What is Excellent Worship?

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praise worthy – think about such things.” Phil. 4:8

We spend considerable time in our AWEthentic Worship Experience conferences dispelling perfection but encouraging excellence.  We make the distinction because perfection implies that there is no more room for growth; excellence is always a work in progress.  It seems a fine line, but in actuality the line couldn’t be any bolder.  The pursuit of perfection is futile.  We can’t work our way to perfection.

Perfect is a gift of God, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” (Jas. 1:17)

Perfection belongs to God, not us, “…My [God’s] power is made perfect in weakness.” II Cor. 12:9

Only God can make us perfect through Jesus, “…because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

Part of the issue we run into as worship musicians is that we’ve been taught, “practice makes perfect.” But practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.  Practice makes permanent.  Practice a passage, a chord change, a line of lyrics, a riff or a harmony wrong and it will be performed wrong.

“Wait a minute, Joe!” you must be protesting by now, “you’re the one who said, ‘nit pickers are good and necessary; they get rid of lice eggs.'”

Recognized.  Paying attention to details is imperative, but excellence should never be sacrificed in the pursuit of perfection.  This side of Heaven we’re going to miss some detail somewhere along the way.  How do we walk the gauntlet then?  How do we keep our sanity while pursuing excellence but acknowledging  that we’re not perfect?

Here’s a great quote by Orel Hershiser in George Will’s book, Men at Work. It’s about pitching the a perfect baseball game (the quote paraphrased, because I can’t find my copy of Men at Work by George Will…yeh, yeh I know, details):

“When I step on the mound in the first inning I’m pitching the best perfect game ever pitched.  At that point, I’ve stuck out every batter.  Should I walk a batter, then I’m pitching the best one walk game ever.  Should a batter get a single, then I’m pitching the best one hit game ever.  Should a batter hit a home run, then I’m pitching the best one home run game ever.”

What a great concept.  At Worship Concepts we’ve coined the phrase, “redefining excellence.”  More on that in a later post.  For now I want to share an answer I gave once when asked what excellent worship was.  In all honesty, the question stumped me at first and my initial answer was, “…umm…eh…well…er…hmmm…” Yep, I have a way with the English language.  After admitting that I had never crafted a concise, repeatable definition of excellent worship I promised to do so and email it to the questioner.  I dutifully set about to do so and here was my eventual response:

Excellent worship is intentional, purposeful, thoughtful, primary, not easily distracted nor distracting from God’s glory, it reflects a grateful heart that was once dead and now beats for the One who is its Savior.  It is authentic, it sets captives free, it reveals an awesome God whose creation is magnificent, is primary, reflects the extravagant love of God through the undignified passion of those worshipping, is borne of truth and spirit, has it’s beginning-middle-end in YHWH, it delivers and heals and gives life, can’t be contained when two or more worshippers come together, it is overwhelming, always occurs in the presence of the One who deserves all praise, honor and glory.

It is consideration, reflection and expression of whatever is good and excellent and true.

PCA Christmas 2015 – Listening

Happy Hallelujah – PreK

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Ring Those Bells – PreK

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Happy Birthday, Jesus – K-2

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Unto You – K-2

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We Have a Savior – K-8

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Alleluia – 3-8

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Highest Praise – 3-8

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Kind – 3-8

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Light of the World – 3-8

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You Should Have Been There, It Was Epic

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” Job 38:1-5

From this point God goes on to chastise Job with pictures of creating the universe.    “Where were you when I measured the universe while a chorus of morning stars sang and angels shouted for joy?” “Where were you when I tricked-out the clouds?” “Have you seen the freakish stuff in the ocean depths?” “Have you seen my outrageous snow-machine?” “Have you seen my Van de Graaff generator for making lightning? It should be called the Van de Godd generator.”

For sure this is a rebuke from God in response to Job getting all up in His grill.  God had patiently listened to Job get all uppity about the injustice of his situation, albeit perceived injustice.  In essence God was saying, “Who are you to question me?”  It can sound like a rather caustic and abusive rebuke. “Man-up because I’m about to throw-down.”

But attributing such vindictiveness doesn’t reconcile completely with God’s character. It doesn’t align with God’s loving character in general or the character of God specifically toward Job revealed in the opening chapter of the book, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Sure, God may have finally had His fill of Job’s whining and accusations, but that doesn’t jive with God’s character, either.  God is infinite.  To think that man could test the limit of God’s patience is to think that man could also test the limit of God’s love.  That’s a non sequitur with The Infinite, The Beginning and The End.  I think that there’s another way to hear God’s words to Job.  I think that they can be heard with awe and wonder; one friend regaling another with tales of exploits past, a chum recounting adventures to the delight of his besty…

“Man-up, ’cause you’re not going to believe how it really went down!”

“Dude, you should have been there.  It was epic!”

“It was tricked out!”

“Absolute pownage!”

“I was en fuego; call me The Busdriver ’cause I took everyone to school!”

“The angels rocked out and even the morning stars threw down!”

“The whole time I kept thinking, ‘I wish Job was here. He would so dig this.'”

OK, it’s a paraphrase…maybe more than a paraphrase. But really, don’t you think God wants us to see amazing things?  Doesn’t He want us to experience the grandeur of His creation?  Don’t we rejoice when we experience the wonder of God?

And God didn’t stop His wonders after creating the universe.  He’s still driving the bus…He’s still en fuego…you know that He’s still buttah ’cause He’s still on a roll.  God is still all about The Epic!  And He wants you to be there for it.  What is He going to do today that He wants you to witness?  And then who does He want you to tell about it?  Who does God want you to regale with wondrous tales of yore and exploits to come?

As for my paraphrase, it’s not quite as far-fetched as we might think.  Jump ahead to the epilogue…

“After the Lord had said these things to Job, He said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has…my servant Job will pray for you and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.'” (Job 42:7-8) It seems that the one who got it right was Job who was willing to reveal himself to God so that God could in turn reveal Himself to Job.  The ones who truly suffered were the pious “friends” with the religious platitudes.  Job got to witness the wonders of God because He sought the wonders of God.

It must have been epic.

That’s why worship.