Format: Sound Plus Doctrine PodcastDownload Session
In this episode Bob and David dive into the topic of whether or not churches should pay their musicians. We trust you’ll find something helpful as you listen in on the conversation.
Scriptures referenced: 1 Chronicles 9:33; Nehemiah 11:22-23; 1 Corinthians 9:9-11; 1 Peter 4:10-11
Have a question about this episode? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
David Zimmer: Hey, and welcome to Season 3 of the Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast. Today, we’re diving into the topic of whether or not churches should pay their musicians. We trust you’ll find something helpful as you listen in on the conversation.
DZ: Hey, welcome to the Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast. My name is David Zimmer.
Bob Kauflin: My name is Bob Kauflin.
DZ: And we are happy to be together.
BK: We are.
DZ: We are happy to be in a new season of the Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast.
BK: Season 3, we made it to three seasons, do you remember when we were thinking about starting the podcast, and it like, took us months?
DZ: It’s really wild to look back and see that we have been able to do as many as we have.
BK: We still do. And more than 10 people are listening.
BK: Which is great.
DZ: And to kick off our new season, our topic this week is: Should churches pay their musicians?
BK: Well, of course they should. What kind of question is that? Okay, next.
DZ: Alright, we’ll call it, good to see you and…
BK: This is a shorter episode. Thanks for listening. Just kidding.
DZ: Yeah. So before we kinda jump into this, I was thinking about this topic, ’cause we talked about it before we approached this podcast. And I was a full-time freelance musician in LA, for 15 years, and I was just thinking of all the churches I’ve played at, and the churches that have paid me to play on either a Sunday or a Saturday night service, or a Wednesday youth group service or whatever.
BK: This podcast is for you then.
DZ: It’s for me, I mean that’s what I’m hoping to learn from this.
DZ: No, but I think I was realizing though, in all those 15 years, the church that I went to and I was a member at, was never paying me, I was always volunteering at that church. But I do know of so many musicians that this is their income. This is their main income. And I’m not even talking about like song leaders.
BK: Yeah, that’s right.
DZ: I’m talking about freelance drummers or electric guitar players. And I even had friends in Los Angeles that weren’t saved, but would play regularly at churches, and it paid for their rent. And they’re playing at three to four churches throughout a whole entire long weekend.
BK: That is another podcast right there, that we are gonna talk about. Should you have unbelievers on your music team?
BK: But that would be a whole ‘nother podcast, so we’re gonna wait for that.
DZ: Yes, but I just think like… I think a lot of churches… Well, I would imagine a lot of churches kinda wrestle with this idea.
BK: Yeah, yeah.
DZ: So I think it’s an appropriate topic for us to have, and I wanna add, does scripture have anything to say on the topic of; should churches pay their musicians?
BK: Well, that’s where we should start. [chuckle]
DZ: Yes, absolutely.
BK: Yes, I think that’s a great place to start. Not a ton. I appreciate you sharing about just your history, because it’s an ongoing issue. And I’ve talked to pastors who all they’ve known is paying their musicians. I talked to one pastor, their church was about 250… They had a budget of paying their musicians of $100,000 a year. And I thought… Well, I mean, we talked about it, I thought, “Isn’t there anyway that can change?” And we had a good conversation.
DZ: But I don’t think that’s uncommon.
BK: Yeah, it’s not uncommon. But it’s worth asking, what biblical support do we have with it? And what Biblical wisdom can we find? Because scripture is not as direct on this topic as we would hope, and that’s because God wants us to think through the implications. There are passages in the Old Testament that talk about the Levites, who made the music, they were part of the choirs, they were the musicians. And 1 Chronicles 9:33, says, “The singers, the heads of the father’s houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple, free from other service, for they were on duty day and night.” And they were provided for, their needs were supplied. And then Nehemiah 11: 22 and 23, it says, “The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi, the son of Bani… ” I need my glasses, sorry. Bani, doesn’t make me pronounce it any better, “the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mica, the sons of Asaph, the singers, over the work of the house of God. For there was a command from the king concerning them, and a fixed provision for the singers, as every day required.”
