In some cases, “Audition” has become a forbidden word in Church world. It is that difficult topic that none of us want to talk about really. We don’t know where different generations stand on it; depending on how you were raised and how you interpret Scripture, you can fall all over the map on this issue. Before we can discuss how to audition your people, or putting together an audition process, we have to establish why we audition in the first place. You’ll want to know, as a leader, your reasons for auditioning because it is almost a guarantee that you’ll be challenged or at least questioned on this at some point. Once you have made your decision, don’t be afraid to stand on it. When the questions come, answer them calmly and kindly, listen to the opposing view and offer to take it under consideration. Don’t, however, feel that you need to instantly back down. Particularly if you are bringing in an audition process to a church where there has previously been none (which may include a few people not being asked to return), it’s just going to take time for the new way of thinking to sink in! Trust me, I’ve been there – you are not alone. You’ll be alright, and your ministry will be better for it! At a previous church, I served under a worship director who was new to the church & introducing the audition process for the first time. Near the end of the meeting she had called to address it, one of the guys went bursting through the back doors and yelled into the hallway how ridiculous this whole thing was. People don’t always embrace change right away. But it’s going to be okay. It was in that church, and it will be in yours. Things die down, people learn to accept or they move on. Here are some of the reasons I give to back up auditioning in churches.
The first and easiest explanation for auditioning is, I think, 1 Corinthians 12, the passage which discusses many gifts making up one body. God has already been clear – we are not all gifted for the same things and thank heaven for that! I would submit that most ministries in the church can and maybe should have a process for joining that includes a discussion of gifting. We want people to serve in the areas they are gifted in, otherwise everyone’s life gets harder. It’s not how we were created! God gives us talents & gifts and He’s asked us to use them for His glory. He definitely could have made it so that when we receive our spiritual gifts, they become branded across our foreheads lest we or anyone else forget what they are. But He didn’t! And discovering your gifts can be a process – it takes discernment and wisdom on your part and wise counsel from other to help you narrow down the areas God has called you to. I consider auditioning my people to be a part of helping them discover their gifts and releasing them from the need to serve in areas that are not in their gift package.
I believe that there are levels of achievement in the arts, though they be vague and are often determined by the mystical “they.” I can’t tell you why Picasso was considered a good artist, but I do know music, and I know the difference between singing on key or off and a bass player with rhythm or no rhythm. I do know why Mozart is revered and when I played for an orchestra, I auditioned for every part I ever played in one of his symphonies. When it comes to our worship music, does God not deserve this same courtesy? Why would we not want to offer the Lord the best we possibly can? In Psalm 33, David implores us to “play [our instruments] skillfully,” and we know that throughout Scripture God has asked us for the best of the best when offering a sacrifice (i.e. spotless lambs). Because music can sweep us up, we also want to make sure that nothing jumps out at you from a worship set. When someone is just playing terribly out of tune or time, it is noticeable. Before you know it, all eyes are on that guy instead of on Jesus. We can help avoid these moments by screening our musicians beforehand and making sure they are capable and ready to take on the responsibility of worship leading.
It is important to note that of course, any worship offered to God with a pure heart is pleasing to Him – that is a vital distinction to make. But that doesn’t mean that we should serve outside our gifting and offer Him anything less than great when it is at all possible. We need to stop being ashamed of our gifts (or lack thereof) or jealous of others’ gifts. God knows what He gifted us with – He isn’t shocked when someone can’t sing well and He is not disappointed, either. I find it really helpful to explain auditioning to those who disagree with me in as positive a light as possible, encouraging them to delight in the gifts they have; rejoice in the ways God has made them able to serve Him so well in other areas! The beauty is this: I really do mean it. If every single person was a born worship leader and musician, the world would be super boring. I love that there are people in my church body who can do things so well that I would never attempt (read: kids ministry). Introducing/using auditioning opens the door to help us all embrace the gifts we have and celebrate the people who possess gifts we don’t. It’s healthy for us all to be in touch with gifting and to learn how to trust God’s direction!