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My Response to Dan Wilt's "Make No Mistakes" (ThinkJump Journal #99 with Kim Gentes)

Dan Wilt, popular blogger, speaker and teacher on worship, recently posted a clarion call to worship leaders on skill and musicianship. You can find it here:

Before reading the article below (my response), you should first read Dan's original article. It is well worth it.

I like the article. I wholeheartedly agree that musicianship must get better for arts and music to be taken seriously as a "gift" in the church community (by both the community themselves and the outside world). However, I feel the conflict Dan is inaugurating with his strongly worded demand for church musicianship to 'get it together' will only cause problems for worship leaders, honestly. Here's why- the issue for most worship leaders is not a desire for increasing their musicianship, it's a problem with taking that desire and implementing it as a plan amongst the church musicians that play essential roles on the "Sunday morning" experience. Why? It's a problem of conflicting goals with the senior leadership of the church. There is a struggle over who really has the microphone. Let me explain.

The worship leaders (themselves) will get better, but the stream of musicians in their churches will not. I want what Dan is saying to happen, but I've found most senior pastors (with some exceptions) would rather have people participating than require high musical competence. When challenged, the senior pastors will always say they want quality, but it has to be done by using the people they have. It's a no sum game. There are churches in which this isn't so, but I've not usually seen it as a problem with the music leadership, rather the integration of such a requirement in a volunteer setting that values inclusion above competence.

Don't get me wrong, I am not arguing for that view, but it pervades. Nashville is a different world, and Dan (as a local) can certainly relish it's unique culture because that city's church culture has taken the competence line rather than the other, but the rest of the world (that I have seen) will mostly take the other. What this means is that Dan is now pitting the worship/music leader against his church leadership to follow the mantra he's outlined. Very few people (worship leaders) have the interpersonal skills to point out this inconsistency in position to their senior leadership, let alone convince them to change. I've seen music leaders quit, time after time, because of this exact issue as it fully plays out in all its facets- they want excellence, but it presses against the culture and leadership to the point that the worship leader eventually abandons the church out of frustration.

Your call to excellence is right. But it is not just. It will only be just when you clearly and importantly forego its three idiomatic three punch points by first helping leaders get to the heart of this goal with their pastoral leadership. And if that goal is NOT arrived at in mutual agreement, those 3 points become a knife of tension that eventually leads to division and pain. I understand the issue- no single article can be "all things". But this strongly worded call to worship leaders can't be presented at least without a reference to a philosophical (and practical leadership) framework in which such a call to action to exist without it tearing down the very structures it hopes it support.

Dan starts the article in response to the hypothetical statement he fears from churches "but worship music is different." To which he responds "baloney" (an American redress for bologna). The problem Dan is avoiding when he does this is that no other musical setting holds musicianship to be less important than other goals in the event. Church leaders/pastors (for right or wrong) who are overseeing the musicians press two demands on the worship leader- inclusion of the community in performance of music, and excellence in music. Churches that are larger have figured out that these two goals are incongruent and have taken the skill route. But 85% (probably higher) churches in the modern world are small, and their leadership is more determined to find ways of including community members even if it means lessening the proficiency of the musician skill in gatherings. Most worship leaders will be with Dan on this article, but most church pastors will practically collude against any change in this area. This must be addressed before such a call is heeded and attempted to be implemented in a local church.


Worshiping with you

Kim Gentes

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