My wife and I recently had the privilege of attending WorshipGod11, a praise & worship conference hosted by Sovereign Grace. It was a great time of worshiping God among 2000 or so other people who were all (mostly) involved in music. So as you can image the praise & worship music was excellent! There were also many practical application sessions that taught various topics like vocal technique, team organization, song selection and even some techie topics like sound equipment and stage volume. The amount of good, solid teaching was overwhelming and Bob Kauflin said during the last session of the conference to NOT take everything home and try to implement it all at once. We are however going to begin trying some of the things we learned. Not just because they are cool or neat, but because we are called in scripture to excellence.
Called to Excellence
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
So in whatever we do, including leading music on Sunday morning, we should do it in the name of the Lord Jesus. Does that really call us to excellence though? For me it does. If you understand who Jesus is, who God is, the one who created everything by His very word [Genesis 1:1], the one by whom all things are held together [Colossians 1:17] then it should change your perspective about just who you are worshiping. This isn’t the president of the United States we are singing to, this is the God of the universe! We should present the very best that we can possibly muster to honor this awesome being.
In addition to the magnitude of who we are worshiping, we should also remember what He has done. The NIV translation of the bible has headings over certain sections. Above the Colossians section quoted above is the label, “Living as Those Made Alive in Christ.” We have been made alive! We were dead in our sins and Christ died [John 3:16] and was raised from the dead [Romans 8:11] so that we could live, all because He loves us. This awesome, magnificent, holy God is also a personal God who loves you. We should offer our very best to Him because of His great love for us and the gratitude that should generate in our hearts.
So What Is Excellence?
“Excellence is the process of becoming better than I once was. I’m not to become better than someone else or even like someone else. Excelling is simply, and radically, the process of improving over yesterday…”
Dean – Wheaton College Conservatory of Music
I like Harold Best’s description here because it boils excellence down to a journey, not a finish line. Excellence is not being the best guitarist in your church. It is not that you can sing for the opera or a pop album or play the piano like Vladimir Horowitz. It may include all or some of those things, but probably not. When we start comparing our skills and talents to those of other people we begin to judge. It may be ourselves that we are judging or the other people, but in either case it can lead to non-edifying thoughts and behaviors. If we are going to compare ourselves to anyone it should be to Christ. In that scenario the only outcome is to realize how vast the difference is, how great is the grace extended to us and to start moving down the road to being more Christ-like.
Wait a minute, Christ played the guitar!? I don’t have an actual scriptural reference to confirm or deny that, but I’m sure if the devil did go down to Georgia and challenge Jesus to a music duel there would be no contest. I think the point I’m trying to make is that whether it is in playing or singing skillfully, knowing the word of God, loving others as ourselves, being generous or being thankful – whatever the case – we should always be moving towards becoming better than we once were.