We tend to tolerate mediocre talent in worship because it’s “only church.”
Since it is an offering to God and church people are supposed to be categorically nice people, we tend to overlook a lack of proficiency. We tend to say that God sees the heart. I could not agree with you more, but we misunderstand what even the word “heart” means. In biblical times, the heart was not the warm and fuzzy organ of the body. The heart was the base of operations for decision-making capabilities within the body. The heart didn’t feel what to do; the heart decided what to do. God does see the heart, and if we fail to make up our minds to give our absolute best, he sees that absolutely clearly.
“Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; sing praises to him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy. For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness” (Ps 33:1-4).
This psalm indicates that righteous people are called to sing praise. Worship leaders must first focus on being righteous before being proficient. Being righteous involves exhibiting both humility and integrity. Additionally, this passage indicates that competence should accompany this type of righteousness.
Musicians are expected to offer their skills to the LORD. In worship environments, it is imperative that singers and musicians lead skillfully at their craft. Why? The psalmist explains that the word of the LORD is upright.
If worship teams are called to declare the truth and goodness of God, they better do it in the best possible manner that they can.
He is deserving of the best we can offer. Unfortunately, the pages of the Bible and the chronicles of our lives tell a completely alternative story. Instead of offering God our best, we often present to him our leftovers. Having already given away everything quantifiably substantive to every other idol in our lives, we simply have nothing left but scraps to offer to the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
The LORD rejected Cain’s offering and accepted his brother Abel’s offering. It wasn’t the type of the offering given but the quality of the offering given in that Abel offered his first – his best to the LORD (Gen 4:3-4; Heb 11:4). Haggai noticed that people had plenty of time and money to spend on their houses but nothing left to spend on God’s house (Hag 1:4). The prophet Malachi rebuked the worship leaders of his day for offering their lame and sick animals to the LORD knowing good and well they would never offer such a pitiful gift to any person and yet they offered it none other than God himself (Mal 1:8, 13-14). In fact, God said he would rather have closed the doors to the temple and skipped worship than have them present him their contemptible offerings (Mal 1:10).
After King David had sinned greatly in the pride department (2 Sam 24:10), he wanted to make things right. He was led to assemble an altar at a specific place owned by a man named Araunah (2 Sam 24:18). When Araunah saw King David approaching, he offered his majesty not only the floor to make the sacrifice but also the animals for the sacrifice (2 Sam 24:22). While David could have easily accepted this offer, his response teaches us something significant regarding worship: “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24).
How should worship teams apply this truth? Our worship assemblies are significant gatherings, and we should never just try to “get by” in our offerings. Every musician ought to work at his or her craft. Just because you have natural talent does not mean that you should continue to lead on last year’s skills. In offering worship to God and calling people to join in with us, we should never get lazy or stagnate. God gets glory when we work hard with what he has given us (Col 3:23). Our offerings should cost us something!
Work at it, because he is worth it.
Worship leading starts with the heart, but the skills are pivotal as well. Many worship leaders apply little effort to their craft. In fact, if they took the amount of work that they put into their worship leading and applied it to their marriages, schooling, and careers, they would end up divorced, suspended, and fired.
Inability is a killer of negligence that reveals to God and your congregation how little you make of worship.