The “E” Word in Worship

Excellence.

I have a love/hate relationship with that word. To me, it doesn’t sound biblical. It isn’t a warm, fuzzy, faith word. And yet, when we gather together as the Body of Christ in worship, we are called to bring our best to God. We are called to worship as a response to God’s saving love. I once was lost, and now I’m found; and when we respond to that amazing grace we are called to do so with all that we are and all that we have! Fully. Without abandon. And God does not deserve our left-overs or tired attempts.

It was Bill Hybels who first said that “excellence honors God and inspires people.”  We are called to bring our best. Unprepared music, out-of-touch preaching, thoughtless hospitality, and poorly coordinated media are certainly NOT the best we can give to God. And they won’t inspire people with the life-changing message of Jesus.

I find 3 reasons that our worship services are not excellent:

  1. We are all too busy. Sunday is never more than 6 days away. With limited time and resources, excellence can seem like an impossible goal.
  2. The status quo, or the routine, or just getting through another week, is just easier. Some challenges towards greatness are overwhelming and it is easier not to fight the battle.
  3. We’ve lost a vision of what excellent worship could be. Between lack of resources and the difficulty of the task in front of us, we lose our passionate vision.

Despite the challenges and the fact that the idea of excellence is not “warm and fuzzy” for our faith, I do believe that the Word of God calls us to excellence. Psalm 33:3 calls us to “sing to the Lord a new song, play skillfully, and shout for joy.” Throughout the Old Testament the Tribe of Levi was set apart and received instructions for their worship leadership. In the New Testament we read 1 Corinthians 12 and learn how God has given each member of the Body of Christ gifts to share. Jesus certainly did not stir up unpassionate followers who went through the motions of making church happen each week.

If you find yourself challenged with the idea of excellence, I want to offer encouragement:

  1. You aren’t alone struggling with time or financial resources. Look at the bigger picture (not just Sunday to Sunday). What are some gradual steps and changes you can make over 6 months, a year, or longer? Be intentional about time and budget and work toward a long-term goal of progress.
  2. You aren’t alone struggling with the difficulty of the journey. Find some resources to help. There are abundant resources in Greater New Jersey, at the denomination and throughout the Christian church. What do you need to learn to continue on? The work is hard but you can find resources to help.
  3. You aren’t alone struggling with a vision for worship excellence. Acknowledge the “holy discontent” and work to articulate a new vision. What does excellence look like for your church?  Start by praying and dreaming.

As we start to wrestle with God’s vision of excellence for each of our churches, then we can look at our steps for the long-term and get some help for that journey we are on together.