A Little Plastic Surgery for the Body of Christ

As a musician and long-term volunteer worship leader, I have plenty of opinions when it comes to church music. So this morning when I came across a job posting for a Music Director position I was brought up short. And boy, do I have opinions.

Here’s the job posting. On The Gospel Coalition website, it’s for Paramount Church of Jacksonville, Florida. It’s hard to tell from their church website how large their church is, but there appears to be one paid staff pastor and about a dozen deacons.

So here’s the job posting, which comes in 3 sections. I’m bolding the things that stick out to me:

A. General Description of Position

Paramount Church is a gospel-centered church in Jacksonville FL. The Director of Music is responsible for designing and implementing a style of music that is contemporary and band-driven yet not contemporary for the sake of novel, innovative creativity. The ideal candidate for this position will be committed to the centrality of the gospel in all things and possess a solid knowledge of and commitment to the historic Christian worship of the church. The Director will coordinate music plans with the Preaching/Teaching elder, and recruit, direct, and train a team of volunteer musicians. Significant musical experience in performing and directing a contemporary band along with experience in songwriting and production is ideal.

I’m still trying to figure out what “not contemporary for the sake of novel, innovative creativity” means. How exactly do you have un-novel, non-innovative creativity? It is OK to be contemporary as long as we’re copying others and not doing our own thing? But that’s just a small quibble.

“Significant musical experience in performing and directing a contemporary band along with experience in songwriting and production.” That’s a lot. Wow.

B. Position Duties and Responsibilities

  1. Plan and implement Trinitarian, gospel-centered music (Col. 3:16) for Sunday worship services, and special services as required, in consultation with the Elders
  2. Recruit, train, and rehearse members of the music team.
  3. Disciple music team members in a gospel-centered, historic worship paradigm
  4. Coordinate with A/V team regularly to assure quality sound and video/visuals for each presentation and oversee training of A/V volunteers
  5. Attend weekly meetings with the Elders and Leadership Team.

OK, that’s fairly straightforward. Aside from the “gospel-centered” buzzwords that add more branding than meaning any more, that sounds like a standard music director position.

But here comes the big list. Hold on tight!

C. Position Qualifications

  1. Committed to definitive Nicene orthodoxy and gospel-centeredness in doctrine, life, and music
  2. Possess a solid understanding of and commitment to historic Christian worship
  3. Band-driven rather than orchestral-driven style of music
  4. Must be able to incorporate strings, percussion, and other instruments into contemporary-band driven arrangements
  5. Must be able to play piano and/or guitar in a contemporary band setting
  6. Minimum of bachelor’s degree in music and/or 5 years’ related church or industry experience. Possessing an MDiv or MA in theology is ideal.
  7. High-level of overall musicianship
  8. A builder/self-motivated/entrepreneurial spirit
  9. Sanguine stage presence
  10. Experience in leading corporate worship, and knowledge of directing, orchestrating, and coordinating various instruments in a band
  11. Ability to work with and train vocalists in singing of parts
  12. Ability to incorporate backing tracks and loops into regular Sunday and special services
  13. Leadership ability and ability to work with and inspire volunteers

Holy cow. Really? Must be able to incorporate strings, percussion, other instruments into a contemporary band. Oh, and also incorporate backing tracks and loops. And also be able to direct and orchestrate the instruments in the band.

And what the heck is a “sanguine stage presence” anyway?

But here was the kicker to me:

(Part-Time, pay commensurate with experience)

This is a PART-TIME position.

That’s right, you need to be able to write songs, orchestrate, build and lead a team, plan and arrange services including tracks and loops, rehearse, perform, meet with the church leadership on a regular basis, and in the best case would have an MDiv. For a part-time position.

Now, maybe I’m just 39 and out of touch, and there will be a hundred qualified candidates beating down the door of Paramount Church to audition for this position. But really? Are these wise expectations for church music leading, or wise leadership burdens to place on a part-time leadership position?

I fear that so often in the evangelical American church we have set our music performance and production standards so high that the focus is on the production more than the actual act of congregational worship, and that none save the already-professional musicians need apply to participate as a part of the worship bands.

Job posts like this feel like we’re signing the Body of Christ up for plastic surgery when what we really need is just to get it to the gym for regular workouts.

The church should be the incubator for and encourager of the young musicians coming up in it. I am biased here but can speak from a lifetime of having had that experience in the church. From singing special music with my dad and brothers when the youngest was so small he had to be held so he could be seen above the pulpit, to playing Bach for Sunday night offertories when I was just learning the piano, to leading worship teams in college when I was not nearly experienced enough, my musical development has been the product of a multitude of churches that didn’t want professionalism so much as service.

Yes, some standards are appropriate. Some talent is needed. But let’s not set our production standards so high that none but trained professionals can meet them. And let’s not set our job expectations so high that we eliminate the talented amateurs from the conversation. The church can and should be developing these leaders from the inside. To always be searching for professionals from the outside is both unhealthy and unsustainable.

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