Thursday, June 6, 2019

HOLY SEARCH ENGINE LIGHT


I have no idea if this will resonate with readers or not.  Truth is, I never know.  But I write anyway, otherwise I go bonkers as my brain explodes.  Plus that's messy.

I seem to read many books or hear many people discuss the various things that are "missing" for them regarding "church."  Some grew up in very strict religious families that held to very strict conservative beliefs that, for them, have not rung true as they have grown into adults.  Others have misconceptions about "church" based on the media (print, TV, films, etc.).  Still others seem to have a sense of loss or, worse, ambivalence when it comes to this thing called "going to church."  They can't relate to the songs or the sermons or other aspects of the gathering.  Or they know some of the people well and have seen how they act away from church and, therefore, feel led to label them hypocrites. At the very least, when push comes to shove (like elder meetings! ha!) - many feel disconnected or even let down by "the church" for a variety of reasons.

Before you feel led to label me judgmental, let me confirm that I have been that very same person - the one pointing fingers of blame for the same reasons.  

But something happened to me about 40 years ago (well, it began about 40 years ago and has been continually gnawing at me ever since that time.)  I met the actual Holy Spirit!  

If you call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ then you intellectually and spiritually know and believe that the moment you come to a saving relationship with Jesus, you are what theologians call "regenerated."  You are a new creation.  You are born again.  And, at that moment, the Holy Spirit takes up residency in your life - like a much more meaningful version of a conscience or Jiminy Cricket.  The Holy Spirit is your guide, your counselor, your barometer, if you will.  And, that is a fantastic mystery that I truly don't fully understand.  And, I'm okay with that.

But 40 years ago, after 10 years of living as a Christian, attending church, going to camps, going to Bible studies, and hearing about the Holy Spirit, I suddenly encountered his presence in a way I had not up to that point in my life.  I don't think the church I attended deliberately ignored the Holy Spirit, it was just a somewhat "unmentionable understanding" and we never delved deeper.  

Space does not afford me what is needed to share the full story and I apologize for that.  But, bottom line, I met THE power source when I met the Holy Spirit.  For me, personally, it was not wrapped up in the hoopla of speaking in tongues (though I have) or flopping around on the ground, or any other manifestations that appear to others as crazy.  For me, it was more of a solidification and confirmation that what I felt in my heart (but never uttered) was true - that there really is power available to all who call ourselves followers of Jesus.  

And, it is that power - the power of the Holy Spirit - that has always - and I honestly mean always - allowed me to remain as free as humanly possible from the various "church longings" for which others seem to be either missing, or constantly in search of.  

In other words, I don't find myself wishing the theology in the hymns or modern songs was more profound or even "accurate" - because I trust the Holy Spirit will sort any confusion and simply fill me with his presence.  I don't find myself eager to complain about specific "issues" during the gathering because I know the Holy Spirit fills me with his presence.  I don't find myself searching for some unattainable "other" because the greatest "other" of all - the Holy Spirit - fills me with his presence and I simply am no longer interested in, or in need of, searching for "more."  I don't say this to puff myself up - not at all!  I say it to ENCOURAGE anyone reading this who does find themselves constantly in search of "more out of church" to simply take some time and ask Jesus to help you meet the Holy Spirit in a way you have not yet encountered.  And see if that makes a difference in your need for "more."  I believe it will!

There is a strong move today by believers on both sides of the aisle to make certain "holy demands" hoping the "other side" finally comes to their senses.  We all know the debates. (ugh!).  I laugh sometimes at how those who scream to love one another seem to lose that sentiment themselves!  "Love one another you assholes!"  It boggles my mind, to be honest.  But - that's where people are at and life is messy.  I truly believe in my heart that if more of us were willing or able to shift the focus from the HOW (the externals) to the WHO (the internal - the person of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit) we would see the atmosphere change.  Because that is what is promised by Jesus.  "the Holy Spirit will come upon you and..." (what... oh, come on - you know....) 

So, if your holy "search engine" remains on - look first to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

WORSHIP FOCUS

 

When I really want to - and I mean REALLY want to - I can remain focused on a project, or task, or goal.  This does not come easy for me. Not at all.  But, when I put my mind to it, I can definitely remain focused on a particular direction, dream or purpose.

