I am going to begin this article by making a statement that has gotten me into trouble in the past. And that is, churches are a consumer product. Yes, as repugnant as that might sound to you, this is the God’s honest truth. Think about it. For those of you who attend church regularly, ask yourself why you are attending the church you are currently attending. When you are on your way to your church, I bet you pass by several others before you arrive at yours. The bottom line is, everyone who attends a church, has a reason they pass by other churches and attend the particular church they are going to. One’s selection criteria could range anywhere from denomination and doctrine, location, the charisma of the pastor, the music program, the children’s or youth programs or whatever. In today’s day and age, it is not at all unusual for an individual or a family to attend one church for a few years and then up and leave and attend another church for a few years.
For the musician playing in a church praise band, this dynamic comes into play even more so. As for me, I have attended eight different churches in the last fifteen years. Of those eight churches, I left only three of them over a disagreement with the music director or the direction the music program. Then, there were two churches that just made me a better offer than the ones I was currently playing for at the time. This is the hazard one has to contend with if one’s selection criteria for a church is whether or not there is a chair for that person in the praise band. The music business in general is very lucid. Groups come and go and the musicians who play for groups come and go. The music program at any given church can be very lucid too, even if the musicians playing for a church praise band are playing for a higher purpose than their secular counter-parts.
If you are truly dedicated to being a praise musician, you are going to have to live with the possibility that you might be playing in a few different churches over the course of your musical career. Another cold hard reality is that praise band musicians more often than not, are more loyal to the praise bands they play with than the churches they are playing for. One exception to that rule happened when a guitar player once told me that he had to wait three years before the music director would let him play in the band. I then asked him: “Instead of waiting three years to play in this praise band, why didn’t you just find another church that could use a guitar player?” He then gave me that how dare you look, and said, “I would never leave this church. This is my church home and I love the people here.” I responded by saying, “well okay then, that’s the choice you made. Obviously this church and its people are more important to you than your desire to develop and hone your guitar skills.” I don’t fault the guy for the choice he made.
So, it all comes back to one’s selection criteria for a church and the choices one makes regardless if you are a serious or casual musician. If you are in a situation where you are not happy with your role or the lack thereof in the praise band at your church, you have two choices. Accept the situation for what it is, or change churches. As for two of the three churches that I left over musical disagreements, they way underestimated my resolve to leave them for a better situation after I expressed to them my wishes and desires. As I have grown older, I have learned that it is better to just leave and look for a better situation than to stay and complain and thus risk causing discord and contention.
By the way, just so you know, I am very happy with my current praise band situation and have no plans to leave anytime soon. And the reason I am where I am today is a result of the choices to stay or go in the past.