BK: So there was this provision spelled out that the Levites who sang were supposed to be supported. I don’t think you can make a direct correspondence though to the New Testament, because now, Jesus in one sense, well, in the ultimate sense, has become our high priest, and we are now all priests, not just the musicians. We’re all priests. We all have access to God. We all can draw near to Him through Jesus, we all can speak of God’s truth to others, so we can represent God to others as his priest, the holy nation, the kingdom of priests. So it’s not a one-to-one correspondence. The only thing… Well, actually, the New Testament doesn’t say anything about paying musicians, it doesn’t say anything about paying administrators, it doesn’t say anything about paying children’s ministry workers, it doesn’t say anything about paying media directors, and yet we do. And it doesn’t say anything about paying maintenance guys.
DZ: Yeah, yeah. Right.
BK: And yet, everyone would think, “Well, sure, you gotta pay them.”
BK: The one scripture that could apply would be 1 Corinthians 9:9-11, “It is written in the Law of Moses, he quotes the Old Testament, You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain. Is it for oxen that God is concerned?” Paul asks. “Does He not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake”, in other words, the apostles, the pastors, “because the plowman should plough in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” And as we’re speaking, I’m thinking of that passage in Galatians 6, where he says.
BK: In verse 6, “Let the one who was taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches,” so yeah, does that apply to musicians? I read someone saying, “Well, yeah, ’cause musicians are kind of teachers and yeah kind of… ” But I mean yes, we’re singing the word and we’re teaching and admonishing one another, but again, that’s everybody in the congregation. There is a special role which the Bible singles out for pastors, elders, teachers, overseers.
BK: Those who care for the saints, who Hebrews talks about, “Are gonna give an account to God for the people in the church.” The person…
DZ: Right and honestly your guitar playing… Your guitar player isn’t going to be that.
BK: Yeah exactly. You’re exactly right, I mean yeah. They should be responsible anyway, but yeah, that’s right, they’re not gonna be the one who’s gonna be giving account to God. So as I thought about this and talked to a lot of different people about it, I think the first thing to realize is there’s no one size fits all.
BK: In other words, whatever context you’re in, there’s someone in a very different context.
DZ: For sure.
BK: So I think the best we can do is talk about factors to consider in this area, and I’m thinking primarily of the church, but it’s also gonna affect the people who might be musicians.
BK: There might be I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s someone listening to this who is a musician, who is serving at different churches, getting paid. How do you think through that? And so I just wanna talk about a number of things to think about that hopefully will be helpful. Some of the factors to consider. The first would be just the distinction between paying members and non-members. You mentioned people who made their living playing at different churches. It seems as though in paying a non-member to play music at your church, we’re unintentionally undercutting what the church is. Paul talks in, 1 Corinthians about the church being a body, we’re a building, we’re a field, we’re a Temple, we’re connected.
BK: And when you just bring in someone from the outside on a consistent basis, and you’re paying them just to say, “Hey, we want you to make our music better,” You’re undercutting what that church is, that church is meant to be a body that’s being built together into Christ to be a dwelling place in which God dwells by his Spirit, Ephesians 2. No, you’re just paying someone to come in and kind of do the music, and that’s probably saying something about how you value the music and you know the purpose of the music, which I think we’ve talked about some on the role of the instrumentalists in the church. Yeah, you’re saying, well, the music has to be a certain quality…
BK: So we’re just gonna import somebody from the outside to make it that quality, and I’ve seen big churches do this, I mean usually it’s big churches, and it’s hard for me to believe that there aren’t people in the church who could fulfill that role. So initially, I’d say the idea of just hiring someone who’s not a committed member of the church to come in and just play bass, play electric like they’re not really a member of your church, but you’re putting them up on the platform every week kind of as an example to the church, you know saying This is… But that’s not what they are, they’re just a paid person and they’re just making money for this, and their heart might be right, I’m assuming they’re a Christian, I’m assuming they love the Lord. But how is that person getting knit into a church, where is their church?
DZ: For sure.
BK: Who is their pastor?
BK: What message are they hearing? Week after week, the word of God being preached, building them into a local body of believers, as again is being built up into Christ, that’s not happening. Now, it could be that someone’s playing in the church on Saturday night and their church is Sunday morning, and that’s a different scenario. But again, the issue of what are you saying to the church about their membership, by coming in and saying, “Hey, yeah, I’m just kinda… ” Because the band is not separate from the congregation, it’s a part of the congregation, you know?
