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Should you get paid to play in church? (Revisit)


davebrownbass

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I've noticed an influx of new members who mention playing in church bands or in Christian rock bands. I've re-opened this discussion from last November to invite their coments as well as any other thoughts.

 

OLD THREAD BEGIN MODE ON:

 

Well, I've thought about getting the board's opinions about this for a while. What'd'ya think?

 

PROS: It's fun to get paid. Paid musicians may be more focussed. It's easier to fire a paid musician. The quality of the music might be better.

 

CONS: You're "robbing" from God. You're heart isn't in it. You drain funds from the church that could be used in better ways. You are making congregational song-singing too "entertaining."

 

Stuff like that. I personally feel that the paid praise band, given the proper spirit and direction, generally can enhance the P/W service more than the unpaid...primarily because you don't have to let the weaker players play. (Just like in the choir, where there's always some guy out of tune, and he's always the one closest to the mic.)

 

After a Bachelor's degree at a church college, I'm kinda indoctrinated into the concept that nothing in the environment should distract the congregation from their P/W experience, not lights, temperature or musicians.

 

What'd'ya think?

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Interesting question. Please take my comments with a grain of salt since I'm a practicing agnostic in an interfaith marriage who doesn't regularly attend services of a particular religious denomination, but still considers himself a spiritual being! ;)

 

It seems to me that the role/purpose of the P/W group for a particular church congregation impacts how we think about your question. It may be that the goal of the group is to provide another route for congregation members to be unified in their celebration of their faith, in which case paying members may not really be appropriate because broad participation in the P/W group is desired. It might be that it's a larger, wealthier congregation and having a "pro" group with really tight sound and serious musical chops gets the congregation charged up through a really high quality performance -- potentially focusing their spiritual energy.

 

The question is interesting morally -- the "robbing God" point of view. Is the P/W group a functional aspect of the church and therefore sort of like an "overhead" cost and could be viewed as not "robbing God"? Does paying the musicians result in better attendance at rehearsals and thus better music and more focused worship thru music for the congregation? Then paying the musicians might really amp up the devotion of the faithful, and would be doing the opposite of "robbing God."

 

Fascinating question. I don't know if my "lay" opinions carry weight or not...

 

Peace,

--sweets

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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As always, it depends.

 

My church is too small to pay anyone...except, when a very good piano player who was having some personal struggles was interested in coming to our church, we paid him a small amount to help him get on his feet as well as have a very good piano player. He's still with us, but I don't think he's getting paid anymore.

 

But in general, what it depends on is what the function of the group is and how extensive things are. Things will not get done in a church if everyone who does something has to be paid. On the other hand, people who devote themselves to the work of the church (pastors and such) deserve to be supported by the congregations. So clearly, if you have a full-time music minister, that person deserves to be paid (definition of "full-time" I supppose). But there are unpaid leaders who do fine. As for the other musicians, it depends...are there several Sunday services, a Wednesday night service, plus special events? Then maybe they deserve to get paid some. If you're just playing once Sunday with one other practice during the week (like us), then probably not. Ideally I would hope that people who don't need the money would offer their services up anyway. But I still understand it either way.

 

As for the "letting everyone play/easier to fire someone" issue, I think that it doesn't matter who is paid or unpaid. The appropriate authority in the church (music pastor, senior pastor, etc.) should be able to make those tough decisions about personnel if some part of the music is truly suffering. In my church, we have a very good vocalist who is very inexperienced on guitar. In my opinion, that person should move completely to vocals for the time being. So I wish someone would make that decision, but I'm not going to raise a big fuss about it...I'm just the bass player. That's our music leader's call.

 

(Insert comment about my $0.02 here.)

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I was constructing my comments as Sweet Willie was posting his. You have to keep in mind that there is a point where things become a performance, and you want to be focused on God. Some of the acts of worship in the Bible are not particularly comfortable for those involved...worship is not about how happy I feel or how much I like the music.

 

With the mitigation, though, I think Willie is pretty on in what he says, especially the part about "how integral is the band to what's going on in the church"; if I interpret him correctly, he's saying something very similar to what I'm saying...you need to recognize whether something is volunteer work or such a high-level committment that you deserve to be supported financially in some way for doing it.

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VERY interesting question.

 

I don't belong to any organized religion either, but certainly do believe in God and consider music a spiritual act.