As I write this, James Holzhauer is the current champion on Jeopardy with nearly $2 million dollars in winnings over about 25 days.  Unbelievable!  Clearly, James is a man who has spent his entire life focused on winning at gambling (he is always introduced as a professional gambler living in Las Vegas).  Certainly he has a photographic memory and his quick trigger finger assures him the win of the buzzer nearly every single time.  The man is focused.

There are those who have told me (or I've read articles about this) that they are easily distracted during the worship service by things like the timing of the slides, the pitchy voice of the singer, a wrong word sung, a baby crying, the color of the walls, the service running a few minutes over an hour and various other "distractions."  I feel very sorry for these people.  I'm not really judging their connection to God, or, at least, that's not my intention.  But I do know that, for me, all of those things (and a long list of other "distractions") long ago left me as I enter into a worship service.  And, for me, it all comes down to focus.

For me, the focus of my gathering with other Christ followers has nothing to do with song styles, room color, or the clock.  It just doesn't.  Several years ago I came to a place of understanding that worship is never about me or my wants and needs.  It is all (and only) about responding fully to the God of all creation, through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.  That is my "worship focus."  And that focus remains constant regardless of music styles, room d├ęcor and other excuses people use for choosing to not worship God.  

I'm in good company.

The disciples lost focus and fell asleep.
The disciples lost focus and tried to instruct Jesus what to teach on.
The disciples lost focus and denied Jesus.
The disciples lost focus and - - - 

I think the key for me, and for all of us, is to flip the Worship Switch in our brains and hearts.  We need to choose to recognize who Jesus is, what he accomplished on the cross and through his resurrection, and then focus on that reality as we gather for worship.  

I wish those distractions I mentioned earlier were the only ones to deal with because those are the easy ones to blame.  But what about modern worship trends?  If we find ourselves more eager to sing a particular song by a particular worship celebrity because it makes us feel good - than we are to simply fall humbly to our knees and worship Jesus then, sad to say, that is also a distraction that has caused us to lose our focus on Who it is we are worshiping.  (That's called idolatry, by the way.) 

I want to worship Jesus with the same level of focus James Holzhauer has standing behind his Jeopardy contestant position.  

Let's choose to always focus on Jesus when we gather for worship. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

JESUS, TAKE THE WHEEL

A few years ago there was a popular Country song called, "Jesus, Take the Wheel."  It's a fun, yet meaningful song, about letting Jesus take control of our crazy lives.  Fun to listen to, difficult to put into action.

When speaking of "leading worship" in churches, the assumption is that, because we ARE in a church, and because we ARE singing Christian songs, then certainly we are giving Jesus the freedom to do as He desires with our music and worship leading.  Yet, I wonder how true that really is.

Are we truly letting Jesus "take the wheel" of our worship leading?

As I have pondered this over the past several years, I have come to the conclusion that sometimes we do, and sometimes we don't.  And, sadly, I believe often times we don't really let Jesus "take the wheel."  This has become especially true in today's worship culture.

Before we discuss this further, we need to agree on what "worship" is.

For the purpose of this blog post (and in alignment with Scripture) "worship" is not "a collection of songs."  This may come as a huge shock to many of today's worshipers who have been misled over the past few decades by the growing trend to "professionalize" and "perform" worship songs in churches.  Worship is only one thing - it is our full response to the God of all creation for all He is with all we are.  Music can LEAD us to worship, just as prayer can lead us, or a sermon can lead us, or silence can lead us.  But music - in and of itself - is simply NOT "worship."  Along the same lines, we don't "watch worship" (as so many of today's believers will say).  We ENGAGE in worship.  We PARTICIPATE in worship.  We DO worship.  When all we do is observe "a worship set" we are not in the act of worshiping God.  

So, with that as a working definition of "worship" let me unpack my thoughts.

PRESENTATION VS. PREPARATION
We live in a time when the presentation of our music has become far more important than the preparation.  By "preparation" I am not referring to rehearsals, I am talking about aligning our hearts with the guidance, leading and power of the Holy Spirit as we approach the role of "worship leader." This is true of all the musicians, by the way - not just the "assigned worship leader."  

