WORDS FROM W.W. May 18, 2015
Our church strives to do things the best we can in worship of our Lord, but I could write a book on the number of times when we have fallen short of excellence. Here’s a few examples:
-We are a Baptist church that has had a baptistry that kept leaking…bad! One baptism Sunday there was hardly enough water in it to qualify the person to be a Methodist, let alone a Baptist. One memorable Christmas Eve we baptized people in the inflatable pool of my grandkids that was shaped to look like a whale…including the tail! Joe, one of the people being baptized, and I still joke about him getting baptized in the belly of a whale.
-One Easter Sunday we had the wrong video shown. Instead of a nice beautiful melody that made the resurrection sound celebrate (which it is!) we had a video of heavy metal music that I’m pretty sure mentioned Satan and demon worship a few times. Awkward!
-A couple of people have done special music who missed more notes than hit them.
-People still remember my “oops” slip in a sermon when I referenced giving out “Lady Godiva” chocolates. Red face!
-I’ve led the reciting of The Lord’s Prayer a couple of times and I gone blank on the words. When the pastor stops midway through the prayer the silence becomes like a wave moving though the congregation.
In many ways we are a Lake Wobegon congregation!
We strive for our best, but often miss excellence.
And yet, I’m okay with that. People put their hearts and souls into using the gifts God has given them, and if that falls short of a concert hall experience…that’s okay.
Our culture…and especially church culture…worships excellence. It worships the seamless flow of worship where “dead time” is almost non-existent, and people can marvel at the precision, the timing, the carefully manuscripted event.
There is a difference between a worship experience and the worship of excellence. The first is about an encounter with God that stirs the soul. The second is a production that is a delight to the senses. One is spirit-moving and the other is foot-stomping. One gives us the feeling that God is seeing the condition of our heart and the other is a taste treat for our eyes.
The worship of excellence is like a glass of evening wine that is satisfying for a few moments with our feet propped up as we sit in the recliner. A worship experience is “new wine” that quenches the thirst of my soul.
We worship excellence. The difficulty is that the worship of excellence is prone to have grace evicted. Sometimes church culture is a mirror image of a professional football stadium crowd who break out into the booing of their team that is falling short of excellence in a contest. Very rarely is anyone on the field giving less than their best effort, but pro football fans have a tendency to check their forgiveness at the door…or after the third beer!
Worshiping excellence leads us to critical spirits where less than perfection is not tolerated. The worship of excellence does not allow students and interns who are still trying to figure out and be perfect. Worshipping excellence is about keeping score like Olympic gymnastics judges.
Worshipping excellence becomes deaf to prophetic voices. The words of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel would not gain a hearing in a gathering of excellence worshippers.
There are those who have been gifted by God in the leading of people into a worship experience that will be remembered as being excellent…and we thank God for those he has so incredibly gifted. A gifted worship leader will always lead people to God, not to an experience.
In my office are several “drawings” from my grandkids. They will never be in an art studio, pinned to a wall with quality lighting on them to bring out the vibrancy of the colors, but they are works of art that bring delight to a grandfather’s heart…more meaning to me than a Rembrandt, and even more understandable than a Picasso.
Sometimes we encounter a display of love, such as that, and we respond “Excellent!”