One of the best statements I’ve ever heard concerning worship goes like this: “Quit spiritualizing your laziness.” Pace Hartfield spoke these words when he was at our SEEDS Conference earlier this year and it confirmed what I’ve been thinking about for several years now. Why wouldn’t we always bring our best effort every single time we hit the stage for worship?
Tell me if you’ve heard these statements before:
“Let’s don’t rehearse too much - we want the Holy Spirit to have room to work.”
“We don’t want this to be a performance...”
“It’s just worship...”
One thing I learned from being on the road for more than 20 years and performing nearly 5000 concerts is that you either “wow” the crowd or you leave them shrugging their shoulders. “Wow” them and they’ll buy a ticket the next time you come through town. Leave them underwhelmed and you can cross that market off your next touring schedule. And if you string together enough poorly performed shows it’s guaranteed that your record sales will drop and your ticket sales will dry up. To stay viable in the music industry you have to learn to “Bring It!” night after night. Yet when it comes to worship there’s a prevailing attitude that “just good enough” is ok for church. It’s no wonder that the church has lagged behind in the arts.
Before I ever approve a singer or musician for our worship team I explain to them that we are going to work hard every week to bring our church an amazing worship experience. We’ll rehearse until we get it right and I’ll expect no less than a maximum effort every time we hit the stage. They’ll be evaluated and pushed toward excellence constantly. And if I ever see that they are mailing it in I’ll sit them down immediately. As you would expect, a lot of people bow out at this point. They are not willing, or more fair, able to give this kind of effort week in and week out.
Seem a little harsh for church? It’s just worship, right? Let me ask you this question: does God deserve “ok”? We’ve changed the culture of our worship department over time (this is NOT an overnight fix) and have begun to stock our teams with people who understand the concept of excellence. Once the attitude was successfully changed we began to attract players and singers who couldn’t wait to be a part of something special. It’s amazing how quality attracts quality.
I strongly encourage my team members each week to “Bring it!” when they hit the stage. Most weekends we do 20-25 minutes of music, which in the big picture of things is a really short amount of time. The challenge is to focus on every word, note and phrase; to work hard to communicate the story and passion of each song; to be exhausted emotionally after each service, knowing that you gave everything you had to lead your church in worship and to honor God with the best you had to give.
In the following weeks I will post blogs on the earlier statements that permeate so many worship teams...