Home Up 1. Seeking a Standard 2. Setting a Standard 3. Attaining the Standard 4. Maintaining the Standard

GEMLOsm.gif (1973 bytes)   Article 1.2. 
Topic: Music Ministry.   
Title:   Setting Standards for Effective Music Ministry. 2. SETTING A STANDARD
Author: Grant Eaton. Grant Eaton. Date: Original: July, 1997.  Last modified: 08 January, 2003

Setting Standards for Effective Music Ministry

by Grant Eaton

2.   Setting a Standard

Now let us Set the Standard!
What are the Standards that should characterise the lives and performances of Christian Musicians? What priorities do we pursue? What are the bench marks? What values are we seeking to maintain?

A.  Biblical Checklists


Psa 78:72

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skilful hands he led them.

King David's Standards
bulletdecisive but loving leadership
bulletintegrity of heart
bullet"Tune my heart to sing Thy praise"
bulletwith skilful hands

(1 Sam 16:16-18 NIV)

Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you will feel better." {17} So Saul said to his attendants, "Find someone who plays well and bring him to me." {18} One of the servants answered, "I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him."

What Others saw in King David

What were the attributes that David had that fitted him to minister to Saul's spiritual need?

bullethe has roots, - a son of Jesse
bulletand a heritage,  -  of Bethlehem
bullethe is skilful  - knows how to play the harp
bullethe is brave  -  He is a brave man
bulleta fighter  - and a warrior.
bulleta good communicator  - He speaks well
bulletattractive   -  and is a fine-looking man.
bulletAnd the LORD is with him.

This checklist is just as relevant for a credible, competent and effective leader today. Our battles are fought in a different arena, and our styles and methods are quite different, but we still desperately need leaders with these qualities - especially the last one, without which the others are of no avail.

I first heard these thoughts expounded by Winkey Pratney at a Worship Conference in Sydney in 1985. Others have also pursued these thoughts. eg. David's "Letter of Reference"

(Acts 13:22 NIV) After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.' What God saw in King David
bullet"a man after my own heart"
bulletfrom his descendants, Jesus was born.
(1 Sam 17:42-43 NIV) He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him. {43} He said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. What his enemies saw in King David
bulletdespised for his youth
bulletjealous of his image
bulletscorned and ridiculed
(2 Chr 29:3 NIV) In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them...(5) and said: "Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the LORD, the God of your fathers. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary...(10) Now I intend to make a covenant with the LORD, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. {11} My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense."


'negligent' : Hebrew  shalah, (shaw-law');  to mislead:--deceive, be negligent.

(1 Pet 2:9-10 NIV) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

'stand' : Hebrew  'amad, (aw-mad');   to stand, abide, continue, dwell, be employed, endure,  (be) present,   stand (by, fast, firm, still, up), (be at a) stay (up), tarry.








(Psa 141:2 NIV) May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.


Checklist for the restoration of Worship.

bulletbasic first step, but we're not very good at it
bulletstop still long enough and at regular intervals
[see Why Don't People Listen?]

consecrate to the Lord
bulletwe cannot serve two masters
bulletwe must choose and commit

remove all defilement
bullet"throw off everything that hinders" Heb.12.1
bulletgreat strength in purity
bulletno skeletons to hide

do not be negligent
bulletdo not sneak away from your post, thinking no one will notice
bulletdeceiving your followers, letting them think you are leading where they need to go, but in fact you are only going through the motions
bulletif you've dropped the ball, - no excuses, it's time to get back in the pack and find it again!

