There’s a tension that I have faced in ministry ever since I started playing on a worship team at age 15. The tension is encompassed in, and sometimes created by the pursuit of excellence.
The word excellence by itself seems like something we would all like to have more of. Think of 3 things you do well. Would you not like to be “excellent” at those things?
I have seen 2 different positions expressed by worship team members surrounding the idea of excellence.
We are doing this for God’s glory. It has to be as prepared, polished, non-distracting, and as perfect sounding as we can possibly make it. Each worship team member is expected to be as prepared as they can possibly be. We work hard, and pray a bit.
We don’t have the ability to change lives, God does the work. People have busy lives, sometimes too busy to practice but what’s important is the heart of the person. We’re just glad they’re serving in spite of the many responsibilities they have to juggle. We pray hard, and work a bit.
You might find yourself on one position or the other. During my time in ministry I have found myself bouncing back and forth between the two positions and hardly ever finding the sweet spot between the two. There are moments when I try to uphold Position 1 but after the 4th band member has shown up 20 minutes late for rehearsal AND only 1 person has practiced their parts that week I can feel myself starting to lose it. In those moments I want to scream Position 1 at them. Am I right to do so?
Other times we start in to practice. Most of the band is prepared and all that’s left is to pull all the musical pieces together. But something feels off and after stopping and asking the team if anyone was feeling “off” that week you find out the bass player is “just not feeling like they’re in a good place spiritually.” Is that the time to get back to practice and not waste everyone’s preparation or is it time to surround that individual and pray for them?
On paper there are some good things and bad things about both of these positions. But the thing you need to remember when you are leading people is that PEOPLE are not PAPER. People have struggles, burdens, short-comings, and inconsistencies. And people can also achieve great things on their own and especially when they are led well. If you are in Christian leadership your primary concern should be helping those you are leading become better disciples of Jesus. Becoming better musicians is secondary.
A disciple who is a musician will view his/her musical abilities as a gift from God that can be used to bring Him glory. They will find joy in doing their best for God. It will become their “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12) and not just an obligation. Their goal will be to make Jesus famous (John 3:30) and they will prepare their own hearts for that in prayer and eagerly join in as the team prays together and asks God to work.
Don’t be overbearing on your musicians when they aren’t prepared. They will just begin to resent you. Find out what’s on their heart. Point them to God’s truth. Instruct them gently and speak words of encouragement to them.
Don’t ignore the preparation of your team to frequently stop and pray. They will begin to think that their practice time doesn’t matter and they might assume you haven’t practiced or prayed about this at all yourself. Teach them to rely on prayer in their own lives and model for them a desire to ask God to be glorified by everything you do.
Lead the way. Everyone thought John the Baptist was a pretty big deal. Maybe people will think the same of you. But John pointed people to Jesus, and that is our primary responsibility.