I admit the title of this post might be a little shocking. I can hear the murmuring now: “What do you mean there is no such thing as a music minister?? I’m a music minister! Don’t you think worship is important?? Don’t you think worship leaders are important?? How can you possibly say there is no such thing as a worship minister??”
I realize that I am challenging some deeply held (and passionately held) opinions in Pentecost—and in (so-called) charismatic Christianity in general. We seem to really emphasize music in our church services these days—what with our choirs and soloists, “praise teams” and “bands” lead by “worship ministers.” We have more instruments on our platforms than an orchestra; and if the wrong person touches the mics or the mixing board, it almost causes a church split.
It might come off as shocking—even downright offensive—to hear me say that there is no such thing as a music minister. All I’m asking is that you have an open heart and be willing to let our final authority, the word of God, change your mind.
What I’m Not Saying
Before we go any further, let me clarify a few things. I am not downplaying the importance of worship or music in the church. There are way too many verses in the Bible about music, melodies, hymns, psalms, songs, singing, singers, choirs, harps, pipes, organs, tambourines, drums, and cymbals for me to count—much less ignore. Music not only should be, but must be, a part of our church services and Christian lives. Music is a gift from God, for us to enjoy and to bless the Lord with. But music has its proper place.
Neither am I insulting the valuable contributions of talented musicians and singers who glorify God by “singing a new song” or “playing skillfully” (Ps33:3). God wants our times of worship to be fresh, beautiful, and skillful. Musicians are necessary to the proper function of a church. They praise God through their music; they beautify the spiritual songs of the Lord through their harmony; and they can even help create an atmosphere for a prophetic move of the Spirit (2Kings3:14-15, 2Sam10:5). Talented and anointed musicians are a blessing from God to his church. But musicians have their proper place.
What I Am Saying
As vital as music and musicians are to the church, music is not a ministry and musicians are not ministers. Yes, it is possible to stir the emotions of a sinner sitting on the pew, so much so that they come to the altar and receive salvation. But you have not ministered to them. At best, you have helped them feel the Spirit of God through your anointed singing. That doesn’t make you a minister.
Yes, it is possible to touch the heart of a discouraged saint, so much so that they leave the worship service feeling encouraged and ready to keep fighting the good fight. But you have not ministered to them. At best you have “refreshed” them and helped them overcome an evil spirit that is fighting them, like David did for King Saul (1Sam16:14-23). That still doesn’t make you a minister.
Music and musicians are and always will be necessary in the kingdom of God. But they have their place. And any thing, no matter how good, becomes dangerous or destructive when it is in the wrong place. Let’s not forget that Lucifer is a musician straight from heaven; but became evil when he became proud and wasn’t satisfied with his place. As C.S. Lewis once said, the stronger the angel, the more powerful a demon it becomes when it falls.
What Music Is and Isn’t
Just to be extra certain, I did concordance searches with the KJV and with the ESV, and my suspicions were correct. There is not a single verse in the entire Bible where singers are called “ministers,” or where singing or song(s) are called a “ministry.” [I have only found one exception to this statement, but when we look deeper it actually confirms my overall point; I’ve already discussed this in an earlier post.] In fact, the Bible makes a distinction between those who minister and those who sing.
…the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers…(Neh10:39)
A singer is a part of the church, just as much as the priest that ministers (that means the preacher who teaches) or the porter (the door greater who welcomes you). All of these things are part of the church: but door-greeting is not the same thing as singing, and door-greeting and singing are not the same thing as ministering. This verse mentions three groups of people: ministers, door-greeters, and singers. We can’t confuse the three.
Now this doesn’t mean that the same person can’t do both things. I am a musician (violin, guitar, a little piano) and I am also a preacher; but that doesn’t mean that preaching is piano playing.
Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to divisions…to minister…and to sing praises in the gates (2Chr31:2 NIV).
Whenever the Bible talks about the same person singing and ministering, the jobs are still kept separate. It is possible to be a musician and a minister, but it is not possible to be a music minister: because music isn’t a ministry.
Music is a service (1Chr6:31). We serve God when we worship him with music. Now I can hear someone say, “But the word ministering means serving! So if music is a service, that means that it is a ministry!” I admit, that seems like a logical conclusion. The only problem is, the Bible never calls music a ministry. That type of reasoning makes the Bible say something that it does not say. If God had wanted music to be called a ministry, there are plenty of verses where he could have done so. Musicians and ministers are both servants; but musicians are not ministers.
Music is not only a service but a gift—even a supernatural gift on par with prophesy or tongues and interpretation (1Cor14:26). God has given music to his church to beautify it and empower it, just like any other spiritual gift. That doesn’t make it a ministry.
We have talked a lot about how music isn’t a ministry, and so it is only natural to wonder what Biblical ministry is. Simply put, ministry in the New Testament Church is always the preaching of the word.
- But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word (Acts6:4)
- …so that I might finish…the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel (Acts20:24)
- Ministry it is connected with prophesy, teaching, and exhorting—all preaching-esque activities—in Romans 12:6-8
- …do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry (2Tim4:5)
In fact, if you want to know exactly who qualifies as a “minister” in the church, read Ephesians:
And [God] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edification of the body of Christ (4:11-12).
If you are not one of these five ministries mentioned above, you are not a minister—it doesn’t matter how talented or even anointed your musicality is. The Bible never calls music a ministry, it never calls musicians ministers, and when it gives us a list of ministries musicians aren’t on that list.
Let’s Get Practical
By now, it should be very obvious that—according to the Bible—a musician is not a minister. Now let’s get down to where the rubber meets the road.
If you are a musician or singer, do not try to perfect the saints, build up the body, or minister. It isn’t your job. Your job is to praise the Lord by singing/playing, and that is all. So many times I hear worship leaders say, “I want this song to bless someone;” but the only person our music should bless is God (Ps96:2). Music blesses the Lord, but preaching is what blesses the saints and helps them become more holy.
Musician or worship leader, please do not be offended by the fact that you aren’t a minister. You are valuable to the church; it can’t work properly without you. But if you try to use music as a ministry, you will do a bad job at both. The Bible never calls music a ministry; music is not a way to win souls. That is what “the foolishness of preaching” is for.
Dear reader, please understand that I love you, and I have written this post with a firm tone and a righteous indignation, but I have not written it in anger or malice. I have written it to help you understand music/worship’s place in the kingdom, so that your music can be all that God intended it to be.
NOTE: My views on this have changed slightly with more study. If you want to read my most recent thoughts on this subject, see this article.