Putting Excellence in Its Proper Place

At what point do excellence and production value become too much?
At what point do excellence and production value become too much? (Flickr )

At what point do excellence and production value become too much?

When does it cease to serve the local church and, instead, distract us from our goal—equipping the saints for the work of ministry?

We're always waiting for what's next. Doing more. Making everything better.

I've heard the argument on both sides.

If your production is over-the-top excellent, you are a seeker sensitive, sellout church with no Bible, no depth, and a congregation that shows up to be entertained.

If you're a small church with little to zero production value ... well, that's also looked upon with a certain degree of chagrin. You at least have to be using a click, right?

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Of course, these are blanket statements to illustrate a point.

Today, I'd love to set the record straight as far as excellence goes. As best I can.

The Role of Excellence

Problems surface when excellence becomes the end rather than a means to an end. When it becomes a competition to prove yourself or your brand. When you want to be impressive.

I think we all agree that the greatest strength of a worship team isn't just musical ability. We're after heart. We're after unity. We're after something more than just flawless worship sets.

The Bible has something to say about this.

"For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).

In this passage, Paul goes on to say that if anyone has a reason to boast, it's him. He has the skills, the good looks, the resume, the bloodline to boast.

The problem is that Christian ministry isn't about what you can do. It has everything to do with what God can do through you.

The best ministry teams don't flaunt their talent. Even if they're the most talented, impressive singers and musicians this world has ever seen, it's not the weapon they lead with. Rather, they put no confidence in the flesh and serve God by the Spirit.

Of course, this doesn't mean we outlaw talented people and lower our standards of excellence.

I noticed that this past weekend. I want my musicians to be excellent—not as an end in itself but as a service to something greater. Practice finds its proper place when your heart is captured by something greater—the glory of God.

The Intuitive Musician

You know what practice affords you? Hours upon hours of time in the practice room? Day after day playing the difficult, boring, hard scales and technique?


Yep, that's it. Music becomes a matter of intuition. You no longer have to think about how to play the instrument and you can focus your full mental energies on leading people in worship. This is why we're after skill and excellence.

It's not because we want to sound great. It's not because we want to make a name for ourselves or be the most creative bunch in town. It's because we want the practical matters of music and music theory to be automatic ... without a thought. That will enable us to lead worship more effectively.

Consider when you weren't a good musician. Or maybe you're just learning right now. It takes all of your mind and more to figure out what you're doing. I remember those days. I had no clue. Nothing was intuitive. Every chord required every mental faculty and every drop of sweat in my body.

Let's relate this to some practical band issues:

Memorizing your music forces you to be prepared, thus being more ready to be used by the Holy Spirit to do what He wants to do, and see what He wants you to see (rather than having your head in a chord chart).

Knowing the Nashville number system helps you see music more clearly and flow easier because you can transpose into other keys quickly. It increases your versatility to be used in spontaneous/prophetic ways.

Having your rig set up in advance takes the guesswork out of your tone selection in a worship set. Instead, you can focus your mental energies on the question, "What is the Holy Spirit up to today?"

Knowing the setlist backwards and forwards enables you to temper your playing to serve the moment. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it.

Do you see where we're going with this? Catch a vision for excellence that is bigger than getting opportunities. Catch a vision that is bigger than sounding amazing. Catch a vision that is bigger than how many compliments and social media likes you can amass.

When music becomes intuitive, you can play prophetically on your instrument. You can look up with eyes of compassion.

So let's move beyond our skills. Let's use our skills in pursuit of God doing the miraculous through us. Let's put zero confidence in the flesh. I don't know about you, but I want to do with my life the things that only God can do.

Are you in?

How do you manage to talk about excellence as a team? Always love to hear your thoughts.

David Santistevan is a worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  

For the original article, visit davidsantistevan.com.

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