Pursuing Excellence Part 1 - Leftovers, Laziness, and Giving Our Best
NOTE: This blog is part of a series called “Pursuing Excellence.” Stay tuned for lessons on learning why accuracy matters, how to emulate guitar tone, and memorizing songs for Sunday morning!
When it comes to giving our best in worship, everybody seems divided.
Some hear this phrase and think of leaders cracking the whip or asking the team to be something they’re not. Others think that simply showing up is the most important part and then the plan is to let God do the rest.
The result? A wonky view of why and how to give our best in worship.
Because of this view, people often fall into one of two buckets: The people-pleasing perfectionist or the passive personality.
The perfectionist practices for hours. He or she lives in fear of letting others down, and views Sunday morning as a performance.
For the passive personality, rehearsal is a social hour. They are the quintessential fast-learner. So, in turn, they don’t need to prepare because they’ve been doing this for years. In their mind, it's quite simple: worship isn’t about the music, it’s about the Lord.
Now, most of us can look at these two types of people and see the gaps in logic.
For one, the gospel frees us from needing to prove ourselves. We never need to perform for the Lord- that just isn’t worship.
But what about Mr. Passive Personality? The things that they say sound right, but it never sat quite right with me.
Until I read this passage:
“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: ‘A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master… You have shown contempt for my name … by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar.’ Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?’ ‘You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect… Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?’” (Malachi 1:6-9, edited for clarity).
The Old Testament is crazy, right?
In the book of Malachi, the people of God have been disrespecting God by failing to offer their best. Instead of sacrificing the animals who they value, they’re sacrificing animals who are defiled by disease or physical abnormalities. The logic here is simple: this type of sacrifice saves cost! Animals get sick all the time. Who has the time to make it to the temple anyways?
But here’s the thing- they’re revealing in their hearts that God is not worthy of the most valuable things they have to offer. They gave their leftovers and saved the best for themselves.
In present day Christianity there (thankfully) isn’t a requirement of animal sacrifice.Yet, I believe there still is a call for us to continue to give our greatest to a worthy and almighty God. However, the truth is that for some of us, it costs very little to follow Christ in the setting where we live and worship. So my question is, how is it any less disrespectful to offer God anything less than our best? Why do we hold back from offering God the best that we have?
Someone on a worship team needs to hear this next part…
When we make excuses, treat rehearsal with little respect, and put in minimal effort, our hearts are no better than the priests in the above passage. Instead, we keep the best of our time, energy, and effort for things other than serving the Lord. And guess what? It shows.
Please don’t misunderstand me - we shouldn’t seek excellence in worship in place of our primary call to be excellent family members, friends and workers.
And thank God we have Jesus Christ, the most worthy and perfect sacrifice to cover where we massively fall short. But I will contend that showing our reverence for God by offering him the best of our abilities, our time and our lives is the natural response in gratitude for what he’s done! How can we not give our best in worship?
So...HOW do we do it? Where do we start? Can this all be answered with a whole lot of prayer or a guitar lesson?
Over the next few months, we’re going to spend some time learning how to pursue excellence. From the practical to the mundane, we’ll learn how to serve on a worship team that witnesses to the holiness, incomparable creativity, and excellence of the Lord.
Stay tuned next time for Part 2: Why Learn It Like The Record?