in the public eye, on stage) have three qualities:
- A heart for worship
- The willingness to be led
- A high level of skill
For purposes of this discussion, I’m going to skip addressing #2 in its entirety, as it is not altogether relevant to my point.
There have been many people who apply to be part of the worship team, who may or may not have all three of the above qualities.
We see a lot of passionate, Godly individuals with a high degree of #1 on the list, a heart for worship. They are the sort that we, on the stage, love to see in the congregation: We don’t have to convince them to worship; they are always connecting with God in worship, extravagantly and exuberantly worshiping. So, this sort of person frequently reasons, “Well, I adore to worship. We have a worship team. It’s incomprehensible why I wouldn’t be allowed to be on the worship team!” Then, after being turned away after an audition, this person frequently leaves in embarrassment, indignation, confusion, and (unfortunately) sometimes bitterness. The short of it is, no matter how much they adore worshiping, and even how willingly they accept Martin’s leadership, if they don’t have the skill to play their instrument or effectively hold a tune, it’s just not appropriate to place them on a stage. A lack of skill is a distraction to the purpose of leading the congregation into a place of meeting with God in the intimacy and power of worship.
With regards to #3, often, we have someone come into our church who has a HIGH level of skill. They’ve played with X band for years, cut a CD, played at such-and-such megachurch, whatever. Their reasoning follows thusly: “I am a great drummer. Better, in fact, than the guy who’s up there. The team needs me.” After presenting himself to Martin, usually after only their first or second Sunday visiting our church, and being turned away, that musician will then, usually, leave the church entirely, thinking Martin’s a fool for not allowing him to be on the team. The thing is, such very skilled musicians are often simply looking for a stage on which to display themselves; they often don’t have a heart for worship, and in that conversation with Martin, they often turn combative, displaying a complete unwillingness to be a team member, let alone an actual part of the church — gasp! — before being allowed to be on the team. That sort of musician can often bring divisiveness to the team, and the resulting lack of peace and unity will greatly affect the effectiveness of the team, as a whole.
Both of these characters most often are, actually, elitist.
The first could be called a spiritual elitist: “Why, I love God with all my heart, and I just live to worship. Why don’t they allow me on the team?” He thinks that a close relationship with God the Father is the only thing necessary for leading others.
The second could be an elitist of skill: “Man, my leads shred that electric player’s. Why don’t they allow me on the stage?” She thinks that a high level of flashy talent are the only things necessary for putting her on the stage.
But one isn’t successful in Christian leadership simply because one has one requirement or another. It’s usually a combination of attitude, timing, skill, aptitude, anointing, and favor with God and man.
Long story short, I think that whatever Christians do, they should strive to do well. BUT, I think that just because one has a desire to serve in some area of Christian ministry, doesn’t necessarily mean one should. In other words, the person who is tone-deaf shouldn’t seek public ministry in music. Those with only a minimal grasp of the English grammar shouldn’t seek to publish books. Those with combative personalities or of flimsy character shouldn’t be seeking positions of leadership. And so on.
In other words, if your skills (or lack thereof) don’t fit the requirements, find another place to serve that will be a good fit for you.
It’s understandable why skill-related elitism can be repulsive, especially as explained by Shellie. But, to me, there’s another aspect of spiritual-elitism that is too easily ignored, one that says, “Well, I’m a real Christian, so my efforts should be accepted, and anyone who tells me that my efforts aren’t good enough is just being elitist.”
Golly. I’m not presenting this very clearly or succinctly. But, I hope it makes sense to those who are still reading.
Comments? Please leave ’em, even if (perhaps especially if) you don’t agree with me.