Excellent Worship vs Worship Excellently

    You know the saying Let me put my thinking cap on? It’s all wrong. I’ve never had a thinking cap, yet have had great many thoughts and ideas. The origin of that phrase seems to be humorous and is the opposite of a Dunce cap – which is a very real thing, and I actually had to wear one many times in school.

    The better phrase is Let me take my thinking shower. That’s where I get most of my thoughts and ideas. And one chilly morning in Atlanta, while showering, is when I let my mind roam. I was remembering all the times I played in a worship team at various churches.

    I felt like overall, churches and worship teams fall into one of two groups: Excellent worship or Worship with excellence. There’s nuance to it and depending on how you look it, it can change your approach dramatically.

    I was remembering how, the previous Sunday, our small worship team made music. There were parts of songs that changed. The bassist had an idea for a part of a song and he played it. It sounded great!

    When I was practicing – really just worshiping at home with the setlist, I naturally played a walk up in a song. I took that idea to the band. The bassist as well. The rest of the band quickly followed along and, Boom! We made music. Something not on a track. We brought our gifts as an offering.

    I was contrasting it to other times when I played with other worship teams. Everything was to the track. There was no room for originality. It’s just turnkey worship.

    When you seek worship first and then strive to do it excellently, it is much more fun. But when you strive for excellent worship, it’s like Jesus typing into ChatGPT “Worship me”. There’s no soul.

    I think this is a huge problem and I feel like plenty of churches have set down that path of Excellent Worship. They are caught up in the lights, what the other mega church is doing down the street, or whatever Elevation is doing.

    And that’s when this picture came to me, that I think is accurate. Most mega churches look for a certain type of guitarist or musician. If a mega church was to put up a billboard looking for a new electric guitarist, what would it look like?

    Well, let’s look at the asks. In my experience, these were the “ground rules”.

    1. Church provides the Helix with all the presets loaded.

    As a guitarist, you are given presets. All the snapshots loaded onto the Helix and you just tap Chorus when you hear “Chorus” in your ears, and so on. When that’s done. On to the next song!

    This video is about 7 years old and is still a template for many churches. I don’t know the guy but he sure does assume, early on in that video, that his team is a bunch of time wasters.

    Paul Gilbert, in a recent podcast talked about how he teaches a new song to his band. He simply plays it for them and has a few pointers. This is because he respects them as musicians and knows they can pick up the parts.

    Another reason everyone in a kitchen is called Chef. It’s a professional courtesy. This is oftentimes missing in the church. Volunteers can’t be good, because they are volunteers.

    2. Guitars & In ears

    In ears have to be consistent. For a while I had bad hearing and was using headphones. This was frowned upon for it did not make a good YouTube video. Some churches do have tight control on what gear musicians should use. Even guitars, which are personal, are controlled by some churches – just so that the perfect tone that’s on the CD is achieved. Excellent worship.

    3. Music

    The music you play has to be to the track. There’s no room for playing anything else. If you are assigned Electric Guitar 1, and that part comes in at the 4 minute mark, then you just twiddle your thumbs till then. Because all the other guitar parts are on the track already.

    True story: I was the only electric guitarist and the intro guitar was on a track. The worship director asked me to “pretend to play the intro” so it doesn’t look weird. Excellent worship.

    4. Clothes

    In this, there is some merit. Yes, modesty, messaging, etc should be a thing the church enforces. But beyond that, by suggesting a “look” just for YouTube aesthetics is a step too far.

    What’s left, then? This is the ad we as the church might as well run.

    Where is our focus, then?

    Is excellence bad? No. In fact, of all the things in our lives, I think we should choose excellence in serving God first. We should want to do our best. We should be excited and motivated to work hard and offer up our best.

    It’s a perspective shift. The offering is not excellence. It is worship in excellence.

    For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

    I think we sometimes get caught up in the burnt offerings – it’s like the Fajitas at a Mexican restaurant. Full of sizzle and everyone turns to look at who the lucky guy is. Imagine the Fajitas weren’t cooked or were just horrible. Instead of chasing after the sizzle, let’s focus on the meat. The sizzle is a nice to have but never the focus.

    Posted by Conrad Abraham

    Hey there. I’m Conrad from Atlanta, Ga. I’ve a passion for worship, In fact, I’ve been worshiping before it was official – or before I accepted Jesus as the one true God and as my saviour.

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