by Robert Earl Houston
DETROIT, MI – I am a blessed pastor. For a multiplicity of reasons. I have the privilege of leading one of the oldest congregations in the nation, the First Baptist Church of Frankfort, Kentucky. It’s an exciting time in the life of this congregation of believers.
As I sit here in Detroit and after some observation over the past two days, I want to celebrate what my musicians have lacked.
In pastoral ministry in the past years, I have had a tremendous cadre of musicians – starting with my sister, Phyllis Houston Smith, Danny Osborne, LaShell Aldredge, Professor Anthony James King, Audrey Bell, Edd Sullivan, Melanie Lanier, Rico Ware, Christopher Stallings, and my current minister of music, MInister Elijah Griffin.
They’ve all lacked one quality.
Unfortunately an arrogance – a diva-ness or king-ship – is cropping up in the ranks of those who give God praise via the instruments of worship. The Word of God declares that one thing that the Lord detests is a “proud look.”
When you are blessing with special gifts and talents, it behooves you to guard those gifts but it is also incumbent upon the musician to still be cooperative, loving, nurturing, and how about just being a friendly person? How about being cooperative? How about leading people into worship before the sermon instead of producing an “it’s all about me” moment?
Unfortunately some churches have become the hostages of gifted, talented musicians who believe that without them ministry cannot occur; they then play not with the Spirit of God, but with an arrogance and ownership that locks out the Holy Spirit. They don’t flow, they dam up. They don’t worship, they work. They don’t encourage, they terrorize.
Personally, I’d rather have a musician that doesn’t hit every note correctly than to have one that is so full of themselves that they literally become a distraction to the worship experience.
I’m blessed with a tremendous Minister of Music, Minister Elijah Griffin, and he has a heart for ministry. He really does. He is probably one of the best musicians I’ve ever seen – he studies music, he learns the chords, he learns the music – and I’ve never had any problem with him. He moved away a few months ago and recently returned to our church – and me and my congregation welcomed him back. When he left, I told my church that I was not in a hurry to seek another Minister of Music, that this is in the Lord’s hands, not mine. And He blessed us with him.
This week, I was asked to help a dear friend with a devotional period. I walked on the stage, with a cane, and the “band” looked at me like I was crazy (I had never worked with these musicians before – guess they didn’t think I was “their caliber”). They barely spoke. They demonstrated, to me, that they weren’t there to lift up the name of Jesus, they were there as a clannish clique looking for a check. I played, walked off the stage and thought to myself, “Lord, I’m glad I was never like this.”
Mind you, I’m a musician myself. I’ve been playing since 1977, and I’ve had opportunity to minister in music at national conventions, GMWA, and other venues. I was taught at the very beginning and mentored by gifted musicians like Lorene V. Wilder, Gilber Gill, Ken Berry, Saul Kelley, Michael Stone, Rev. William Whittied, Jr., and others at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. Yes, each one was tremendously gifted in their own way. Some could read music, some couldn’t. But they taught me to not focus on your weaknesses, but focus on your strengths and above all – to consider being used by God in worship as a privilege and not a right.
I had the opportunity to sit on a panel at GMWA years ago which discussed the Pastor-Musician relationship and on that panel was myself, Dr. Melvin Von Wade, Sr., and Pastor Donnie McClurkin. I never forgot something Donnie said – “the Lord is the one who gets the glory in worship.” ‘Nuff said.