Thursday, July 17, 2008

Prosthetic Limb

On one of the worship leader forums I'm a part of, the below comment was made in a discussion about Commitment to a Church/Worship Team:

I play and sing at two different churches. Therefore, I don’t attend either church when I am not playing. Nobody at either church has a problem with that. I know that there are several other musicians and singers that also play at more than one church. Each of the two churches that I play at require only a commitment to show up and play good music. Neither has a requirement to be a member. Neither has a requirement to be “involved” in church activities, other than playing music.

I don’t know a whole lot about the other musicians that I play with. I don’t think that most others know me. This doesn’t cause any problems with anybody, in either church.

My point is, that in two churches, at least, all of the “requirements” are not necessary.

Maybe it's just me, but the attitude of this individual and these churches just goes against everything I've ever known to be true about the body of Christ (ie. the church). Don't get me wrong...I think it's an awesome thing when people can feel free to help out other churches in ministry. We've "borrowed" musicians from other churches in the past when we've had a hole to fill, and we do several things throughout the year where we invite other church bodies to join with us.

The issue here is, as the commenter so clearly spelled out, this individual is not a "member" of any local church body, and neither of the churches he plays in seems to care. If I know anything about the Scriptures and God's call on the Christian life, it is that He has never called any believer to go for an extended period of time without joining themselves as a member of a local church body. Whether that commitment means signing your name to a church covenant or simply agreeing in your heart and with your mouth that you're committed doesn't really matter, as long as there is an acknowledged commitment.

By "member", what exactly do I mean? I'm not talking about being a member of a church like you might be a member of the boy scouts or a member of a book club...I'm talking about being an actual, physical member of the "body" of Christ, as outlined in I Corinthians 12. Literally, a serving hand, balancing finger, a listening ear in the living body of Christ on this earth, committed to serving the rest of the body in an intimate way. This, according to the Word of God, is how each and every believer should be seeking to live his/her life.

It seems to me that people who have no commitment to a local church are nothing more than a prosthetic limb. Typically, prosthetics look and act like the real thing at first glance, but a closer look reveals that they are hallow, hard, cold and stiff.
A prosthetic limb is used only when needed to serve a very specific task. It has no real connection with the rest of the body.

This person has no blood vessels that connect him with the heart and breath of the body he serves. He has no muscles or tendons to connect him to the power and strength of the body he serves. He has no skin to connect him to the protection and intimacy of the body he serves.
He has no nerves to connect him with the feelings and emotions of the body he serves.

He is only used for a specific purpose, meaning he is completely useless for anything else. If he hangs around when he is not being used, he is literally a dead weight. And, really, he's filling space on the body that could be given to somebody who is willing to commit to being a real, physical part of the body.

And, the thing that really gets me about all of this is the fact that the two specific church bodies mentioned above really don't seem to care. They both have an opportunity to bring this individual in and help him learn to experience what the body of Christ is really all about. They have an opportunity to help this person grow some roots and mature, but instead, they're only helping to further this individual's immature idea of what being a member of the body is all about.

Ultimately, prosthetic limbs get banged up or outgrown and discarded. In contract, I don't know anyone who would cut of their healthy left arm and chunk it in the garbage just for the heck of it.

Surely, this kind of attitude is totally acceptable in the world, where people are often invested in their jobs only as far as their paychecks, committed to their hobbies only as far as it satisfies their personal goals, willing to spend energy in their friendships only as far as they are receiving something in return.

But, the church has been called out by the Living God to be different. We've been called to commit, invest and give sacrificially to a local body. I just don't understand how any single Christ follower can even survive living with anything short of that...surely God has created us for more?


As I said, the commenter confesses to know and follow Christ, so, for the sake of clarity, we're not discussing using seekers/unchurched as musicians in a church band...that's an entirely different discussion altogether.


Kimberly said...

This is the saddest thing that I have heard in quite a while, and there has been some pretty sad stuff floating about in the wind these days.

I cannot help but ache for this person. To not be an integral part of my church, connected to the young and old, to feel as though they love and support me as I do them, that's a horrible lonely aching pit of a place to go.

I know you've mentioned previously how important your church family is to you; so, I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. Many times when life is not going exactly right, it is that support, love and lifting up that helps me to hang on for a better day! the unexpected phone call or card to let me know I'm loved, the hugs, all of it.. I can't imagine living without it.

