Still Serving After All These Years

It’s amazing how often I hear from worship leaders, artists, and pastors that they are having trouble with a musician’s attitude. “They can play great, but they are just so hard to deal with!” Always complaining or arguing, and always “put out” by any request that might be made of them. A player like this is a “thorn in the side” of any music leader. This does not create a great working environment. And it probably works against any sense of unity and teamwork you are trying to build. In the secular world a player like this normally gets fired. “YO… YOU… YOU’RE OUTTA HERE!!” Problem solved!!! But we don’t do this in ministry situations. In the church we should be willing to ask someone to “sit out” for a while so they can work on some “personal issues”. That sounds so nice, doesn’t it? It could take weeks, maybe months. No matter how difficult this may be you must deal with it before it becomes a cancer in your team. Trust me, bad attitudes will infect or affect everyone. How do you deal with this if you are the one I’m talking about? What if you’ve become difficult to work with? Maybe you’ve found it difficult to serve others with your talents. Let me share some practical ideas as a drummer who has been asked to do many different and “stretching” things.

My best advice is to “DIE TO YOURSELF”! Whatever ministry or job setting I’m in I always remind myself of “why” I am there. God has given me gifts and talents to serve those that He connects me to. Unless I am creating music or working for myself, my calling and job is to help others find the “magic in their music”. I’m called to help worship leaders and artists find that place where they feel they are able to express their hearts to the Lord. I have a mental picture that I am a “gatekeeper to the presence of God”. Wow… soak in that image for a while!!! Take it to heart!! I know that sounds great in print. But how do we live it? How can we make that happen? Well, to the best of your ability do what’s asked of you at all times. Be a “can do” kind of person. When asked to play softer, play softer. When asked to play less, play less. When asked to….. you get the picture. I’ve had artists ask for different drums or percussion sounds. So I’ve gone out and bought new equipment to be able to serve them. Basically …I keep trying ‘til I see them smiling. I haven’t always hit the mark when it comes to these things. There are times when you can’t seem to please people, but I keep trying. If someone is unhappy with what I’m doing at least they know I’m giving them my best effort. There are just times when circumstances are out of your control. A truth we don’t always like.

Another thing I do is to keep asking questions to be sure the leader or singer is truly getting what they want from me. That will usually diffuse the sense of frustration they may be feeling as they are trying to discover what really works for them. The creative process is often like digging for buried treasure; you might have to sweat a little to get to the gold. Keep digging!!!

Recently we recorded Paul Baloche’s CD/DVD called “Offering”. Paul took the time to fly to Nashville for a couple of days with the band just to work out arrangements before the recording dates. In the process of creating, Paul asked me not to use splash cymbals. So I removed them from my kit. Then he asked if I would try not using so many drums. Normally I have 4 toms in my set up. So by the time we were finished I was down to a 4 piece kit: [kick, snare, a 12” tom, & a 16” tom / I did use a 2nd snare (a piccolo snare) to the left of my hi-hat… as requested.] My normal cymbal set-up of 8 or more was scaled down to a 22” ride cymbal, 14” hi-hats, an 18” crash, a 19” rock crash, & a 17” sizzle crash. What was most interesting about this whole process was what happened after the rehearsal. Paul came up to me and said he was so blown away by the fact that I was doing everything that he requested. He was so encouraged and blessed by the way I was helping him find the “right vibe” for his music. He was stunned. Please don’t think I’m bragging. What I want you to realize is that serving people brings a blessing to a situation. Living in WWJD mode (What Would Jesus Do?) is so much better than going the other way.

When I mess that up, then everyone, myself included, is miserable. And I’ve “blown” it enough times to know that it’s true. I hope you don’t mind if I don’t give you an example of those situations. Well… OK …. Just one!! No names though… to protect the innocent. I was playing drums at a conference. We were recording the event. The producer had been asking for one change after another right up until the sound check before the recorded service. “Could you try this feel?? Could you do this dynamic change in the 1st verse?? OH,, and try a different tempo!! and …” ………. SNAP………… Carl turns to the producer and says, “Look… I’ve played on hundreds of records. You should trust me that this is working. You’re wearing the band out with all of your suggestions… blah… blah… blah…blah…” ..the Holy Spirit starts speaking to my heart..“ Carl, what are you doing?” “Yes, Lord?” “Carl, what are you doing? I thought you were here to serve. Did you forget what I made you for? What Would I Do?” etc. etc. (I’m getting a pretty good spiritual spanking in the middle of this exchange of words I’m having with the music director, and it changes my heart.) So… Carl turns back to the producer and says… “Sorry, bro., whatever you want. I’ll give you my best shot!” I even went to him later and apologized for being out of line. (Repentance) He said it was no big deal. I appreciated him being gracious, but made sure we were in a good place before we left the conversation. By the way, we’re still friends, and we still work together.

Humbling yourself and serving is not always easy. In fact, most of the time, it is a real challenge. After all of these years of music and ministry the tests still come. I used to think that I would grow out of them. But what I’ve learned is that I’ve grown in the midst of them.

Galatians 5:13 …. serve one another in love.

In Him,
Your Servant,

Groove is Everything:
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About Carl

Carl has been a professional drummer & percussionist for over 30 years. He has played on over 80 Integrity Music projects; Maranatha Praise Band recordings 7 thru 10, & numerous other Christian, Pop, Country, Jazz, & Commercial projects.


  1. Dear Carl,

    Thank you for sharing your invaluable insights and experiences. I do get convicted whenever you allude to service for the Lord above all. My wife and I have been serving in our community’s praise ministry for a little over 12 years and have gone on a sabbatical for reasons that are related to your discussion. We have gone through extremes where the musical director is so focused on the perfection of the musicality of the worship to the detriment of the worship, if you know what I mean. So you have dagger looks from the MD during the worship at singers or even worship leaders that “stray” away from the “script” or the worship or the “worship brief”. The short story being, the community splintered into two. Those of us who stuck around still appreciate the strictness in instilling some discipline in musical illiterates like myself. The epilogue to that chapter in our ministry is that the MD was replaced by an non-musical “MD”, the type who neither reads music nor has the humility to accept suggestions. Worship has never been the same in terms of giving the best to the Lord. There have been complaints, not from the MD but from members of the congregation who, being used to some standard of cohesive musicality are now subject to a lot of songs previously sung that have become surprises. Is there a limit to support? Where obviously for instance the voicings or SATB are not only sung out of synch, out of time and out of score, but even the songs chosen do not support the worship mode. If you are brave enough to point out inconsistencies in the scoresheet, the MD gets on your case. Today my wife and I are still serving the Lord in a different community a much smaller one. Our regards to your wife Leanne. Godspeed.

  2. Greetings, Bro’ Carl… in His precious name.

    I truly doubt that you would remember this, but a zillion years ago I helped you with your set up before a conference at Church On the Way in Van Nuys. I remember it vividly because becaue not only did I appreciate the session you instructed on, but that was the first set of Peavey’s drums I had ever seen. (And the last, by the way!) Anyway…
    This article is just so dead right on… I hope you don’t mind that I printed it out to give each member of our Tech and Worship Team members. What a wonderful lesson and reminder for us all – there are no “prima donnas” in His Kingdom…merely servants, washing each others’ feet!
    God bless you…MUCH-O’…Carl. Hope to meet again someday!

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