I’m sure the title of this blog-post will make some uncomfortable. There is a fear within many churches that pursuing excellence in any one area will result in something that is all about us and not about God. There is the idea going around that somehow us putting in lots of effort stunts our reliance on God. Now of course this is a risk. I am sure we can all think of examples of worship settings where we have felt more like we were being entertained rather than offering praise and worship to the God of the universe. How do we find the balance and avoid these traps? Is excellence even important?
This thought process has been bubbling around in my head for a while now. It started with the unshakable thought that excellence is really important. It was not something I felt I could articulate well however. It was only when I started to wrestle with this idea that the questions and answers began to present themselves.
Within the world of business the idea that excellence is important would be seen as a no brainer. For many companies it is the difference between a good product and a great product. Within the church we find a slightly more complicated dynamic involved. There is something about worship that is really hard to measure. It is most obviously seen when someone who is not technically brilliant leads a really powerful/intimate/transforming set of worship. This is where we state that worship is about the heart, not the skill. Nothing much to disagree with there. God cares about the condition of our heart way more than the dexterity of our fingers on a fret board.
And yet when we look to the bible we do seem to find a pattern of pursuing excellence throughout. David, perhaps the most famous worship leader, speaks of playing skillfully for God. The builders and craftsmen who built the temples in the Old Testament were to be the very best in their industry, men selected specifically. Their role was so important that one of the first people to be filled with the Holy Spirit was a craftsman working on the tabernacle. Within the bible there is a sense that people really did want to offer their absolute best to God. Nothing less than their best would do.
A heart after God, wants to present the very best to him, even though it will never match his greatness or goodness. It is not about striving to prove something but the natural fruit of being in love. It is all about being faithful with what you are given. Not every worship leader will be the next Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman, and ultimately that has never been Gods plan. Excellence is not measured by skill level but by attitude. The important thing is that we are faithful to the gifts and strengths we have been given. The parable of the ‘talents’ explains this wonderfully. It also shows us that there are actually real consequences for anyone who does not make best use of the things God has given them to invest. I know I feel challenged by the idea that God is looking for a return on his investment! Am I pursuing excellence in the areas God has put on my heart? Challenging indeed and yet I find the whole topic intriguing, I really do want to give God my best, whether it is in worship or other areas of life.
Heart is always the most important, but heart plus a pursuit of excellence is an explosive combination!
Whilst contemplating all of this I came across this video from worship central, which fuelled my thinking and I think summarises it really well.