Let me ask you a question you may have never expected me to ask… Does it matter that we, as we serve on the worship team, do so skillfully? I know there are those who, if they were asked to sing, the immediate reply would be, “you don’t want me to sing!” I’m not talking about those situations. I mean, for those of us who have some level of ability, how much is good enough?
If you’ve been around the church (in general) long enough you’ve probably heard those words uttered. Some of the most likely suspects are those who sing “special music” for a church service. They aren’t professionals and most are not seeking to show off their skillfulness. I’ve literally heard the phrase out of many mouths, “…it’s good enough for church”. Now, I understand what they are attempting to communicate. However, it begs the question, what is “good enough for church”? And, why are things offered in service at church acceptable by such a lower standard than other places?
Working with what we’ve got
I am also aware that, as many “special music” singers have noted, the church is not usually full of professional artists and performers. We are every-day, normal people. Whoever is in our local church are the ones who are available to us. We graciously and thankfully accept whoever God has brought together in that body of believers. But that doesn’t seem to give a satisfactory answer to me. What is “good enough for church”? The word excellence scares many people. As soon as they hear that word, it seems people get intimidated. Excellence feels like a bar set far too high to reach. I wonder, how many people confuse excellence with perfection? You see, perfection is not the goal. Perfection isn’t attainable for any one of us. Excellence, however, is! Excellence is simply doing your best with what you have.
Wait, can I do that again
Psalm 33:3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
It’s a very well-known verse. But I want to point a couple things out that this verse tells us. It says, “play skillfully”. It’s plainly obvious that it does not say “play well enough”. Why is this? Music can be beautiful and stirring, but done poorly, it is painful and distracting. The same can be said for the production elements we serve with (Sound system and Video projection). If we are not skillful, we can literally turn something that otherwise would be helpful into something that is a hinderance. The word translated as skillful literally means “to go well with, to do good, do well, to be agreeable”. Notice this verse doesn’t prescribe what should be played skillfully. Whether it’s one stick beating a drum to sing with, a contemporary band, or an orchestra, all the players must play skillfully for the music to be “well” and “agreeable”. We’ve all heard it, when the congregation starts clapping to a song and there are always those few who, try as they might, can not clap in time with everyone else! When that happens with musicians or singers in a band setting, the result is what we refer to as a “train wreck”. Everyone is playing/singing, but no one is playing/singing together.
This can happen outside of a group setting also. Let’s go back to our “special music” example. How many of us have heard that person who wanted to share a song with the church to bless and to edify, only to stand up before the church unprepared? More than once I’ve heard singers ask for the music to be restarted because they missed their cue or forgot the words. Now, I know mistakes happen. However, sometimes it’s purely attributed to not preparing. Not spending enough time rehearsing. Not giving enough to becoming skillful.
This hurts my ears!
The second half of that sentence says, “…with a loud noise.” A lot has been said about volume in church. It’s one of those issues that you can be assured of hearing about at least a few times a year. I find it interesting though, that when we look at the original words used here, volume is key! The Pulpit Commentary states, “The loudness of a thanksgiving song was regarded as an indication of its heartiness (comp. Ps. 98:4; 100:1; 150:5; and see also 2 Chron. 20:19; 30:21; Ezra 3:11–13; Neh. 12:42).”
I find that interesting. No one is attempting to be obnoxious or physically damaging, but loudness, scripturally, is equated with the heartiness with which we mean what we are singing/playing. Don’t get worried, we won’t be trying to institute running at higher decibel levels. However, we should be fully investing ourselves in our musical offerings…offering heartiness.
So back to my original question, does it matter if we serve with skillfulness?
How have a I thought about “playing skillfully” in the past?
How might my thoughts on skillfulness change?
What do I think may be obstacles or challenges in becoming more skillful?
If I’m being honest, do I tend to “do just enough” or do I “do my best with what I have”?
Do I heartily offer my talent/skill?
Could I heartily offer more if I raised my skillfulness?