I saw the following tweet from Bob Kauflin today – “Two ways to play badly on Sundays: obscure the gospel’s truth thru embellishment or obscure its beauty thru mediocrity.” – it got me thinking about the importance of the gospel in our corporate worship AND the subject of excellence in our service to God.
The gospel truth in corporate worship:
When I plan worship I ask God what he wants to hear from his church. That’s my weekly prayer for our time of corporate worship. As a result, I have never repeated the same worship order since I’ve been planning worship at Harvest Church. It’s one way that I try to stay accountable to God in my obedience to lead our church in authentic, vibrant worship each week. We must be singing songs that are true and honoring to God. When possible I choose songs that are directly from scripture. For example, we love to sing As It Is In Heaven, a great song by Matt Maher and Ed Cash, that uses the Lord’s prayer as the main lyric. If the song is not specifically comprised of scriptural lyrics it must have a story or theme that is easily recognized as truth from scripture – it must be sound doctrine put to music!
Don’t be mediocre in worship:
One of the things that I have to be careful of is being too demanding or expecting too much from others who are involved with worship. As I reflect on the years that I’ve been leading worship I can honestly say that both of those things have happened, unfortunately. At times I have been too demanding and at times I have expected too much of those around me. However, my intention has always been to glorify God as a musician and a leader. I continue to believe that God deserves our very best and I desire to express worship in a way that is both excellent and skillful, hoping that others around me with embrace this and desire it as well.
Do I raise the bar too high? I don’t think so. Here are some examples from the Bible that address excellence and skill:
In Exodus we read about the building of the tabernacle; chapter 36, verse 1 says, “Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all the the Lord has commanded.” Notice the words ‘skill’ and ‘intelligence to know how’. Psalm 33:3 says, “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. 1 Chronicles 15:22 says, “Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it.” 2 Chronicles 15:21-22 says, “…and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with all their might to the Lord. And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord…”
The Psalmist says “how great are your works Lord” and again in Psalm chapter 33 we read that all the inhabitants of the world “stand in awe of Him”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can stand in awe of anything that is mediocre. My God is not mediocre, he’s awesome! God created everything with perfection because He is God. But, it was also done with excellence because He is God. I’m not able to acheive perfection (I’ve tried) but I can strive for excellence. We should all serve God with excellence in all we do. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Lastly, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand.” (Ephesians 2:10) Being created in God’s image prepares us to do things with excellence to honor him. We can do things of service and worship with excellence because he empowers us to do so; he is pleased when we offer our service with all our might and excellence. This might and excellence is not to be done out of selfishness – we gain nothing by trying to do things from our own human strength. But when we expect God to work through us, and we obediently allow this to happen, we can be confident that our desire for excellence is from God and that we can truly walk in these good and excellent works to worship him on a daily basis. -B.