Before I found the church I'm a member of now, I went to another church in this town for several years. I became ill and missed services for quite a long period of time. Not 1 phone call, card, nothing - no acknowledgement that I was missing from the fold, not even from the minister. The only thing I regularly got was my envelope each month with the offering envelopes for that month. That was when I knew that was not a place I cared to return to.

I hate that this person is missing out on the experience of being a vibrant, cherished member of the body so completely. Even more, I hate that these 2 churches are in any complicit in it continuing. What a waste, for all of them!

TerryKM said...

An excellent analogy. From my experiences in churches this is the exact mentality I've seen. Many churches seem do the "ends justifies the means" mentality. A former church I was a member of was willing to hire those far from God to lead worship or to provide accompaniment.

Rick Lawrenson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Lawrenson said...

"Before I found the church I'm a member of now, I went to another church in this town for several years. I became ill and missed services for quite a long period of time. Not 1 phone call, card, nothing - no acknowledgement that I was missing from the fold, not even from the minister. The only thing I regularly got was my envelope each month with the offering envelopes for that month. That was when I knew that was not a place I cared to return to."

I don't know your particular situation Kimberly (so I'm NOT aiming this at you), but I've heard that before from others. My question is "And how connected were you to the rest of the church? Did you belong some kind of a group or team where relationships were built and care was given? When others were ill did you minister to them? Did anyone even know you were missing?"

There's no way a pastor can keep track of everyone in the flock on his own. So there has to be some system set up, be it Sunday school, small groups, ministry teams, whatever where the church is equipped and empowered to take care of its own.

I've had people go into surgery and then express (to someone else, of course) that "the pastor never even called". Guess what? She/he never called to let me know that she/he was having surgery. I don't have esp.

What I've found is that people who throw out that kind of comment in a healthy church are the people who are the last ones in on Sunday morning and the first one's out the door. They never connect. They don't serve but expect to be served.

Kimberly said...

Rick, you raise some very valid points. I can only speak for myself and that particular situation. I was, at least I had thought at the time prior to becoming ill, a vital member of that particular church body. The minister was made aware of my illness as I had to make arrangements for others to take over some commitments I had made and needed to keep him informed of the arrangements. That was the only conversation that was held with me by him, or any of the other members of the church for that matter. I spoke to I think 7 people, if memory serves, in order to find someone willing to take on 2 commitments that I had made to serve and knew I would be unable to keep, and I notified both the church secretary and the minister directly of who had agreed to take over my role at these 2 events and why I had to back out of my commitment. I never heard from the minister, the church secretary, or the 7 people who were informed of my illness after my phone calls to them to arrange the above.

I will say, I was probably not the most involved person there (I work about 70 hours a week), but I was also not the least involved you could find. I offered praying time and support as much as possible to those who reached out to share their problems/concerns with me, but I'm not very good about really pressing people to share themselves with me - if they don't offer it up, I don't usually push the issue (which I am trying to be better about - sometimes people want that little extra push to open up, but I'm always afraid they will think I'm trying to pry into their business as well -- so it's a fine line for me)

Now, I will freely admit that I did not make a point of calling that particular church after this either, whether to ask for prayer or seek comfort/minstering. My feelings were very hurt, and I must admit that I just walked away emotionally when I realized that not 1 person even inquired about my well-being.

I didn't even expect it to be the minister. Ministers are certainly very busy and many times overwhelmed by the gazillions of calls, emails, and the like, and so he was actually the last I expected to hear from. But when not even 1 of the other 8 people my situation was discussed with, prayer was requested from, and assistance was requested from to meet the need for the committed activities, I must admit my human frailty reared it's ugly head and my feelings were severely bruised; so, I didn't reach out either, and that's on me.

Was it known that I was missing, yes I imagine to some degree. Was it an issue for anyone there, I would have to say not at all.

Good news is, I am now part of a church family that I know cares about me and that I care about equally. I'm involved in pretty much the same commitments in this new church that I was in the old. It's just an entirely different situation at this church - there is no way you can walk out not feeling loved, unless like you say, you make no effort, which certainly is abundant as well in all churches unfortunately.

I hope no 1 that read my earlier post or this 1 took my comments in any way as a slam on priests, preachers, ministers, reverends, pastors, etc -- that was definitely not the intention. Definitely not a job I would ever be qualified to fill and I have the utmost respect, and compassion, for the all consuming nature of the work, not just for the person at the pulpit, but their spouse and children as well.

CJolly said...

Great post Nate. Did this writer say if his was a paid position at these churches? I have a friend who is paid to play at a church. I don't think he is a member. As I understand it, musical talent is a gift from God, and we are meant to use that gift to serve His church, and Him as an act of service and worship as a committed family member, not as just another "gig".

