Worship as Musical Excellence

As someone who spends a majority of my week working with music and worship teams at a local church, I’m in a constant battle to value community over excellence. This isn’t to say that excellence in music for the sake of communal worship doesn’t have a place, it’s just never my end goal.

The church growth/seeker sensitive model of church has always focused on us providing a sacrifice of excellence, which often trumps a reliance on the Spirit. This subtly teaches a works righteousness mentality where we come closer to God through our own perfection. It also breeds selfish behaviors where true worship is reflective of what individuals deem it to be rather than a heart captivated by God.

If worship is truly not about us, then our focus on excellence is in the way of a truly worshipful connection with God. If excellence, from a human standpoint, has a limited role in worship then it should also be said that our disagreements over style, song choice, and volume have absolutely no role either. If worship is truly not about us, then worship is always what we can call a subversive act in our culture.

This subversion away from excellence and selfishness, toward communal worship through the Trinity, is the shift we need in today’s worship understanding. A quote I always come back to, from Marva Dawn, talks about this:

“The focus (during worship) was on us, instead of on God and what he reveals. Such worship fosters the basic perspective that faith depends on how well we notice God’s glory, rather than on the gift of God’s revelation that God’s grace enables us to receive.”

While I don’t think this changes much for what churches do for corporate worship, it should shift our focus toward engaging in the worship taking place between Father and Son through the Spirit, rather than pursuing excellence for the sake of sounding good for God and impressing the unbeliever. Our worship is ultimately sustained, not in human effort or musical quality, but in God.

Instead of focusing on musical performance and excellence, worship should help foster an environment that builds the communal body together in order to reflect more of God as we worship.