This Article will appear in an upcoming Lifeway publication but I thought I might share it here. Enjoy….
PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE
By Mike Speck
The Olympic games have always been fascinating to me. Every four years countries of the world send their finest athletes to compete for the “Gold”. I remember the old days as the judges held up the white cards with a number on it, signifying their rating of an individual’s execution of a dive, a vault, or some other athletic competion. There were always lots of fives, sixes, and sevens on the card. Rarely do I remember seeing a person receive a “10” – the score of perfection. I have often wondered how you or I, as worship leaders, might rate if we were put to this kind of rating system? On second thought, let’s not think about that!
If I had only one opportunity to share a word to those in ministry, it would be to encourage each of us to pursue excellence. I truly believe every worship leader, choir member, and musician has within them a deep desire to be useful vessels for our Lord. We all want to make a difference… in the end, to have “mattered,” and to “finish well.” Let me share three simple things that have helped me.
1. Pursue excellence in our personal journey.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
This Scripture reveals the 4 major areas that each of us must chase in our quest for excellence: mental, physical, spiritual and social. In short, we all need to be stretched, challenged, willing to adapt (not compromise) and change for the sake of the Kingdom. Remember our race is a marathon… not a sprint. We can never, ever stop growing in knowledge and wisdom. We must keep on asking… keep on seeking… keep on knocking (Matt. 7:7). We are dead-in-the-water if we don’t have a healthy, vibrant, intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father… and we will be less effective in life if we fail to better hone our social skills and human relationships.
Tyrese Gibson, upon accepting his 2012 Trumpet Award said something I have never been able to get away from, “I want to show up being the best version of me that I can be. You can’t get points today for yesterday’s game – so every single day I am on a mission to be bigger, better and closer to God.”
2. Pursue excellence in our position in ministry
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord.”
Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation, he replied, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.” We who lead the music portion of worship are vital to the local church but we play “second fiddle”. We are the harmony! In our pursuit of excellence, we must remember that we are always subordinate to the main shepherd of the flock: our senior pastor. That is not always an easy thing. One more thought: to be successful and effective in a local church, we must know its history and personality: it’s DNA. As worship leaders, we’d better be careful about cutting into the DNA of the style or the “order of things” too quickly. I was interviewing Travis Cottrell about this subject and he said, “Many worship leaders are standing on the other side of the river from the congregation, motioning for everyone to come over to their side…when the leader should go across the river to where the people are, take them by the hand and lead them gently to Jesus.” Serving our Lord is not about our personal preferences in music or manner of dress and/or appearance. It isn’t about what we personally like or want. Oooh, did I really say that? Our pursuit of excellence is tied directly to becoming humble servants to the church family: leading worship through love and inspiration, rather than arrogance and intimidation.
3. Pursue excellence in our presentation of music
We must always strive to raise the bar of quality in our singers and musicians. We must never settle for mediocrity or doing enough “just to get by”. We should never be satisfied with half the congregation engaged in worship. One of my favorite verses is II Chronicles 2:29.
“And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued…”
I believe our task as worship leaders is to present (and offer) God-anointed, spirit-filled moments of worship that will give the congregation the opportunity to walk in Heavenly places. You see, my brothers (and sisters)… worship is not taught as much as it is caught. Give me a choir that’s ablaze with passion, well-prepared and ready to sing with all their heart, and something wonderful is bound to happen! It’s hard work to present all we do with excellence. It costs much, but oh, the difference it makes!
I leave you with this thought…
”Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 “LET’S GO FOR THE GOLD” A few more days to run, my friends, and the race will be over…and at the finish line…to hear “WELL DONE.”