DZ: Totally. Well, and I think that’s a… I don’t think that that is a… I don’t think people think very carefully about that.
BK: Well, yeah, there are a lot of things we don’t think very carefully about.
DZ: That we’re interconnected… But that we’re interconnected in that sense, and I was gonna say, you nailed it on the head, there’s a deficiency on both sides for that musician that’s coming in, where is their connectivity? And for the church’s side, that’s a person that’s losing out on that connectivity in your membership.
BK: Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah. So let’s just restrict it to members, so someone is a part of your church and should you pay them? That’s… So I’m sure, and I hope that people do email us with questions, they can email so is it a email@example.com so if you have… If you wanna follow-up questions, please, we’d love to hear it. But let’s go to, you have members in your church, should you pay them? And even as I’m saying that, I’m thinking, “Oh, there’s so much more that could be said about that”
DZ: For sure.
BK: About orchestra members and all that kind of things, and all those kind of… That kind of thing. Maybe we’ll talk about that at another time. Let’s just say, I think it undercuts the identity of the church to import people, pay people to come and be a part of your congregation. That’s basically what you’re doing.
BK: And we shouldn’t do that. Alright, so one factor is the amount of time that a person needs to invest and the amount of time that’s expected. So 1 Peter 4 talks about the gifts that God gives us. 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 does as well, it doesn’t assume anybody there is being paid for their gifts, you’re not being paid to do miracles, you’re not being paid to prophesy, you’re not being paid to have the gift of faith, you’re not being paid to do whatever, you’re just using your gift because God has given you the gifts to strengthen the body.
0:13:32.9DZ: To serve the body, too.
BK: Yeah, to serve the body and to exalt Christ. So, Peter says, 1 Peter 4:10, starting at verse 10, “As each has received a gift,” he’s talking about the members of this church, “use it to,” or any local church, “use it to serve one another,” that’s the local church aspect, “as good stewards of God’s varied grace, whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God, whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies, in order that in everything, God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen.” So, there is a clear admonition encouragement to using your gifts to glorify Jesus for the glory of God, to serve others that God’s work might be done in that local church.
BK: No mention of, “You need to get paid to do this.”
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
BK: So, if we’re telling people, “We’ll pay you to do this,” that again, unintentionally undercuts what God wants to cultivate in the church, which is a heart to serve, a heart to serve joyfully, let no one think of his own interest, but think… Not only of his own interest, but also the interest of others, look, look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others. We wanna be a part of the body and determine, “How can I use my gifts to serve other people?” So, as a musician, I wanna be asking, “Yeah, how can I use my gifts to serve people? That’s what I wanna do, God’s gifted me as a keyboardist, as a violinist, as a drummer, or whatever.” Even if I’m a professional in the church, it’s for a different reason. I get to use it to build up the body. What a privilege. But getting back to what I mentioned earlier, if a church is expecting an unusual amount of time for someone to invest, so say it’s… Say a church is meeting four times on a Sunday, and they’re asking people to come in at 6:00, and they leave at 2:00 every Sunday, that’s a lot of time.
BK: So, you might consider the question, “Well, should we be thinking about this? About… ” but then if you do that, I wanna say, are you thinking about it for your children’s ministry people? Are you thinking about it for your greeters? Are you thinking about it for the people who take care of the finances? Are you thinking about it for everybody else who serves in your church?
DZ: Yeah. You’re saying the commitment, are you paying for… If you’re deciding the commitment of paying a musician on a Sunday for a long Sunday, are you applying that same commitment of payment to all those other service categories?
BK: Yes, yes, yes.
DZ: Yes, yes.
BK: Because I think what we wanna cultivate is a desire to come to the church and say, “Lord, how can I use my gifts to serve you?” How can I glorify Jesus through land on what you’ve given me?” You’re offering what you’ve given me to serve and bless others for the glory of Christ. Now, there do exist circumstances where people are asked to serve so much and so often that they burn out, paid or not.
BK: And in that instance, I’d be saying to church leaders, “Let’s figure out some other ways.
BK: Well, first, let’s make sure we’re encouraging everyone who’s serving. Don’t go to paying as the first option. Let’s make sure that we’re expressing gratefulness every Sunday.” I mean, that’s something from the moment I walk in the door on Sunday, I’m trying… I’m looking for people to greet and to thank.