I know of another church that has a non member playing and actually selecting the music for Sunday worship. That just strikes me as wrong to have someone with no real committment to the church family making such important decisions.

I suppose some churches may have to go outside their membership to fill some spots with capable musicians and singers, but these people sure don't have that all important vital connection with the rest of the body as you stated. Good analogy!

Thom said...


#1 this guy, I don’t know his whole story so a lot assumptions would have to made to come to any decent conclusions. Questions like how long has he been playing for these churches? -2 weeks? 20 years? that would make a difference.

He says "I don’t think that most others know me." Is this his perception? Is he distant / stand-off-ish? Are the "others" he speaks of other musicians that share his situation or are they members representing that local body?

He says, "Neither has a requirement to be involved in church activities" yet if you're playing music with them regularly, then you are involved in church activities. No church requires that you show up for Sunday night BBQ to consider you part of their church.

All this is to say that there's probably a lot more to this situation than just a drifter musician and a cold, complacent church. Granted I may have not been able to read this in the original context as did Nate.

#2 Prosthetic Limb. I am a member of a church. I have a "home" church family that knows me and supports me. But I haven’t been to a single service in almost 7 months. I don’t ever show up for services by maybe a few times a year (to that home church). I do, however, play music and even at times preach at other local churches (who may not have a pastor or wanted to do a "special" thing one Sunday). I do have a specific purpose. An ear cant be an eye! I know music. I know sharing the message of Christ. My "home" church has a great band and excellent, Christ-like ministers and I still confer with them on the phone, via email, blogs, etc.

I am a prosthetic limb. And for those church bodies who need that limb, I am there - as are many others like me. I am a worship leader. I am an evangelist. I am proud to follow Christ and to be obedient to His calling on my life.

! - I’m not comparing me to the man in the original post. I can’t because I don’t know him. You could tear this comment apart, I’m sure, but I must warn you - there is a lot more to this story that would take up way too much space for what was supposed to be a short little comment.


MilePost13 said...

Thom...a few things...

1) I do know more to this particular story than I am letting on. Because of that knowledge, I'll stand by my "assumptions".

2) This person's situation and your situation are apples and oranges IMO, as you've pointed out. I CLEARLY explained in my post that I was specifically talking about this man's situation, and that our church "borrows" people from time to time, much as you offer your services.

3) As you stated, you ARE a living breathing member of a local church body. Whether you're there every time the doors are open or not isn't the issue. This guy only attends church as long as he can play his instrument...end of story. My entire point was that he is ONLY a prosthetic limb, and has no real connection to any local church.

4) For example, we have a few members of our church who live in Honduras. They're full-time, foreign missionaries. They are a vital part of our church body, even though we only see them a few weeks every year.

I won't tear your comment apart, because I basically agree with just about everything you had to say. Read my post again, if needed.


Thom said...

Thanks Nate, no need to re-read. I didn’t mean for it to come across as a rant (I know that it did - after I re-read my own comment).

You are right; this is quite a different situation than the afore-mentioned person. Just because I don’t commit myself wholly to one physical location, one physical body of believers, I get looked at funny sometimes (esp. the type out in my neck of the woods).

so back to the topic. as you said, this isn’t a case of 'plugging' as I’ve heard it called (a seeker/new attendee plugged in via the music ministry).

This guy is showing up to get out of it what he wants (or what he thinks he wants - when deep down its likely he longs for the deeper connection).

I guess the question is, in situation like this (that many churches seem to get themselves into), who is to blame? The music ministry has a Minister of Music who, for most good reasons, is to lead & "pastor" the musicians - correct? when i was part of a music team (not in a leadership role), i was comforted in the fact that my music minister cared to know about what was going on in my life - not just did i get that new chorus down.

I would say that if there is a music team member that feels disconnected (even if they profess to prefer it that way), then the Minister of Music is not engaging his/her team members properly?

I've always seen the folks that I play with as my family. Now that’s really easy for me to say now, since my band is basically my wife and I. :)

your thoughts?

MilePost13 said...

Like I said in the post, I think everyone involved has to take some of the blame.

The church has a responsibility to take the whole "body of Christ" thing literally and seriously, and to teach other people to do the same.

Church leadership has a responsibility to make sure that happens.

Individuals have a responsibility to push themselves forward to grow out of their immaturity.

Like we tell people here at NHC, either get plugged in, or go find somewhere else to worship...there are way too many churches here in our neck of the woods who are looking for nothing more than some lazy butts to warm their church pews. We're looking for people who are serious about the things of God.

