I have known Mike Bundon for more than 25 years. When we first met, Mike had been serving Beaver Dam Baptist Church in Knoxville as their minister of music for only five years.
He is now retiring from that position after 30 years of effective ministry. He has helped the church through several pastoral transitions including one that was created by the tragic death of a senior pastor. Mike is an exemplary minister and outstanding musician. Many who have heard the Tennessee Baptist Men’s Chorale will recognize Mike as the tenor soloist for a chorale favorite, “Midnight Cry.” His fellow worship leaders recognize him for his servant spirit as friend and colleague.
Mike’s retirement from Beaver Dam brings attention to the importance of a valuable commodity that can only be acquired over time, and that is relational longevity. Given the tensions in worship music ministry in today’s culture, tenure of service is all the more vital. Navigating the tide of changing trends is a challenge for any music minister. Congregations like Beaver Dam are made up of worshipers whose ages span several decades. In our culture of “have it your way” encouraging a unified spirit among worshipers can be a difficult task.
During my 12 years with the convention I have noted an increase in calls from music ministers who sense their time for effective service in their churches are limited. In some cases the minister is being asked to vacate the position. In other situations the minister simply senses declining response and/or personal burnout.
While I readily recognize that the Lord uses different dynamics to help us decipher His will regarding our tenure at a particular place of service, I am also convinced that the impatience ingrained in the fabric of our culture can be misguided when assessing the value of longevity of church staff, especially ministers of music. At times the impatience can instill unrest in the spirit of the minister of music. No one wants to overstay their welcome whether their reading is real or perceived.
Whereas a Mike Bundon has endured many changes for the sake of his congregation and remained faithful as a diligent minister of the gospel, many times the minister of music steps aside given circumstances that may overtake their stamina. Some churches and worship ministers chase elusive trends in efforts to bring about change that is measured by being in step with the latest trend in musical fare and atmosphere without counting the cost of sidelining the valuable equity that comes through shared experience and ministerial maturity. There are exceptions to everything, of course, but generally I want to draw attention to the following potential advantages of a long tenure:
For the church and for the kingdom I am convinced there is value in a long and healthy tenure for the music minister. Some of the advantages to the local church include:
• The music minister knows the people and often has garnered some understanding of what is happening in their lives. Such knowledge effects everything from personal relationships between minister and people to sensitivity in music selection in a given context.
• The mature music minister knows the worship language of the full church body, inclusive of multiple age groups. Note: The area of stylistic tensions are sometimes pressure points in ministry that may alarm pastors or other church leaders who fear a church is not “keeping up,” or who react to preferential verbiage voiced by individuals or small groups within a congregation. While these scenarios deserve attention, conversation and clear communication in response, I find them to be distraction from or indication of deeper substantive issues regarding the piety and ethos of worship.
• Trust in leadership is built over time, and there is no substitute for that trust level, and no shortcut for the time it takes to build it.
• Even where new forms and elements are to be introduced to a congregation, they are likely more readily accepted and assimilated into use when presented by a trusted leader.
• Experience tends to foster wisdom that results in endurance.
• Honoring maturity in ministers encourages an atmosphere that respects delayed gratification and fosters proliferation of patience. Note: there is opportunity for rich teaching here connecting lifelong worship with watchful anticipation of the rich reward for service.
You may be able to add other advantages to the list. My prayer is that pastors, churches and worship ministers will not overlook the high value of sage wisdom that is cultivated by years of experience, spiritual growth and humble service.
Thank you, Mike Bundon, for your healthy demonstration of humble service in ministry through music in one church more than 30 years.