 

In most ancient cultures, musicians were revered as being sort of conduits to God. Sacred musicians are chosen, and trained, by the previous generation of sacred musicians, and there is no question of "payment." Those chosen to be sacred musicians never have to worry about their bed and board, it's taken care of. No one thinks it's a waste of money because sacred music is generally accepted as a very powerful path to God. I would agree with that.

 

So if I were playing in a church group I'd be a lot more worried about how I got the job and whether I deserved to be there, from a spiritual AND musical standpoint, than whether I should get paid. :)

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davebrownbass - May I suggest that you subscribe to the ChurchBass digest at: http://www.ccad.uiowa.edu/~timv/churchbass/

 

If you are not a member please do so. The mailing list has been discussing this very same issue over the last few days. You may want to look at digests 6199 thru 6201 for some very interesting comments.

 

Personally I do it for the ministry. I'm not in it for money. But I think that the size of church and the mission of that local assembly dictate whether musicians are/should be paid. I have belonged to a 10,000 member (that's right 10,000 very active members) churches with a million dollar payroll and educated & paid musicians and the 250 member assembly who only paid the chief pianist/organist. I think the ministry, its purpose and expectations dictate what happens during this touchy subject.

RobT

 

Famous Musical Quotes: "I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve" - Xavier Cugat

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This is an interesing topic, one that strikes a chord with me too.

 

I guess it boils down to this. Do the rest of the people serving in the church get paid? It takes a lot of behind the scenes grunt work to get a service up and running. Musicians are really part of that. But if it is a large congregation, with multiple services and multiple days and mandatory rehersals, I don't think it would be out of line to pay musicians. I mean, musicians tithe too! Right? I don't feel that is "robbing God", it is supporting your ministry. My family and I served as youth pastors at our church (a small one, 150 or so members) and we were never paid, although we put a lot of time and effort, and filled in for the main band when they were absent. But I felt it was for His glory, not mine. There's a fine line that each congregation needs to draw.

 

Thanks for starting this post.

I'm trying to think but nuthin' happens....
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Should the minister get paid?

How about the church custodian?

Is there a separate music minister who gets paid?

Is there a church organist who gets paid? (or was there one before your church switched to contemporary music?)

 

Why is it necessary to give to the offering? Doesn't that bring money into a house of worship?

 

Are the musicians professional? Do they have to give up other professional jobs to play in church? (or get up at 8 am after gigging until 2 am on Saturday?)

 

These are all relevant to the issue at hand.

 

If it is a large church that wants to have a top-notch musicial presentation, it might be appropriate to pay musicians.

 

If there are great demands on the musicians' time, maybe they should be paid.

 

If there are not enough qualified volunteers, maybe some paid musicians have to be brought in.

 

For me the simple act of playing music is a spiritual experience. Playing religious music intensifies this experience. But like everyone else, I have to feed my family.

 

If professional musicians do not respect the reason why they are playing at a church, they shouldn't be playing. I've never seen it as "just a gig", it's part of my religious practice.

 

I have been paid for numerous religious services, usually much less than I would get on a normal professional gig. Sometimes volunteers join the musicians but the music would not happen without the paid core of people.

 

It probably sounds mercenary, but my professional services are worth considerably more than I would ever put into the offering. Playing for a reduced rate lets me make an offering in my own way, without making me feel that I am an unpaid servant of the Lord.

 

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to worry about money if we were serving the Lord, nor would we have to worry about money if we were playing any kind of music.

 

Shouldn't music be free? (I often hear this by Napster users and people that go to free concerts in the park.) Sure, you can sing a song anywhere.

 

But I don't normally play for nothing and I don't normally give away my cd's. I also can pray any time and anywhere that I want.

 

But once we have a church building, a minister, a sound system, hymnals, prayer books, etc....all things which have to be paid for...there are a lot of questions raised.

 

As I usually say when asked to do a benefit concert? Is EVERYONE donating their time? The maintenance, the printer of the posters, the newspaper with the ads, the janitor of the building, the electricians, etc.

 

I do make regular donations to a variety of charities. I prefer not to donate my time. Please don't flame me for a very personal decision.

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first, i don't want to sound flippant but as a proud catholic i feel obliged to make this comment on the "robbing god" theory: ever seen vatican city? many sects take vows of poverty anyway. no material posessions, your faith is all you need.