We love having guests every week, and we don't mind it when people first come to our church just to watch and observe. But our ultimate goal is to help people move toward maturity and learn to serve others (both in and out of the church building).

We currently have a couple who lives about 2.5 hours away wanting to join our church. They're only here on the weekends, which means their involvement would be limited. But, to be honest, we'd much rather have people who are willing to partner with us and do whatever they are able than people who attend our church for years without ever taking the step to get involved.

Thom said...

tru dat.

a lot what you've said reminds me of the same verbage from my 'home' church. some of which is how i got to where i am today.

the do nothing thing - we called that the sit-soak-and-sour syndrome. and yeah, some churches (ministries, what have you) only need you to show up long enough to drop a little something in the collection plate. And if it taks a few off-the-street muscians to get you there, then so be it. -sad but all too true these days.

I agress, certainly, there are two sides to the issue - both are to blame (so to speak). I guess what i was driving at (forgive is this veers from your intended purpose) was, at what point should we say, "your not playing for the right reason, so dont play." I know that phrasing sounds harsh, i dont think i could ever say that to a person (in those words), but it does need to be dealt with sometimes. I have experienced this over and over again. I would say that sometimes it the fault of bring some folks on board in the first place, but not always. Have you ever had to deal with a 'sour' team member before? (i would assume yes, i guess my question is how'd that go? - without names of course)


Thom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thom said...

following up on my last...
I guess that im trying to say, we've indentified and issue.. so how do we (as worship leaders or worship team members even) go about dealing with situations like this? -tg

Kimberly said...

and I would ask for advice on this issue from a different perspective -- the young people in my church often talk with me about their concerns, lives, etc - many of them are involved in the music part of things and have some things that bother them and that they tend to "stew" over. My general advice to them when they get on this subject is that they need to speak to the person in charge of the worship team, and then if they feel that they haven't been "heard", speak to the pastor directly. I also try to point out to them stewing on things is never good, talking about them with anyone that is not directly involved in the decision-making process is counterproductive and leads to gossip, and in the end, there has to be someone to make decisions, and these may not always make every single person happy all the time. Am I going about this correctly is what I often wonder. I don't mind to sit and listen to the young people, but ultimately, I am 1) not involved in the music ministry - much to the relief of our worship leader given that I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, and 2) I am not going to approach either the worship leader or the pastor with secondhand info - that's too close to passing gossip. I also strongly believe that learning how to handle a possibly confrontational situation correctly is healthy and necessary in teenage development - it doesn't always have to be a huge drama - and that they need to learn to stand up and speak for themselves when they have a different opinion. But, again, I ask, from the perspective of a worship leader, is this how you would prefer the situation be handled by an outside listener?

MilePost13 said...

Thom...fortunately, I've never really had to deal with anyone who was a problem child like you're describing. A lot can be said for having expectations, a certain level of excellence and an audition process. Our philosophy is, the more business you take care of up front, the less you have to deal with later.

I have had to deal with problems every now and then, but those are usually solved with a sincere and private conversation about attitude, commitment, etc. Our folks know that, if they can't live up to the values and commitment that is expected of them, they will be asked to step down.

Having a leadership team that backs you up doesn't hurt either. Which, if I CAN assume for a moment, is what appears to be one of the problems with the churches that this guy is serving in..."nobody" seems to care.

Thom said...

Kim brings up a interesting twist to this particular albeit random discussion...

I dont know how much of Kim's story of the teen musician directly translates to our orignial situation, but one facet of her story brings this thought to mind.. Nate, you have clearly identified a situation that is not healthy. A situation that doesnt seem will solve itself. So, as the identifier, what responsibilities rest on you if any? (and im not saying you did or did not do anything in regards to this, nor do we need to know that much detail about the situation, just a thought is all) Sorry for the rabbit trail. -tg

MilePost13 said...

Actually, this same person posted on this same worship leader website several months ago, telling us that he was looking for a situation where he could play in a church band without having to get involved or commit to anything else. Several of us tried to explain to him how this wasn't going to be a healthy situation for him, spiritually, but he didn't really care to listen to us... There's not much more I can do with the info I have.

5loaves2fish said...

Wow, yeah I have to agree that this is very sad... I we are created for relationship and to belong. We need people to help us grow, keep us accountable. If you're struggling, who can you talk to if you only have superficial relationships within the church? It just seems like this person is being set up for spiritual and relational starvation.