MUST I HAVE A DEGREE IN MUSIC TO SING OR PLAY AN INSTRUMENT AT A LOCAL CHURCH?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Sadly, some have indeed been turned away from music in a local assembly or singing in its choir because they lacked formal training (a college degree, professional tutoring). This is an example of using human viewpoint to gauge church matters. (It is no different from the self-absorbed declaration, “You cannot preach at our church unless you have graduated from our denomination’s seminary or Bible College!”)
It is quite advantageous to have some familiarity with music if you so choose to become involved with a local church’s music ministry. Someone may say, “I can play the piano, but not that well.” Another may declare, “I sing solo—‘so low’ so others cannot hear.” In fact, this author will be quite bold in writing the following. As with some people who should not be teaching and yet are, there are some people who should not be singing and yet are. (It does not matter how many advanced degrees they have!!) If there is no underlying sound Bible doctrine, they would do themselves and others much good by staying quiet until they learn the truth instead of singing erroneous material. (Please see our “appropriate hymns” study linked at the end of this article.)
Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:18-19: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord….” As long as our heart attitude is right (faith in God’s Word rightly divided, not showing off or seeking worship ourselves), and we are singing or playing music in accordance with grace doctrine, this is really all that our Heavenly Father requires concerning a music ministry. God surely does not mind “amateurs.” As long as we are playing or singing from the heart, that is all that matters. God the Holy Spirit can sense our motives; let Him be the Judge, for He will surely do right!
The author is reminded of a time, many years ago, when one of his former pastors claimed a particular man in the assembly “was not a good singer.” However, the pastor would never insult the man to his face; rather, he would let the man sing at music time but spoke about it behind his back to other church members. The pastor prided himself as a professional, accomplished singer. Recently, this author learned that the pastor is now suffering from dementia. Failing memory caused him to retire from preaching and then from singing. He cannot remember how to sing or preach! As for the brother “who could not sing,” he is a friend of the author. The man is a Christian, and he undoubtedly loves the Lord and His Word. While not formally trained in music, he ultimately sang for the Lord’s pleasure. It made no difference if some condescending, fleshly preacher approved. Keep that in mind, friend!
As for those who seek man’s approval concerning any ministry in the church, we close with two verses. Firstly, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). Secondly, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).