 

but anyway, here's an intersting solution my church came up with. they hired a VERY competant music instructor for their elementary school. this guy had a serious pedigree and most people would think it odd that he would be teaching 3rd graders. however they also sponsered a weekend music education program that recruited from major youth ensembles. it was a very intense and elite program and the best students were invited to play at services. granted a catholic mass is a bit more subdued than p/w, but they had talent in the band and they didn't really have to lay out any cash. the teacher was paid by the school (his salary paid with tuition) and dealt with the band as a devoted volunteer. the musicians got free classes with a conservatory level instructor. not a bad set up.

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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I don't think being paid or not makes much difference as an approach. Proper leadership, and the available talent pool make a difference.

 

If Jeremy wants to be paid, then that's where he should go. If others don't, that's fine.

 

The mission of every music group that supports worship services is just that - support the service.

 

If the chops are really great and everybody stands there with their mouth open, somebody missed the point. If the vocalists sing melodies in such a way that the inflections prevent people from singing along, somebody missed the point. If the band falls apart so badly that the drummer is on 2 while the band is on 1, somebody missed the point.

 

Yes, I've witnessed all of these first-hand. Being the music director is tough. I think if you have a good talent pool and people are paid, it might (might) be a bit easier. But that director (or if a team is directing) needs a vision to work towards, and the power to do it.

 

OT - my own parish has been firing it's music directors every year. I don't know why, but some very faithful, talented, and skilled directors have been bounced. This hasn't made people in the congregation very warm to join in....

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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The various Catholic I attend/belong to have both paid and non-paid performers. The people who are paid are the one or two people who direct the entire music ministry- they plan the music, play at just about every service, and are recognized at the "head of the ministry." The non-paid members include the volunteer choir, members of various groups (such as the Christmas and Easter Cantatas- I'm one of the three baritones out of 25 singers) and the occasional instrumentalist (often a member of the choirs).

 

Even if I were to be paid, it wouldn't be enough to be worth my time, so I'd rather chalk it up to pro bono work and experience. The beauty of playing in a congregational setting is that your only focus is the music- no bookings, no drumming up fans, no drunks messing with your gear.

 

praise the Lord!

...think funky thoughts... :freak:
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Tom, I just read your post, and I have to heartily agree- singers who perform rather than sing are one of the biggest pains in church. I had to sing solo backup for a woman like this, and i just about gave up singing ( I could never keep up with her inflections, which changed every verse). When I am in the congregation, singing as I always do, I make it a point of really being heard when I know the song, but then out of no where comes an inflection that makes no sense, and our dissonant interval becomes glaringly apparent.

 

anyway...

...think funky thoughts... :freak:
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Hmmm... I think that a church should call on it's members for the musicians but I do understand some churches don't have good musicians and do need to outsource. If you're hiring a non-christian musician to play, I don't see a problem in paying them but I really believe a P&W band should be made up of christians and regardless of their fame or profession, they should do it as a selfless misistry for God, not for a paycheck.
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In my somewhat humble & pretty much un biased opinion, (I'm a Catholic, have deep faith but rarely attend services) here's my view. If the congregation, as a whole, wants their music to sound professional, and, they have enough money, pay for professionals. If they just want the feeling or don't have lots of money, let the amateurs have it. Ours is certainly not a p/w environment. The music is via acoustic guitar, piano or organ & sometimes other wind instruments.

The musicians and choir vary from service to service. All are volunteers and some are very good. We are, at times, subjected to the vocal theatrics of a wannabe operatic singer but it's all good. The good uns make up for the bad uns.

It's no different in that sense than going to a show, even with a single band/performer. You'll hear some good & some bad in the same show. Church should not be expected to be different.

 

Now, if you're playing for Gene Scott or one of the other HUGE money makers you should get paid, regardless.

I mean:

Would Jesus wear a Rolex?

Would he wear a pinky ring?

Would he drive a fancy car?

Would his wife wear pearls and diamonds?

Would his dressing room have a star?

If he came back today, there's something I'd like to know,

Would Jesus wear a Rolex on his television show?

(Chet Atkins/Margaret Archer)

If the preacher does, he should pay, and pay well...

 

Our Joint

 

"When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it." The Duke...

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Dak! What Chet Atkins song is that from? I just gotta know...

RobT

 

Famous Musical Quotes: "I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve" - Xavier Cugat

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Originally posted by RobT:

Dak! What Chet Atkins song is that from? I just gotta know...

Hey Rob,

The song is "Would Jesus Wear A Rolex". It's on The Cluster Pluckers "Just Pluck It" album.

It was written with Margaret Archer (Bailey now?). She's with the Cluster Pluckers & that's one hell of a good song when they do it. Ray Stevens did the song too but it's not nearly as good.

