During the process of “Knowing Jesus,” I was asked a question frequently by many different people:
“Are your musicians paid?”
I think it stems from the fact that I am around such quality people and it causes many people to stand in bewilderment. Surely, he has to pay these people because of their high caliber. I really am blessed to be around some of the most incredible, humble, talented, godly worship leaders that a church could ever ask for. I am way out of my league with each one of them.
“Some of these are paid, right?” I heard it from people who came to the event who were amazed at the quality of our singers and instrumentalists.
I heard it from people who worked on the audio and video from the event who were surprised at how many solid takes were recorded.
I heard it from people who downloaded the album off of iTunes and were amazed at how quality each track sounded.
“Are your musicians paid?”
Well, the answer is…
No. They are not paid. They have not been paid. For all the hours they put into this project, they got a free DVD and CD and a couple of box lunches provided for them.
I don’t mean to sound super-spiritual, but they have another reward in mind – they simply love leading people in worship.
Before you jump all over me for what your church does or what your belief is, I’m sharing my belief and my church’s philosophy. All types of churches pay their musicians and I don’t think they are necessarily wrong. I don’t know their motivations. Everyone from church plants to longstanding churches pay musicians. Drummers to organists, guitarists to vocalists, technicians to musicians, many roles are paid in churches these days as they have been for a long time. Some churches will even have a featured musician on staff.
I don’t think churches who pay musicians are wrong, it’s just our conviction that we don’t. So, please don’t see this as an attack on what you might do. I’ve just been asked a lot lately, and felt like I need to clarify. Here’s some of the reasons why we don’t pay our musicians:
- We don’t pay other volunteers. No one pays our small group leaders, children’s Bible teachers, youth group workers, parking lot attendants, host team, tech team, and a host of the other hundreds of volunteers we have every week at North Side. Some of these guys and gals wipe baby bottoms and open doors in the pouring rain. Why would we pay a group of hard-working, talented, godly musicians if we are not going to pay hard-working, talented, godly teachers?
- We emphasize the Body of Christ. Our musicians are talented, but their talent is not their spiritual gift. All of our team is one tiny part of the Body here at North Side. They are using the talents and their gifts that God has provided to lead others. They have been equipped for “the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). That means, that they are simply filling their role in ministry here at church. This isn’t a gig, it’s a ministry.
- We screen our musicians spiritually and musically. I could spend an entire other post on why we only allow church members to be a part of this team, but, in short, musicians can perform music, discipled believers can lead worship – and I could care less about performance. We lead worship. We aren’t providing a cutting edge rock concert or a classical recital hour. We are trying to lead others to worship Jesus. Since that is our goal, I screen our people musically. We work really hard at what we do. But, even more importantly, we screen our people spiritually. We disciple them. We discipline them. We will take time off if lives are struggling, if sin is a problem. The role of worship leader and church leader in the OT and NT is very critical and the people leading had to be up to par spiritually or God would punish the congregation.
- We aim to display pure motives. I do not think it is evil to pay musicians, but I do think the love of being paid is evil. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:10). When people attend our services, I never want them to think our quality, displayed passion, or physical expressions are manufactured. We don’t want anyone to think it is for our benefit. It is not for our glory. We don’t care about getting our itchings scratched. We are not putting on a show. We love to worship Jesus. We have had people sit in our practices before and comment that our team’s expressions and behavior are the same at practice as they are on Sunday mornings. It should be. They have caught us in the act of worshiping.
- We seek a greater reward. If I was requested to serve next Sunday and my life was hectic at the time, I have to decide if I will lead worship. If money is involved, that could help steer me in a direction that might not be related to glorifying God. If there is no benefit or bonus for doing this other than the fact I get to use my talents and giftings to encourage others to express their devotion to Jesus, there is less temptation for my response to be selfish. Could it still be? Absolutely! I could desire to lead for the applause of men, but I at least have one less reason to do so if money isn’t in the equation. Our team isn’t paid and they love that. Would they appreciate it if they could do what they do and earn a little extra money? Who wouldn’t?! But they also know that every dollar that is spent paying someone to play some songs on a Sunday is money that could be spent to support a missionary or fund a crisis pregnancy center or help an orphan find a home.
The Levites were the OT worship leaders. When the Israelites were given plots of land to settle their groups, the Levites were denied the right to land. “They shall have no portion among their brothers; the LORD is their portion, as he promised them” (Deut. 18:2).
Did you catch that? They didn’t have all of the worldly pleasures that their brothers had, but they got the LORD instead! As worship leaders, would we be satisfied if the treasures of this world were kept from us and all we had was Jesus? For me, if I’m wanting a paying gig, the answer is no. If I am seeking to serve the local church as a worship leader, the answer is yes.