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.

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