I remember hearing a Pastor talk about the expectations of people coming to church for the very first time. He said, “They really are expecting to see Jesus. Imagine their disappointment when all they see is us.”
Well said. But it seems like our knee-jerk response is “excellence.” Raise the bar. Take your worship team to the next level.
Honestly, I think worship team training has reached saturation level. There are worship musician and vocalist tutorials, courses, conferences, seminars, workshops, workbooks, DVDs, etc. seemingly at every turn. Don’t get me wrong. That can be a very good thing. But it can also turn sideways quickly. It all depends on the motive.
Has anyone really asked the “why” question? Why excellence? Why raise the bar? Why take your team to the next level? Yes, I know the pat answers. “Because God deserves our best.” “God creates with excellence and so should we.” On and on. But let’s not be afraid of the deeper “why.” Are we really doing it to glorify God? Or are we doing it to compete with the church down the street? Or worse, to feed our own vanity?
I think it all boils down to one thing: People are coming to see Jesus. Our most important job as worship leaders is to get out of the way. Yes, poorly-executed, poorly-planned, badly-played and badly-sung songs are a distraction. So are overblown, over-produced, over-hyped and over-scripted worship sets and teams.
A quote from A.W. Tozer from over 50 years ago still rings true today. In the book “Whatever Happened To Worship” (compiled from his sermon series in the 1960s, shortly before his death) Tozer said,
God calls us to worship, but in many instances we are in entertainment, just running a poor second to the theaters…I don’t mind telling you that most of the people we say we are trying to reach will never come to a church to see a lot of amateur[s]…putting on a home talent show.
Ouch. But it’s true. As excellent as we try to be, most of us run a very poor second to the touring band and the concert at the arena last weekend. Or the thousands of incredible musicians and concerts available on YouTube within a few clicks. In the end, all we really have of lasting value is Jesus. Himself.
A few years ago at a worship conference, I heard Brian Doerksen talk about one of his special needs children. In worship settings, Brian relayed that his son would often turn to him and say,
Daddy, do you see Jesus? I do. He’s right over there.
In Matthew 11, Jesus prayed, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”
If only we could see through the eyes of a special needs child. And really see Him.