It is a simple reality that many of today's churches have followed the current "Contemporary Worship" model as seen from movements like Hillsongs, Jesus Culture, Elevation Worship and the like.  These are not wrong - not at all.  There are people in those churches who absolutely worship God, as best as I can tell or
know.  Yet, there is also the unmistakable "performance-driven" aspect to current worship music trends that did not exist just a few decades ago which has been a distraction to the authentic worship of God.  My concern is that as this trend continues to grow, God will become far less important.  We will create a type of "fake worship" that does not honor God.

Why is that?

I believe the main issue has to do with the advancement of technology.  Technology is wonderful! I love new technology!  It's amazing that I can create a finished, radio-ready song on my desktop computer using software that replicates the giant 2-inch tape in those 24-track studios we all used not that long ago.  That said, many of us have gotten a little lazy and have chosen to rely on technology, rather than spend more time enhancing our God-given talents and abilities in music.

Many of today's church musicians (ie: "worship leaders") spend time listening to the latest YouTube links of popular worship bands and then strive to replicate what they hear - exactly!  This makes me so sad - as a musician and as someone called to help lead others into a place of true worship of God.  There is an unstated notion here that if we sound just like the recording, then our "worship" will be better.  This is absolutely not true at all.  Not at all.  Your worship will never be "better" even if you sound exactly like the Elevation Worship Band in your presentation, but your heart preparation has been void of a truly Spirit-led and Spirit-filled encounter with God.  It will be fantastic MUSIC - but it will not be "better worship."

MY TAKE ON TECHNOLOGY AND WORSHIP
I believe that the more technically complicated we become in our presentation of our music, the more it takes away from the actual worship of God being DRIVEN BY Jesus "taking the wheel."  Think about this - one guy at a piano with one vocal mic requires a certain set-up.  The need is quite small from a technical stand point.  It may not be as exciting as watching a full band with lights and fog machines and giant video screens - but, believe it or not, actual worship of God can occur in a simple musical presentation such as this when the person leading is allowing the Holy Spirit to "drive."  

If you add one more vocalist who plays an acoustic guitar you have now doubled your NEED for tech - another mic for the singer and another input for the guitar.  Add a bassist who sings - you have tripled the need.  Add a drummer - more mics.  Add an electric guitar - another input.  Every additional instrument and singer that we add to the mix demands more from the tech team.  It also demands a tighter unity within the band. This is typically what causes the music portion of the worship gathering to become more "performance-driven."  I honestly think it's less about ego and more about simply needing to keep all the balls balanced - which means more perfection among the band members, singers and tech team.  On top of that, we need to make sure that our songs match the words on the screen to avoid confusion.  By simple logic, this means WE are "taking the wheel." When we allow this model to DRIVE our worship, there is absolutely no room for the Holy Spirit to lead as He feels led to lead us.

Let me say this - I have worshiped with, and participated in worship leadership, where the musicians all share the same mindset as to why they are doing what they do.  Perhaps they have played together a long time so there is far less of a "learning curve" among the band.  And perhaps the band members and vocalists share a unified idea of what worship as led by the Holy Spirit looks like.  In those cases, the problems are far less present.  But for most churches today, this is not the case.  That freedom to move WITH the Holy Spirit is highly tampered simply because of technology or, dare I say, the LOVE OF technology.  

What drives our worship - the Holy Spirit or the Tech?  This is a question you will need to ponder on your own with your musicians and tech team - and your Pastor!

SPEAKING OF THE PASTOR
I am a firm believer that the Pastor of your church is the "second worship leader" following the leading of the MAIN worship leader - the Holy Spirit.  The Pastor's role is to shepherd the flock and that includes the church musicians and tech team.

For many pastors, the idea of "letting go of the reins" is difficult.  They carry a heavy burden to make sure the boat moves in the right direction and ensure quality, consistency and continued church growth.  This responsibility is huge for pastors and, therefore, they tend to be a bit controlling and/or micro-managing.  I totally get that and I thank God I am not the Senior Pastor of a church!  Honestly, it would drive me nuts.

That said - Pastors... listen.  You NEED to do the unthinkable.  If you want your music and other leadership to truly honor you and follow your leading, then you need to loosen the grip on these people gifted by God in creative areas that support and enhance your ministry.  You need to allow them to do what THEY do best so that you can do what YOU do best.  Most pastors are not quality musicians.  They might have a feel for what they enjoy or maybe they took piano lessons when they were eleven, but there is a reason you hired pro-musicians to lead the music in your church - bluntly, they are better than you at that task.  So, let them do what God has crafted them to do.  Stop handcuffing them by micro-managing them.  Otherwise you will yank the wind from their sails.