chosen by the Lord
bulletyou have potential,
bulletyou are esteemed,
bulletspecial responsibilities,
bulletthe elected have a mandate to "declare the praises..."
bulletyou belong to the team

stand before the Lord
bulletposture matters, body language,
bulletleave all crutches outside, (or on the Cross, actually!)
bulletnatural, no acting, posturing or pretence
bulletstrength, maturity, acceptance, confidence and security in Christ,
bulletreverent, submissive, obedient, humble, (NB not "stand next to" - or being overly familiar)
bulletlinger in the Presence (note it don't say "walk" or "hurry")

serve the Lord
bulletserve God (we can be so busy doing things for God that we neglect to serve Him)
bulletattend to menial and routine matters
bulletgive God His due
bulletdo things that please Him
bulletremember God seeks worshippers (John 4:23)

minister before the Lord
bulleta servant of God
bulletjoyfully give service to others in obedience to the Master
bulleta willing servant's heart - doing what needs to be done without question or need for recognition or reward.

burn incense
bulletsymbol of prayer
bulletan act of worship
bulletoffering a sacrifice
bulletfumigate, dispel the abhorrent and replace with the beautiful, fresh, desirable.

John 4:22-24
You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.
God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth."
Standards Jesus set  for Worship?




bulletnot an issue of culture
bulletnot concerned with society’s traditions & norms
bulletnot an issue of time or place or style
bulletpersonal taste is not relevant
Phil 4:8-9
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue,
and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. 

Paul's Checklist of Standards:


bulletis it true?  
bulletis it honest?  
bulletis it just?  
bulletis it pure?  
bulletis it lovely?  
bulletis it of good report?  
bulletis it virtuous?   
bulletis it praise worthy?  

So? If you know all this, why don't you DO it?
Why all the wars over music in the Church?
Looking for peace? Then DO!

(2 Pet 1:5-11 NIV) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall,  and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Peter's Checklist of Standards:

To be effective and productive, we must make every effort to have and maintain...


"Make every effort." Take note! These standards come at a price! But where are we expending our effort?

God's standards are high: it is not easy, but He always empowers His servants to fulfil His purposes. 

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."
(2 Pet 1:3 NIV)

B.  Biblical Priorities

First things first!


The Kingdom of God


His Righteousness


Edification of the Church


Eternal over the Temporal

(Mat 6:33 NIV) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

'first' Greek  proton,  firstly (in time, place, order, or importance):--before, at the beginning, chiefly, (at, at the) first (of all).

Priority: God's Kingdom

Our comfort, our needs, our tastes, are of no consequence. Give priority to God's kingdom and His righteousness, and all these secondary issues will be taken care of by God.

Let's look at few other top priorities - some other first's.

(Mat 5:24 NIV) leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

(1 Cor 11:17-19 NIV) In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. {18} In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. {19} No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.

Priority: Unity of God's Children

God wants His children to live together in harmony and unity. He wants us to give priority to healing the rifts and bridge the gaps that divide us.

If we sense that we are competing with our brothers and sisters, to win God's approval, we will look for and highlight our differences. In that way we can justify our superiority to ourselves, and say "We are right! They are in error!" or "We've got the latest music out! They're still singing hymns!"

God's priority is for Unity. Our personal tastes and interpretations and diverse personalities are put aside in the light of Christ who unites all things.

(Mat 7:5 NIV) You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Priority: Correct yourself first
bulletTo be a worship leader, be a worshipper first
bulletTo help others grow, grow yourself first
(Mat 8:21-22 NIV) Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." {22} But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." Priority: God's Service

Obedience to the Lord, must take precedence over our natural inclinations, and even over worthy and appropriate endeavours.

(Mat 23:25-26 NIV) "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. {26} Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Priority: God's Purity

It is so easy to get caught up with cleaning the outside - the visible, the things that people notice. As musicians we tend to do this: making sure there are no wrong notes, and the sound is just right. But the priority should be with the motivation within, the expression of the heart, to feel and live the music - not just play the notes.

(Mat 18:4 NIV) Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Priority: Humility

Contrast the world's idea of being the "greatest" with God's. Ego is for entertainers, childlike humility should clothe God's servants.

1 Cor 14:12
So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
Priority: build up the Church


bulletseek Spiritual gifts for edification
bulletexercise your gifts for the sake of others
bulletmusical talent is merely a vehicle / language for the expression of spiritual gifts which edify others
(Mat 28:18-20 NIV) Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

(Rom 2:7-8 NIV) To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.  But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.


