What do I mean by that? Here's an example. Every minister preaches about both God's forgiving mercy and God's righteous standards for holiness. But sometimes one preacher's sermon about holiness and discipline might strike another preacher as “harsh” or “sounding like the Pharisees”, while somebody's teaching about mercy and second chances might sound to somebody else like “tolerating sin.” None of us would dare to pass judgment about who is “right” in the situation, but as ministers we want to make sure that the songs we choose are in harmony with the values of the shepherd of that particular house.
Another example? A lot of gospel songs focus on messages of prosperity. Some ministers see that as positive faith-building, while others may feel that those songs are “all about self.” Again, the music minister wants to know the heart of their own pastor as well as possible in order to pick songs that will enhance his or her ministry.
Remember that song from the '90s, “My Mind's Made Up”?
I like that song, especially for teen choirs or when ministering to unchurched people. But I had friends at one church whose pastor wouldn't approve of the way the song says things like “I've been in this thing too long. I've got to change my attitude.” At their church they felt it was not appropriate for saved people to say things like that, it sounded like they were still in sin. So the choir changed all of the lyrics to the past tense – “I had been in that thing too long. I had to change my attitude.” It might seem like a small thing, but for them it was significant because it kept the music ministry in line with the values of the pastor.
And musical styles can be an issue, too. Maybe a certain pastor thinks that rap is not edifying, or thinks that slow music depresses the spirit of the service, or thinks that songs that use bits of tunes from secular songs are worldly. You want to cultivate the kind of relationship and communication with your pastor where he or she can comfortably talk to you about what is desired from the music ministry.
The best way to get to know all this is to spend as much time as you can listening to and understanding the ministry and message of your pastor. Sermons, Sunday School, and Bible study will help you to gain this understanding. This can be a challenge if you are working as a music minister in a church that is not the church where your membership is. But still try to take any opportunities you can to learn as much as possible about the spirit and values of the church where you are working.
One of my theme scriptures as a music minister is “Know those who labor among you.” (I Thessalonians 5:12 This is yet another application of that principle.