Two things we rarely “objectively” talk about are…. excellence and capacity.
It’s hard to be honest about someone’s lid (capacity) and even harder to judge someone’s excellence (good-ness) in worship.
Because… Christians can’t talk about this, it’s judgmental and harsh and rude and isn't faithfulness all that God really cares about... and anyway worship is supposed to be “all of life” and “everywhere and everything” and “spontaneous” and “heart-felt” and “pure” and “personal” and “sacred”, how dare we JUDGE it??? What is this, American Idol?? Don't you ever critique my worship... That kind of evaluative/judgmental talk has no place in the church….
….. or does it?
Why are we so afraid?
What if talking about excellence in worship didn’t have to be unspiritual or rude or scary?
I'm so thankful for Warren Jacobs, the first guy who lovingly judged my worship leadership. I'm passionate about this today because Warren told me God cares about my excellence.
Psalm 33:3 says, “Sing a new song to the Lord, play skillfully before Him, and shout for joy.”
Play skillfully literally means, “To do well in playing music, showing expertise.”
Nehemiah had the best musicians play at the Dedication of the Wall. I wonder if some Israelites walked away saying, “Ah, too much production for me. A little showy. That harp solo didn’t really do it for me.”
It’s like we want Christian stuff to be good, but not that good.
I remember seeing an interview with the guy who designs and runs lights for Hillsong. The interviewer asked him how he took criticism when people called his light work “too showy”. In the humblest tone he responded, “At the end of the day, I’m a follower of Christ, and I happen to love lights and He’s gifted me to be really good at lights. So, as an act of worship, I’m going to offer Jesus my best when I do what I do. I’ve never thought of it being showy, I just think about it as my act of worship.”
Can you imagine telling a preacher, “Hey man, your preaching is getting a little too good, can you dial it back?” Seems crazy.
But the question remains, what is excellence in corporate worship?
I’ll give you four thoughts:
1. EXCELLENCE = AUTHENTICITY
Be you. Really. Don’t go out and buy different clothes and in your heart call them your “stage clothes”. That goes for suits too… Or jeans… or cool shoes... or whatever…
Don’t get on stage wearing a costume. This isn’t Halloween, this is Holy Ground.
Practically, in music, don’t try to be acoustic folk if you’re not. Don’t try and be Hillsong power ballads if you’re not, don’t try to be Kim Walker if you’re not…. that’s not your gifting.
Do what you do well, and lead your people to authentically follow you. We change songs all the time because different singers have different strengths. Lean into your strengths and be who God created you to be.
If you’re horrible at talking on stage, don’t talk. Just smile. If you’re gifted at sharing between songs, then bless the church and share.
I’ll say it again. We need you to be you. And we need you to work on your gifting and grow in your gifting, but the first sign of un-excellent, lame, corporate worship is when everyone is following a script that doesn’t fit who they are.
2. EXCELLENCE = DISTRACTIONLESS
Can we be honest about your transitions? I know your heart is pure, but you're making my heart impure by the awkward silence around every change in the service.
Think ahead, plan ahead, serve the church by creating service flows that keep everyone’s heart and mind and eyes on Jesus.
Do you know the words to the songs? Are the words you're projecting on the screen the right words for the song? Have you even checked?
Can we all just decide what the third verse of Jesus Paid It All really is… are we “laying trophies down” or “Jesus died my soul to save…”
Have you planned the order of the songs or are you just “following the Spirit”? Because while you are following the Spirit, with your eyes closed in personal worship, the guy running Pro-Presenter or Power-Point hates you. Help him out. Plan. The Spirit can lead you on Thursday, not just in the moment.
And if you do this well, the Spirit-led moments have way more power.
Don’t let the crowd get distracted by shoddy ministry. Help the church keep their eyes on Jesus.
3. EXCELLENCE = WORD-CENTERED
If we worship at your church, can we get saved?
Do you sing songs about the saving power of Christ, the worth of Christ, and holiness of Christ, and does your preacher offer a proclaimed message that could lead to you having a different eternity when you walk out… not just a better you?
Are we reading the Word of God, responding to the Word of God, singing truths from the Word of God, sitting under the Word of God, being challenged and encouraged and hurt and healed by the teaching of the Word of God?
Or… is it “Word-less”. Word-less worship is worthless worship.
Excellent program without the word of God is not excellent. It’s exhausting. It’s performance-based righteousness. And that’s not worship at all.
4. EXCELLENCE = LEADERSHIP
The WSU football coach, Mike Leach, has a saying plastered all through their coaches' offices that reads, “You’re either coaching it, or letting it happen.”
Excellence looks like someone taking responsibility for everything I just mentioned. Is someone going to make it a priority to be authentic, distraction-less, and word-centered? Or… are we going to continue to let embarrassing worship services happen under our watch?
Someone needs to give a vision for your corporate gathering. Someone needs to give direction for your gathering. Someone needs to love the gathering and lead the gathering. Someone needs a check-list and a fire in their bones about the gathering.
Without humble, faithful leadership, excellence won’t happen. You need a worshipper to be a leader in the planning process.
A FEW QUESTIONS TO ASK:
Are we being authentic to God’s calling and gifting on our lives? Is this us? Are we pretending or imitating?
Were there distractions in our service last weekend? What do we need to change for those to be eliminated?
Are the Worship Leader and the Pastor pushing forward the same biblical principle? Is the Word central to worship? Really?
Does someone know they are in charge of leading this effort towards excellence?