 

Our Joint

 

"When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it." The Duke...

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Yeah, this is touchy.

 

The janitor gets paid, the electric company gets paid, for years the main organist and pianist have gotten paid. (The church I work at has both contemporary and traditional services. It is a wealthy church, home of many doctors, lawyers, businessmen and etc.)

 

The church has a group of people who want to have this contemporary service, they have used church members in the past...for 5 years they stumbled through bad time, bad notes and etc. Then, 5 years ago, they hired us. We NEVER rehearse, just read the chart for a one hour service, get our checks in the mail once a month.

 

Sometimes they ask us to work for an annual musical or childrens music camp for additional money. In addition, during the holy seasons they hire me additionally to play URB for the traditional service, generally Messiah or some other "big" work. They bring in lots of outside professionals for those jobs.

 

The thing is, we are not the electric company or janitors. We are not members, but attend every week, participate in worship, take communion and pray. There comes a point where I think I might be led to join this church (my family attends a different church; when the kids leave home my wife and I might join.) In fact, one of the band members has joined the church...gets his check, but pays tithe every week (more than his check, actually.)

 

Still, I know that the congregation really enjoys us...shows us off a lot to all the other Methodist churches..."see what we got?" Not sure of the spiritual intent there....

 

But every time I think about just giving my check back, I realize that my behavior would change if I weren't professionally involved. I know the orchestra I play in is volunteer; I stay because I love learning from the conductor. I don't treat it's music the same as my "paid" gigs.

 

For the time being, I've resolved that since I need the bucks, I'll accept them. And thank God for the gift he gave me...and recognize, as the topic of a sermon 2 weeks ago, that I'm called to give what God has given me in abundance. That is teaching...and I'll do my best to be as giving in that as I'm able.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Warning - I just read this post before I submitted it. It's preachy, but I hope it helps...that's the spirit in which it is sent.

 

from dbb

But every time I think about just giving my check back, I realize that my behavior would change if I weren't professionally involved. I know the orchestra I play in is volunteer; I stay because I love learning from the conductor. I don't treat it's music the same as my "paid" gigs.

Dave, what would you do/feel differently about? It sounds like things work quite well. If anything, moving to volunteer status may make you more a part of the community, and you might feel you are giving more back to God (not saying you aren't doing this now, just supposing). I think you need to consider what would change for you. How has affected the band convert that joined?

 

As to taking the money, do I have to quote to you again?!? ;) You have a skill, there are people willing to pay for it. You aren't taking the money and thumbing your nose at the the congregation - you are praying with them (I would argue that to some extent you've already joined). But you need the money, are using a talent in service.

 

It reminds me of the joke about the guy sitting on top of his house in a flood that prays for God to save him, and God says "yes - I will save you". The man proceeds to send away a rowboat, larger rescue boat, and helicopter saying "God will save me". After he drowns, he goes to God and asks why he wasn't saved. God says "well, I sent 2 boats and a helicopter for you".

 

Take what God is offering....

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Hmmm... I don't think there is a right or a wrong answer to this one. Here's what happens at our United Methodist church. We have a paid music director. It is his profession and he is outstanding. He puts in many more hours behind the scenes than the choir or the volunteer musicians do writing parts, choosing material, etc. etc. etc... We have a 20+ voice volunteer choir who are members of the congregation (our director is as well, and that is a blessing...) We have a music ministry with 15 members now who sing and/or play various instruments. Once a month, this group called "Circle of Friends" of one form or another (can range from 2-15 members and be instrumental or with vocals, etc.) will provide music in support of the service. The salaried director MUST support this. We volunteer musicians MAY support this any time we feel like it. That is what makes us unpaid volunteers.

 

We in Circle of Friends just recorded our first CD (EP really as there are only 6 original instrumentsl pieces on it). Four of our musicians, one of which was our director, played for it. One other member did the graphic arts for the inserts and labels. We all contributed to pay for the studio time and the initial 200 CDs and insert materials out of our pockets. All funds brought in by the CD will go directly to building our music program. You can hear samples of our product at www.angelfire.com/ny5/boggs.com/boggspage9.html . The point is, it can be both paid and unpaid depending on the situation and where your heart is. Our church couldn't afford to pay for the startup costs of producing the CD, so we did it out of our pockets and hearts. Our director deserves to be on payroll because of the necessity for him being a part of the ministry staff. That is the difference.