BK: It’s like they’re there early, “Wow, this is great, thank you so much for being here.”
BK: And if there’s something specific I can thank them for, I wanna do that. So, just building a culture of encouragement. And then, another aspect of that, another way you can deal with that is to rotate musicians, make sure that you aren’t asking people to serve every Sunday. I think that’s one of the reasons people get in to pay musicians. They say, “Well, we wanna have a bass player this Sunday, so we gotta pay someone. We’ll just hire someone.”
BK: “Well, why not just go without a bass player?” “Well, that’ll mess up the singing,” “Really? Why would that mess up the singing?” I mean, I like a bass player just as much as the next person.
DZ: No, yeah, but what you’re saying is there’s a hole there that’s gonna change the standard, the quality, whatever we have week to week, and if that goes away, I mean, what do we do?
BK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, like the bottom drops out, literally.
DZ: Yeah, yes. [laughter]
BK: Like, maybe the Holy Spirit is not gonna move like he normally does. Well, it might move in a different way as people hear their voices more, or maybe it’s less rhythmically driven, and you just have people singing.
BK: Worship is not… The singing we do to praise God can’t be defined as a sound, a band, the sound of a band, or the sound of an orchestra, or the sound of a choir, whatever you think it might sound like, it’s… If anything, it’s the sound of people singing, that’s what it is.
BK: So, if… I mean I’ll lead sometimes without an acoustic or without sometimes a bass, sometimes we haven’t had drums, sometimes we haven’t had a keyboard, of course, when I’m there I’m always having the keyboard, playing the keyword, but whatever, there might be things that we’re missing, but generally, we have a full band, but it’s not the end of the world. I know, my first thought isn’t, “Hey, we need someone to fill that spot.”
BK: No, let’s just not maybe not have that spot.
DZ: Yeah. Well, even to take a step further, you’re not just asking, “Man, I need someone to fill that spot,” but you’re definitely not asking, “I need a professional to fill that spot.”
BK: Right, exactly, yeah, yeah.
DZ: Because I think what that does is it puts so much pressure on your people, too, that they feel like, “Well, the music is great. I don’t have to serve. These are professionals.”
BK: Yes, yes.
DZ: So, just tying that back to you’re getting at something deeper in your corporate worship, than just… “I have a full band” or, “it sounds good.”
BK: And everybody’s professional. I don’t have any problems working them.
BK: I’m a professional musician. I’ve been a musician since ’70… I mean professional music since ’76. So that’s a long time. What’s that 45 years?
DZ: I’m not good at math.
BK: Okay, I think it’s 45 years. But you know what, I love playing with professionals, but I love playing with volunteers because it makes me aware that… I mean there’s a certain standard that you’re not being distracting and you know the music.
BK: But I love the fact that these are just people who are part of the church, that they’re there for the vision of the Church. They’re there for the preaching of the Church, they’re there for the community of the church, they’re there because we preach the Gospel and they wanna be there, and now they get to use their musical gifts. And great, we get to do that together. But those musical gifts flow out of the other things. They flow out of the fact that we’re united in our mission, in our vision around the things we preach, around the things we share in fellowship. That’s what unites us, but the fact that you play or sing, that’s not what makes us united.
BK: And so I’ve had people come to the church… That is churches that I’ve been a part of over the years, and say, “I was at this church. And I did so-and-so.” And I said, “That’s great, that’s wonderful.” And they’d say something like, “Well, yeah, so just how do I get involved?” I said, “Well, you become a member, we have a four-week membership series you go through, and we just wanna take some time to get to know you, come be part of a small group and you can come in, I’d love to hear you and stuff.” And some people hear that and they just go, “Okay, I’m out of here,” and they don’t want it. Because the church is more like a platform for their ministry, they want to be… They’re more concerned about serving than serving in this church, and I want them to be concerned about this church and let the serving come out of that.
BK: So if there is someone in your church, say you have someone who leads every Sunday, and maybe they give five hours a week to it. Well, five hours a week isn’t a ton. I mean, it’s something they should love to do, there are probably other people in your church who are giving five hours week, but maybe they’re doing it intentionally and purposefully. Well, yeah, if you want to say, you know, we’d like to give this person $200 a month, that I’m sure that’d bless them, they would… that’d probably give more meaning to it, but you wouldn’t want it to be, “Hey, I’m not gonna serve here unless I’m getting paid.”
