I recently came across this video of a guy who claims to be able to sing “five octaves on the piano”. See for yourself.
I’ve auditioned some people who are clearly musically gifted and called to serve the church on the worship team, some whose giftedness and calling to serve is less clear, and from time to time people (like the guy in the video) who are clearly not gifted, not called to serve on a worship team, and completely oblivious. Those auditions are always a challenge.
What would I say if this guy auditioned for the worship team?
First, I’d lay a foundation before I ever heard him sing a note (or something resembling a note). It’s important that before anyone sings or plays an instrument in an audition that they understand they’re not “trying out” for a band – they’re entering into a discernment process regarding the gifts that God has given them. I do this by pointing people to Paul’s picture of “one body with many members” in 1 Corinthians 12. Every “member” of the body has a specific role and function. God arranges the parts of the body and decides who gets certain varieties of gifts. When someone auditions for the worship team, my job is to help them discern where their specific gift might be best employed.
After that foundation had been laid – the last thing I would say before hearing them sing or play would be something like: “Now, because of that, I want you to know that I’m going to be honest with you. I’m here to help you discern what gifts God has given you to serve the church. Do I have your permission to be honest with you?”
If this guy had agreed to all of the above, here is how I would handle it:
– Thank him
I need to recognize and express my thankfulness for this guy giving up part of his day, being vulnerable enough to do this, and for sharing his “gift” with me.
– Prepare him
Before giving my honest assessment of his giftedness, I’d briefly remind him that (a) this isn’t about his worth as a person, (b) this is about whether or not God has gifted him musically to serve the body of Christ on the worship team, and (c) I owe it to him to be honest with him.
– Be honest with him
I would follow the K.I.S.S. rule here (keep it simple, stupid). There is no need for me to go on and on and pile on my honest assessment of his gifting. Briefly, gently, and simply, I would say something like: “My impression is that your strongest gifting is not in the area of singing. You had a difficult time matching pitch, and you struggled to stay in key. I know this might be a bit difficult to hear, but I need to be honest with you and tell you that, in my view, serving on the worship team isn’t the best match for your gifts.” That’s enough of that.
– Affirm him
Immediately after this honest assessment of his gifting, I would attempt to honestly and genuinely affirm what gifts I might have seen on display. Even if, in our short time together, I had only noticed one thing I could possibly affirm, I would point out that one thing. This isn’t a sneaky trick intended to make him forget what I had just said, but a heartfelt attempt at reminding him that just because he’s not gifted in one way doesn’t mean he’s not gifted in others.
– Talk with him
The last thing I would do is ask him what other ways he could imagine serving the church. Get him thinking and talking about what other gifts he might have and try to connect him with other opportunities for him to serve the body.
– Pray for him
I would ask “before you go home, do you mind if I pray for you?” I’d seek to thank God for giving me these 10 minutes with this guy, ask God to show us both some ways the guy could serve, and ask God to bless him. It’s important that this guy leaves the audition with a fresh reminder that God has indeed given him certain gifts.
No worship leader enjoys having to tell someone that they aren’t gifted musically. It can be awkward, a bit tense, and unpleasant if the person responds immaturely. But through your faithful and loving care for your congregation – even those who think they can sing five octaves on a piano – God will use you for his glory.