Musicians... listen.  You are called by God to fully support the pastoral and elder leadership of your church.  If the pastor wants you to sing a particular praise song 8 weeks in a row, you will do that - even if you are dog-tired of that particular song.  You can certainly offer your suggestions for other song ideas but, in the end, you follow the leading of that pastor.

MUTUAL TRUST
This is the key - the absolute must!  The pastor must TRUST the musical leadership and the musicians must TRUST the pastor.  This is far easier said than done - trust me - been there, done that, bought the app!  The pastors AND the music leaders need to discover TOGETHER how best to let Jesus "take the wheel" and then faithfully and boldly move together to help lead their church into deeper worship encounters of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.  When we reach this place of mutual trust and honor for each other, that is when things will "take off" so to speak.  I dare you to test me on this... no, really - try it and see what happens.

It's time to do all we can to give Jesus the wheel of our worship leading so that our churches can truly become healthy and growing fellowships of believers shining as lights in this dark world.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Prequel

This is mainly written for those who lead worship or participate in worship leading, but all are encouraged to read on.

I'm not a big fan of movie prequels - usually because they try to explain a great movie's background. My contention is that if a movie is a great movie then the background is already in tact and no prequel is needed.

"Butch and Sundance: The Early Years" is a great example of a terrible prequel that was not needed because the original film, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," was already a classic.  It almost ruined the brilliance of the great western starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

But there is one prequel that I recently fell in love with.  It's everything that leads up to one of my favorite passages in scripture: Acts 2:42-47.

After learning a ministry lesson the hard way about 10 years ago, I have been trumpeting the need for churches to honor their leadership, love and serve one another, pray, worship and have a united fellowship in their gathering because, according to the above verse, there is a natural blessing that occurs when we do this - church growth!

Up until recently my push for this in churches was primarily as a process of "choice."  We CHOOSE to honor our leaders.  We CHOOSE to serve and pray, etc.  We DO these things and God blesses us numerically.

While I do think the above is something we are called to follow, what hit me recently was the prequel to all of this happening in the early church.  As it turns out, it is not simply a man-made CHOICE. It was actually a RESULT.

The result of what?

In Acts 1, the resurrected Jesus appears to his followers and tells them that the gift of the Holy Spirit will come soon and empower them to take his message to the ends of the earth.  Then, he leaves.

At the beginning of Acts 2 we read about the amazing account of the Holy Spirit falling on those gathered from various parts of the world (Pentecost) which manifested itself as speaking in tongues in such a way that all present understood what was being said.  Amazing!  However, some felt that those expressing this gift were simply drunk on wine.  Peter quickly corrects them and goes on to offer a bold sermon about Jesus, the gospel and the need for repentance, all of which was foretold by the prophets long ago!  At the end of that message, delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Bible says that 3,000 were saved!

The next section is the Acts 2:42-47 passage sited above.  This is how the early church, those first believers, put into action what they had just experienced.  The Holy Spirit empowered them to honor, love and serve in unity.  They did what they did BECAUSE of the Holy Spirit.  They gladly welcomed and allowed for the moving and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform their lives and their gatherings.

This Holy Spirit prequel seems to be missing in many gatherings today.  Often times we treat the Holy Spirit like an "ad-on" to a computer program.  We think, "Oh, cool, Christianity comes with The Holy Spirit.  Neat."  But it is so much more than that.  The Holy Spirit is not a simple add-on to our faith.  The Holy Spirit is the power, the driving force of our faith!

We live in a time when the presentation and performance of church music is attempting to do the work that is set aside for the Holy Spirit.  We rev up congregations with well-practiced performances of God-themed music, supported by media, lights, choreography and other theatrical elements as a way to generate excitement in the room.  Sometimes this works and people are dazzled. But it does not last long - it can't.  Because it is human-driven.  And in the process we set the Holy Spirit aside forgetting entirely that He is "the worship leader" of our gatherings.

