Marc Miller’s Christian Music Rant

By Marc Miller

Well, my post yesterday definitely gathered a bit of a response- which is good. Now, 24 hours(ish) later, I realize I need to clarify a few things.

First off, I know full well that not all praise team members are lazy- but a lot of them are. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say most are. I hear the statement all the time that “it’s a matter of heart, not ability” or words to that effect. That’s crap, and here’s why:

I have a heart to fly an airliner. I think I can do a great job at it because I know how to fly an airplane already (variable prop rating); I perform well under pressure because I don’t panic; I genuinely care about people and making sure that they are safe; I love to travel and I’ve been lots of places so I know how to get there. I’ve spent a little amount of time at the controls of an airplane, and I understand the physics, the rules, how to use a radio, read a compass, understand an artificial horizon, what “trim” is, etc. I have “the basics”, in other words.

Get the idea here? Would you get on an airliner with me at the controls, just because I “have a heart” for this and I have a teeny amount of experience? Of course you wouldn’t, and no one would blame you. Let’s take that further- even if you are a born-again, Bible thumping, evangelical, on-fire Christian, and you KNOW that you have eternal salvation, and you KNOW that if I killed you in the inevitable crash you would immediately go to Heaven – you still wouldn’t get on that plane. My point is that, in the example I cite above, the proof of my ability is not borne out by my heart. Others will not benefit from that. It’s dangerous to expect a better outcome – I mean, yeah, I probably could fly an airliner, but the real question is SHOULD I? I need to study with other pilots, practice, study some more, take a test, take an audition, study some more, and then………maybe………

Which brings me to my second point- if you, as a Christian traveller, pointed out that I was ill-equipped to fly that airplane, I really can’t take offense at that. In fact, if I did – and then, went forward and insisted that I was the guy for the job based on my “heart” – you’d call me crazy, and again no one would blame you. You are telling the truth. But, if we, as Christians point out that someone really needs more practice befpore climbing on a stage, we’re told WE are the problem for pointing that out, and that we have offended the other person, and that is somehow bad.

My third point is that, even though I know the direction from Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California, I still need a map, right? And, I need to know how to read that map. “But- all I need to do is follow the coast line south to Los Angeles, right….”- uh, no. Yeah, that will get me to Los Angeles, but I don’t know how to get to the airport, and even if I did, I don’t know the route without a map (and talking to the control tower) – and there’s lots of other planes in the area, and I don’t want to hit them. “Oh, wait- you have a window. Just look out the window and you can see the airport, and you can see if there are other planes and keep from hitting them that way”- uh, again, no. Having a scribble of paper with “x’s” to mark the airplanes doesn’t work, either. This is the same thing as telling musicians that they are NOT musicians unless they can read- and, once again, if I point that out to other praise team members, I am again told that I am being egotistical and vain.

My fourth point takes us to the Control Tower, or the Praise Team Leader. They have to give the final instructions to planes that land and take-off, and occasionally, they have to handle an emergency or two. In order to do that, they have to be able to converse in a common language with the other planes- but not only that, but they need to know the rules, too. They need to be able to make decisions quickly and precisely and for the good of all involved. In order to make that happen and make sure that everyone who communicates with control tower can do so properly, all the pilots of the planes have to go through constant training and updates in procedures. If you talk to a pilot and ask them “when does your training end” they will tell you that it never does. It’s a constant thing- and, if they don’t do it and stay current, they’re fired.

Ah- now, there’s the rub- I said “stay current”. That might sound like it serves the argument I’m against, but it absolutely doesn’t. Why? Because, even though the rules get current, the basics don’t. Lift is lift. Thrust is thrust. Pitch and yaw are pitch and yaw. The physics of flight do not change and they never will. If you do not understand the basics of flight, you cannot (and should not) participate in the rest of it. There are no shortcuts to this, either- because a shortcut here means bad things to the passengers.

All of this is true with the praise and worship musician. If you don’t know how to read music – and, I mean printed sheet music with rhythms and notes – you are a drain on the process and you cannot and will not ever increase your skill. If you cannot communicate with other musicians, you cannot get better.

“Success” only comes before “Work” in the dictionary.

If the sum total of your musical ability and your goal is to mimic a few shallow concepts, then you are wasting everyone’s time, so please- get off the stage and don’t come back. If your goal, as a worship leader or music director, is just to emulate the crap you hear on the radio without trying to understand what’s happening or increasing your team’s skill and ability and are afraid to rock this boat, then you are wasting everyone’s time, so please- don’t take issue with me when I call you out and tell you why there’s more to be had and more to be done. I might just know a little more than you do.

I have more points to this discussion that I need to spend a little more time on before I commit them to this blog, but rest assured, I will. Soon. And, in the meantime, if I call you out because I think you’re lazy – and I will do that – it isn’t to exalt me. I am keenly aware that I still have much to learn. It’s to tell you that I expect more from you, and that I am willing and most able to help if you want. Otherwise, if you’re offended by my attempt to help you, take your faux-hawk and get off the stage. You don’t belong here.