 

When we "perform", it is a true performance and we often get applause at the end of the pieces we do. Does that serve God? Absolutely. People are happier when they hear us at our best and it encourages them to participate in the service. We are serving God, our congregation, and our community. That's how I see it, anyway. It is not the only right way to do it, for sure, but it works for us! Peace... and God Bless! Boggs ;)

Check out my Rock Beach Guitars page showing guitars I have built and repaired... http://www.rockbeachguitars.com
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Boggs you get a hearty amen from my section of the hallelujah chorus. Sounds a person who has the Heart of the Artist and for Worship.

RobT

 

Famous Musical Quotes: "I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve" - Xavier Cugat

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I think alot of it depends on what kind of church it is.

 

The church of my youth was fairly active in missionary/charity services in the community. None of the Musicians/choir members were paid, and I think it was felt that it would just be taking from the mouths of others.

 

There was another church in the area that was alot more "Professional." There was alot more money in the church, and everyone was paid. They also were into community service etc., but it wasn't their focus.

 

In my opinion, it is not the job of Church Musicians to excite and titillate the congregation. The thought that it would be better to have a non-religious, but more proficient musician, than a less proficient but "filled with the Glory of God" musician play makes me nervous.

 

The closest think that I can compare it to, is like if I was in a group of people that enjoyed playing the blues. We are not there to make money etc., just to enjoy and contribute to the power of blues. I would rather play with people that really enjoy the blues, than people that have stellar chops, but couldn't care less or even dislike the blues. It makes it a little more mercenary than something that personal should be.

 

It reminds me alot of the arguments for having beautiful Cathedrals versus generic buildings. If you are going on Sundays for "entertainment," than you would probably rather be in a nice building. But if you were heavily involved in charity etc., at least to me, it would seem that the thought of all of those dollars for something unnecessary while there are people DYING from hunger would bother you.

 

I haven't been to church for a long time, so please take everything I say with a grain of salt. There probably are times when paid musicians are entirely appropriate, I just can't think of any.

 

John Brown

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  • 2 weeks later...

If I am at a church service and I know the musicians are not believers, it does not enhance my worship experience at all no matter how good they sound. That would be a concert not a time of worship. Worship is when believers gather to praise God.

 

I doubt that musicians put in more time than choir members. Choir members don't generally get paid. I doubt musicians put in more time than sunday school teachers. Sunday school teachers don't get paid.

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yes, you should get paid to play in church. it's just another gig.. and it's in front of a bunch of people who actually think that their random-ass existence means something. You should be able to bleed them for x2 pay.
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Well, these last two responses just about polarize everything.

 

DarrellD: (My brother spells his name the same.)My point was not the time, but the professionalism. Pastors put in time, but they do get paid. I do agree that non-believers put a different spin on it...I'm assuming the paid band to be partipants in the service.

 

Bumpcity: What if their "random-ass existence" does mean something? I don't believe that it's "just another gig" (in fact, I try to approach each gig I play as something special.) Often gigs do take on special meaning...If I played for a wedding reception, I'd be interested in making the bride and groom the center of attention...what's different than that and church?

 

Anyway, I hoped my thread was more along the lines of: "Can paid musicians enhance the worship service by replacing 'serving the Lord' with professionalism?" I believe the answer is yes...so often "serving the Lord" gets real close to people's hearts' (and it should!) but sometimes that gets in the way of the music.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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A few years ago my pastor approached me about putting me on a part time salary if I could free up my work schedule and devote that time to rehearsals and playing praise and worship every service. I had no problem with that because he knew and I knew that I would play whether or not I was paid. It was just a matter of changing jobs to accomodate being a reliable musician week in and week out.

My day job is truck driving and, at that time, I was gone most weekends. I made good money at it and the change would have put quite a strain on our checkbook. The money was welcome, but I struggled with the same question you posted for quite some time. It finally boiled down to attitude. Would I play if I were not paid? Yes, without a doubt. I don't play for the money, nor do the other musicians. We play as a form of our personal worship and also have the honor of enhancing the congregation's worship experience. Each musician is required to be a born-again Christian and also an active member of the church. If the church wants to pay us, then it is up to them. I am not by any means getting rich. If fact there are many times I don't get paid because of low giving (we have a pretty small congregation) but that doesn't affect my desire to play for the Lord. We are there to worship God with our instruments first and foremost. Payment is just a blessing that comes back to us.

Is that a real song or did you make that up?
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