Playing With Excellence, Part 2: How?

Written by ryan on
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From Part 1, we've learned that we play with excellence because of our unique gifting, unique calling, and unique desire for our congregations to meet with God.  Now for a bit on how to step up to the challenge.

In God's great wisdom and grace, He chooses to equip us such that we enjoy the ride in service to His Kingdom.   However, while our giftedness makes what we do enjoyable, it doesn't necessarily make it easy.  We have to work at refining our skills, expanding our repertoire, and broadening our palettes.  We have to rehearse.  We have to pre-rehearse.  Every week.

As a skilled musician, my great temptation is to skip the preparation part and simply sit on what I can already do well.  Sure, I can sneak by, but I'm only doing harm in the end.  Under this framework, I would simply coast, and a boat never coasts upstream.  I would never sharpen my skills or refine my gifts.  It would be like burying treasures to no gain (Matthew 25:14-30) or hiding a light under a bowl (Matthew 5:14-16).  Instead, we need to freely offer what we have, no matter the how great or how humble the gift (Mark 12:41-44).

This is where is gets touchy - like, on the people-level.  On one hand, a church and all of its ministries should be open and inviting to all people who feel called to serve in that way.   Spiritual growth is likely a part of every church's vision, and serving in a ministry can actually invite great spiritual growth in the one serving.  Also, most churches rely heavily on its volunteers, so if somebody is offering their gifts, it's probably a good idea to let that person serve (1 Peter 4:10, 1 Corinthians 12:7-8).  However, the functional word here is "gift".

There is a discernment process that's absolutely necessary in order to decipher between an ability and a gift.  Between a desire and a calling.  When a church is fueled by desire-driven volunteers, its effectiveness is stunted.  But when it serves with servants propelled by giftedness, there is no limit to what God can do.  The 1 Corinthians passage above goes on to say that we can't all be prophets or teachers.  Though some of us might have a desire to teach, it doesn't necessarily mean that we are gifted to do so.  The same is true for offering music in church, and it's up to you and your church's staff to help discern if you have that gift.

Implicit in this passage is that God does, in fact, have a place for all of his children to use their gifts effectively in ministering to the world.  That's good news!  Perhaps an audition clarifies that you're not quite ready to serve on the worship team.  Maybe you play Sunday after Sunday, and something just feels a bit off for you.  Or, perhaps you're consistently receiving feedback that might suggest your gifting is elsewhere.  The good news is that God has promised that we are each gifted to serve somewhere (1 Corinthians 12:4-6), and it's an exciting time of discovery to find where God is calling us!

I'll carry this theme forward in another post on knowing your gifts, but be encouraged that if you are in Christ, you have been given at least one gift to serve Him somewhere.  If we truly love Jesus, He asks us to die to ourselves that we could be free to truly care for His people (John 21:15-19).  Jesus, then, asks Peter to follow Him.  Are we willing and humble enough to drop our desire-driven pursuits of service in order to find His Spirit-fueled calling?

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What do you think? Keep the conversation going below...

Quite a few years ago I watched a worship "how to" video put out by The Vineyard.   At that time, they were the hot bed of contemporary worship "theory" and music.   The lead instructor suggested that more than anything, the leader and band needed to be "obvious and followable".

Of course, it was assumed they generally played the right notes and sang within acceptable pitch range to not mislead the congregation.   After all, we wouldn't expect to tap a preacher who doesn't adequately understand or teach the Bible.   However, the "obvious and followable" standard allows for quite a lot of variety in who leads the music portion of worship.   Is a pretty voice needed, or the ability to finger pick?   I don't think so.   Can they sing on pitch and accurately strum the chords so the congregation can participate?   Then I think God clears them for service.

At Central, we are fortunate to have many choices when deciding who leads each Sunday and there is a wealth of excellence by virtually any standard one would apply.   So, we choose carefully.   I also think God permits us to apply a higher standard, because we are able to do so.    

As you have alluded in  past posts, I think God expects us to be mindful in this filtering process always asking whether we are excluding or choosing because we are honoring God and not some artificial condition which stokes our pride.