Worship, is this the BEST we have to offer?
(With the recent World Cup fervor, these thoughts seem to fit though they were written in response to another significant sporting event. -ms)
Watching the Super Bowl coverage this past weekend brings many lessons for the Church. Not the least of which is the way that Bruno Mars lit up the half time show. I have seen several musical groups such as this, whose presentation is so well-rehearsed that it allows you to relax and enjoy it, and it is wonderful to behold. The performers worked with precision in their music and in their presentation. Not one step was out of place, everything was prepared and planned in advance, and no one was just “feeling it” without having rehearsed it.
It may be unfortunate that the Super Bowl is on Sundays for this very reason. It may not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but I wonder if there is an underlying comparison going on with what is experienced on Sunday morning and what is experienced on this particular Sunday night?
Granted, there may be a few churches that have worship services which are carefully planned and thoughtfully crafted. However, based on my observation, it seems to be more often the case that churches are “doing the best they can.” Which really means, “We’re not really prepared, and haven’t practiced that much, but as long as we do the best we can it will be OK. Let’s pray about it.”
I’m not so sure that’s a good place to be.
As a musician and worship leader, I can’t help but reflect upon my own commitment to quality and development. Because we are a family of musicians, my wife and I often have conversations about what it means to really give of our best as we perform and serve God’s people musically. We could easily get by and make a “good show” that would impress others and have few noticeable mistakes, but is that enough? If we can perform with relative excellence, can’t we allow that to stand and move on to the next performance or worship service? Do we constantly have to analyze what was good and right, as well as what needs improvement? We’d really like to find a point in which we can say, “There it is, and it’s good enough.”
I suppose some might encourage us by trying to say that none of us can be perfect. And that is true. All that we offer will need improvement, even if the necessary improvement cannot be perceived by most people.That does not lift the burden, however, of these gifts that God has given. It does not release us from the responsibility for constantly improving them to the best of our ability.
For musicians, and other artists, the parable of the Talents really cuts to the heart of the matter.
“To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.” (Matt. 25:15)
Although Jesus spoke of money in the parable, we see the reality of how the “talents” are these gifts for which we are responsible. And none of us receive equal talents, but are nonetheless responsible for those we do have. For the faithful use and development of these gifts (no matter if they be large or small) we can look for God to encourage us, and find joy in our service:
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt. 25:21)
In Romans 12, Paul refers to this idea as well, in which God gives grace and gifts in varying portions. For each gift, He has provided the appropriate amount of grace to use that gift as needed. We can also think of Bezalel and Oholiab (see Exodus 31-36) who, along with many other skilled artisans, creatively outfitted the Tabernacle. The “skill” of these men was not only a gift from God, but a well-developed gift that they had learned and practiced.
As a result, we must commit to constant improvement. We must improve our skills as musicians. We must learn the craft of planning worship that is effective and meaningful. We must provide good leadership for those who are part of our team, giving them plenty of time to practice and rehearse, as well as recognizing carefully their level of ability. Our development must be holistic.
I recall a mid-week rehearsal I was leading had not gone well for my own performance, and with a few days left before the Sunday service, I took time to practice. Preparing to lead worship for a conference means my wife and me running through the songs beforehand – even though we have sung them many times before.
Sometimes I get teased for having a group work on the first song or two of a set for an extended period, and then flying through the other two or three songs. I noted, on one of these occasions, that my purpose in doing so was often to help us all communicate well – and when the rehearsal begins we aren’t necessarily speaking or listening with the intent to really communicate. But once we “settle in,” we find that our communication is more effective as our rehearsal continues. Effective communication must be part of our skill set.
After performances I often find myself assessing and strategizing how to improve things the next time. It is constant and unending. These are the processes that must be used to really give our best.
Over and over again we should hear God’s Spirit remind us of Colossians 3:23-24, “Do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” And that is why we work hard, practice, prepare each time…for every performance…for every service…for Him.
(Original Post on February 3, 2014 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/21194-worship-is-this-the-best-we-have-to-offer)
Posted on July 21, 2014, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, theology, Worship Leader and tagged Mark Sooy, theology, worship, worship leader, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.