Priority: the Eternal,
                          not the Temporal

MUSIC is in essence TEMPORAL:

bulletalthough glimpses of heaven reveal music and worship of the highest standard!

MINISTRY has results in the ETERNAL:

bulletgo and make disciples of all nations

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor 4:18 NIV)

(Rom 14:17 NIV) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

(Rev 4:11 NIV) "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

What is it really all about?
bulletThe Kingdom of God
bullet"...righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit"
bulletThe faithfulness of God
bulletGod - it's all about Him! - Have we missed the whole point?
bullet"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!" (Rev 5:12 NIV)
[see Notes & Quotes. Christ Alone]


C.  Biblical Principles

All are Musical

All are Included

1 Chr 16:23

Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Psa 66:4
All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name." Selah

(Phil 2:10-11 NIV) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, {11} and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Psa 47:7 NIV)  For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.

All are Musical (How Musical is Man?)
bulletall are given opportunities to express themselves
bulletall are encouraged to be discerning but receptive listeners
bulletall people have creative potential, (it is just that some societies suppress and inhibit that potential)
bulletMusic ministry is NOT just the province of an elite group of talented musicians. All can share.
bulletSome by reason of their skill and calling may take leadership roles, but everyone has potential for participation and indeed, all should feel constrained to join that 'joyful shout':
bulletShout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; (Psa 98:4 )

because, if we don't, even the stones will cry out!
bullet"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:40)
(Rock music, no less!)

Psa 8:2 NIV
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

Psa 71:17-23
Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvellous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.
I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you-- I, whom you have redeemed.

Music Ministry is Inclusive: 
bulletit all comes from God
bulletyoung and old alike
bulletit includes all peoples, cultures, generations
bulletpeople are not disposable
bulletvalue each other and our diverse tastes and styles
bulletavoid the put-downs of contemporary society
bulletspiritual values should be passed on from generation to generation
bulletthere is a common theme, but diversity of expression
bulletteach attitudes as well as concepts and techniques, styles.
bulletteach more than the music: notes phrases concepts expressions attitudes lifestyle people communities  Kingdom.


Gen 1:27 NIV
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Psa 96:1 NIV
Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Rom 15:5-7 NIV
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, {6} so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. {7} Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Music Ministry is Innovative
bulletCreated in the Image of God, we all have innate creative potential.
bulletThe Christian Church, of all places, should foster creativity!
bulletThe Church has surrendered its initiative in this regard. Christians often used to be the 'advante garde' - the pioneers, the experimenters and trail blazers. We are so often now mere imitators rather than innovators.
bulletIt comes with a challenge: - Creative people tend to have a high tolerance for ambiguity, and may not fit our "model church-goer" image. But also, "He's the creative type" is no excuse for rebellion & discord among the saints.


(Eph 5:19-21 NIV) Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, {20} always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. {21} Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

(Col 3:16 NIV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 

Music Ministry is Diverse:
bulletPsalms, (the Book of Psalms)
bulletHymns, (perhaps the well known, structured songs and established repertoire)
bulletSpiritual Songs, (perhaps the more spontaneous, improvised songs)
Paul needed three different words to describe the diverse musical genre of the early church. Today we tend to label individual churches as 'traditional' or 'contemporary' to identify the genre of music used in worship, but this was not Paul's idea. On the contrary. He recognised that diverse genre are appropriate for diverse expressions, but all in the context of "giving thanks to God" and "submitting to one another" and "the word of Christ dwelling in you". Perhaps, even in Paul's day, multicultural influences provided a healthy diversity of expression, but unity in Christ was paramount.





WORSHIP - DRAMA MODEL: (Kierkegaard)
bulletGod is the audience
bulletCongregation are the actors
bulletMusicians are the prompters


D.  Biblical Balances

Now let us Set the Standard!



To investigate ..., go to Attaining Standards for Effective Music Ministry, Part 3. Attaining the Standard.    

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