I continue today with the original question from a pastor/elder on how to help a brother who is leading music at this church for the first time and seems to be locked in on his own personal style that doesn’t quite serve as a source of good communication and edification. (Notice that I say it “seems” to be that way. There’s no way I can truly know the whole story without being there—but for the sake of teaching we’ll make that assumption.)
I hinted in my last post on this subject that I would look at 1 Cor. 12-14. Paul, in this passage is dealing with the surface issue of the use of the gifts (primarily glossolalia or “speaking in tongues” and prophesy). However, it matters not so much as to the gifts that brought problems to the surface. It matters everything that we understand the principles that were being violated by the Corinthians and how it might apply in answering the question. (I will do so with my best attempts to avoid the very controversial subject of cessationism vs. continuationism.)
In Corporate Worship, Personal Edification Must Occur In The Context Of The Body. The problem with the Corinthian Church was not tongues or any other gift. The problem was selfishness. Whether you want to believe or not that Paul was taking a stance on tongues, what you must see that Paul was teaching that there were lots of folks who came to their gatherings with their own agendas and expectations that did not include the entirety of the congregation.
How does this apply to a Music Minister? I must not sacrifice a congregation on the altar of my musical expression. My primary “natural voice” musically may be country. But if I’m trying to serve a congregation that most predominately has classical music tastes, then I better begin to learn some classical literature if I am to best serve them. (I totally “get” that bridging that musical difference may be next to impossible—please just humor my extreme example.)
Getting to the question that was asked, the “screamo” style that your Music Minister is using may be edifying to him but if it is creating distractions to your congregation, he must deny himself those expressions not because they are sinful in themselves but because they are not the wisest forms of leadership. “The Body is not one member but many.” (1 Cor. 12:14)
In Corporate Worship, The Body Must Celebrate The Diversity Of Each Of Its Members. As a balancing principle, Paul also reminds the Corinthian Church that while subjugation of personal gifting for the sake of corporate edification is crucial, it is also crucial for the congregation to treasure an individual’s uniqueness. To translate Paul’s teaching on submission of personal edification as homogeneity is bad exegesis. In God’s economy, Individuality must pull towards and celebrate the Corporate; but the Corporate must pull towards and celebrate Individuality as well. There must be healthy tension there. Where each church lands in this area depends on many factors including (but not exhaustively): age of the church, length of the Senior Pastor’s term, size of the congregation, maturity of the congregation, etc.
While I am suggesting that this brother deny himself using his talents in ways that are most natural to him for the sake of the Body, the Body may need to, at rare times, allow this brother a time to express his unique talents (maybe as a special or at an outdoor, outreach event—for the sake of giving some examples). The same God who tells the Corinthian Church to speak with a clear voice also tells them that “God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” (1 Cor. 12:18) and that one member cannot tell another member “I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12:21). Paul didn’t tell the Corinthian church to cease all their unique gifts—he told them to use them properly (1 Cor. 14:26-33) with the central principles being “let all things be done for edification” and “God is not a God of confusion but of peace”.
As a church allows both of these tensions to work in body life, in God’s economy, it should—over time—pull that congregation into biblical balance.