0:22:48.5 DZ: Right that’s a different… That is a different philosophy, this person serving faithfully and excited to do it and be there, that’s an opportunity to bless him, even a gift… Even if you had a night where you got your band dinner or you did something special, it’s a different…
BK: Well, yeah.
DZ: It’s a different… Yeah, it’s a completely different philosophy.
BK: Well, that’s… I was just saying in Romans 12. What Paul says, How we’re to live as the church. Starting in verse 9. Romans 12:9, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation.” All these things that we’re to do, why? Because we’re paid to do them? No, because that’s what the church is. And so, as musicians, we wanna be those who come together and say, “Well, what a delight it is that I get to use my gifts to serve the Lord.” Now if… So it’s like this, if the only reason you’re at your church is because they’re paying you maybe you shouldn’t be at your church. I mean, I’ve said that to guys looking for jobs and they’re…
DZ: As worship…
BK: As worship pastors. Yeah.
DZ: Yeah, yeah yeah.
BK: And the first question I ask them is, “Would you want to raise your family there?” And sometimes they’ll say, “Yeah, not really.” Then why are you even considering that job because the church is not a gig, it’s not a platform for your gifts, it’s a platform to glorify Jesus, and…
DZ: That cannot be overstated…
BK: No, I mean, we just keep saying that over and over, but it’d be a very boring podcast if we do that. But that’s the point of what we’re saying is that, yeah sometimes you will be paid as appropriate. I mean, I get a stipend for what I do here at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. I work for Sovereign Grace Music, but the guys have said… And I pastor some too. And so they give me a stipend and I told them not to. But they said, “No, we wanna give you something.” I said, “Okay, okay.” But I don’t assume… That’s not why I do it. Now, for some people, it’ll be a huge blessing, and that’s something that a church could work out. Another thing is just maybe at Christmas or sometimes a summer picnic or something, you bless, people and say, “Hey, we wanna give you this gift, $500 or $200, whatever, just to say thank you for the ways you’ve served.” But that’s different from saying, someone saying, “Well, I’m not gonna serve really until unless you pay me.”
BK: That’s just a totally different mindset.
DZ: Yeah, totally.
BK: And in the church, we have developed, unfortunately, I think an extra biblical approach to musicians where we allow for, “Hey, I’m a professional musician, I can just play here, play there, and if I’m in your church and I’m a fresh musician, well, you should be paying for me, I could be playing at some other church.” And I’d say to that person, “Well, if that’s your mindset, I’m not sure you understand what the church is.”
DZ: Right, right.
BK: The church is some place where you’re in it together, and you’re there whether you’re getting paid for it or not, and it’s just a joy to serve God’s people with your gifts.
DZ: Yeah Absolutely, Yeah.
BK: And I think we lose something in this whole discussion, we lose something… Maybe this is a place to close in, I don’t know. We lose something of what Jesus said about those who came to serve, they’re the greatest. They’re the greatest among you. The greatest among you will be the servant of all, and even as musicians, those who were on the platform, that’s still our call as Christians, that’s our call, and praise God if you’re in a big church and they have a band, and those band members are members of the church, they’re thriving members of the church, and they’re saying, “Hey, look for all the work you put in every week, we’re gonna pay you.”
BK: But then that’s fine, but I just wanna throw that little thing in there of, “Yeah, what about other gifted people in your church who would love to be using their musical gifts, that’d be a little more clunky and they have to put a little more time, but what a joy to see the body using more parts for the glory of Christ and not making it so tied to what everybody’s making money-wise. May the church be a place where people serve gladly, they give of their time, they give their talents, their gifts for the glory of Jesus who came and gave his life for us, so that we might be forgiven and adopted into his family. What a joy.
DZ: Amen Amen. Thank you, Bob, and thanks for joining us.
BK: It’s been a pleasure. We’ll see you next time.
BK: Thank you for listening to sound plus doctrine. The podcast of Sovereign Grace music. Sovereign Grace music exists to produce Christ exalting songs and training for local churches, from local churches. For more information, free sheet music, translations and training resources, you can visit us at sovereigngracemusic.org.