When Talent Overshadows Character - A Tale of Two Drummers

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

when talent overshadows character - a tale of two drummers
Every Worship Leader has had to deal with the frustration of not having enough talented musicians to draw from to build their worship team. It seems that at any given time, we are always on the lookout to fill a key slot, whether it is a vocalist, bass player, or drummer. Over the years, as I have seen many people come and go on the many worship teams I have led, I have learned a very important lesson – as we choose people, it is vital that character always comes before talent. Let me tell you a tale of two drummers. This is a true story but the names have been changed.

Jeff was a freshman in college and had been playing drums on the worship team for a couple of years. Jeff was amazing and easily one of the best drummers I had ever had before. There was nothing Jeff couldn’t do and it seemed it took very little effort for him to pull off very difficult songs. There was one problem. Jeff was always late for rehearsals and often never showed. He was cocky and didn’t like anyone giving him directions. He was difficult to work with and was unreliable.

Scott was a senior in high school and filled in on the rare occasion that Jeff was out of town. He was an “okay” drummer. He wasn’t bad, just was fair. When Scott played, rehearsals took twice as long. There were some songs I had to stay away from because He just couldn’t play them. But there was something Scott had that Jeff didn’t. He had character. The kind of character that was unusual for someone so young. Scott was always early to rehearsal and sound checks, was eager to learn, and was always open to direction. There was also something else about him that impressed me. Not once did he ever complain that he rarely got the chance to play. He was thrilled just to get the occasional chance.

I decided to rotate Scott into the schedule once a month and then later had him play for two weeks and then had Jeff play the other two weeks. Jeff did not like this one bit. He complained that I was letting our worship go down the toilet because I was letting an inferior drummer play. He went on to further complain that he didn’t understand why we had to practice every week and that we spent too much time praying at rehearsals. I explained to Jeff that though I agreed that Scott was not as talented as he was, I felt that he deserved a chance to be a part of the team and be developed. Well, Jeff quit that day and never played for us again. Something unexpected happened in the weeks following as Scott now was our regular drummer. Rehearsals became enjoyable and there was a spirit of unity that began to invade the team that wasn’t there before. Scott brought something to the team that Jeff was sadly missing – Character! I can honestly say that I saw a marked difference in our worship services. People seemed more engaged in worship and there was a new feeling of freedom that we hadn’t felt before. I believe this was all due to the simple act of letting character take center stage over talent.

As Worship Leaders we must remember that we are not talent scouts. Talent is very important but it cannot be the number one criteria we look for. We are not called to manage talent but to pastor people. There is a huge difference between the two. Merely managing talent may get you great musical results, but it will always be to the detriment of people. Pastoring people will develop eternal results and bring an anointing on your music that will always compensate for any lack of talent on your team. Choosing character over talent will cost you though. You will be criticized for it and misunderstood. You might even be accused of settling for musical mediocrity. But don’t give in to the temptation to go for talent at the cost of character because it will cost you more in the long run. You will have to deal with major conflict and personality clashes between the members of your team and it will dampen the corporate worship in your church. In Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4, we see that God is not looking for a certain kind of worship, but rather a certain kind of worshiper. He is more interested in who we are than what we can do. And we would do well to remember the words of the Lord from Isaiah 29:13: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” It’s all about character.

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David Chapdelaine said...

David - Great thoughts here. Thanks for sharing your experience with these two. I think that many WL's will benefit from this story.

Just had feedback myself about my drummer's attitude for worship...he's super into it...often I can hear him singing over the noise of the drums. Many people in congregation have mentioned how much energy/encouragement to really worship when they see him (he is center stage, after all).

"Heart and growth scouts;" I'm going to remember that for a long time.

David Good said...

Thanks David. Trying to get instrumentalists to worship with their facial expression isn't always easy, but it makes a huge impact on corporate worship.

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