So - I encourage you to go back and read the prequel to the start of the early church.  Check out what Jesus actually says about the promised gift and power of the Holy Spirit.  And take that into your next worship gathering as you lead your congregations into transforming worship encounters.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

ARROGANT CHRISTIANITY


Arrogance is ugly. No two ways about it. We all know people who drip arrogance.  Heck, we have all BEEN people who were (or are) arrogant.  Pride is part of the human condition.  We have a deep need to know more, to be more, than our peers.  

What about "Christian Arrogance?" Is there such a thing?

Yep.

We could make a list of other Christians we perceive as arrogant.  That list would perhaps include certain worship celebrities, or televangelists, or pastors of mega-churches, or similar people.  It might include Christian movements or organizations or causes.  

We can make those lists because Christian Arrogance DOES exist.  Things get muddy when we accept the fact that we, too, like "all those other people," are also arrogant.  

Let me offer just one example of Christian Arrogance that seems to have been in place since the first moments believers gathered together for worship.  It has to do with "planning" and "programming" what we call "the worship service."

I won't say "all" (because hyperbole never sits well with people) - but, "many" churches seem driven to create what they believe is the "best" or "correct" or "most accurate" or "most successful" worship service in their community.  The best lighting. The best sound. The best music. The best musicians. The best Sunday school. The best parking. The best signage. The best preacher. Etc.  They spend many hours in many meetings pouring over research and enjoying endless discussions of what they need to do in order to make their church THE church that ALL must attend.  The reasons for this vary. Some are honestly well-motivated - reaching more with the gospel, serving the community, loving the children of God.  And some are not so well-motivated - - we need more money to run the programs and pay the bills so we need more people in the pews.  

And after all that planning and programming, we sit back in shock and amazement that SOME of the people in our church didn't accept or like or adopt our new ideas. The audacity! Don't those pew-sitters realize that we actually prayed and spent time seeking God's wisdom to provide the BEST for them and the people in our community?

Arrogance.

The truth is - no matter how great our plans - no matter how "God-breathed" they might be - no matter how "correct" or "right" or "best" they might be - - not everyone in your church is going to love your ideas.  In fact, some will hate them and speak loudly about their angst with others in the congregation.

Arrogance.

Listen - closely - to - this...

Jesus - ONLY Jesus - showed THE best way.  Jesus lived THE right way.  Jesus modeled THE correct way.  There was no other plan BETTER than the one Jesus modeled, preached and lived.  He was THE ONLY right way to do it.  His was THE plan and it came directly from God.  It just doesn't get any "better" than that! 

And where did that lead him?

Nailed to a wooden cross. 

If Jesus was killed for offering THE absolute BEST ways to worship our God, what makes us think our amazing plans will bring about a better result?

Bring your plans and ideas to the table.  Always.  Just be ready to accept the reality that no matter how wonderful your ideas may be, they will be met with resistance by some.  That's just the way it is.

If at all possible, try to proceed with your ministry free of the arrogance that is so ready available. You will be better off. Really. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

FOLLOW THE LEADER


Let me begin this post with a disclaimer: Not EVERY leader is always worth following and that is usually because of some major moral failure on their part - NOT because "I don't like him/her."

Here is something we church-attending believers should pay attention to - we, all of us in a church, are called - dare I say, commanded - to follow our leader(s) ie: pastor, elders, staff, etc.  Acts 2:42 makes that pretty clear... "They devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching..."  The early church was "devoted" to their leaders.

Wow.

When you read further, you find a beautiful blessing... "the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."  That is to say, because the church attendees remained devoted to the leaders (and to prayer, fellowship, serving and loving each other, etc) - God brought more people into their fellowship.  Certainly this is not an automatic "magic" activity - but - there is something we should pay attention to here... God cares a lot about how we follow our spiritual leaders.

What does it mean to follow the leader in a church?

Assuming my opening disclaimer was read, let's just agree that the pastor of the church is the one called by God to lead your congregation. Period. Yes, he/she works with the ruling elder board and the church hires a staff to fulfill the wider calling of the church.  But, ultimately, the pastor is the leader of the church, working in the calling and power of the Holy Spirit.

Now - please follow my logic here, because things might get a little sticky...

I'd like to do some "reverse engineering" if I may...

A church member sits in the pew and decides they don't like a particular song in the morning worship set.  Later, over a cup of coffee and a muffin, they express their angst about the song with a fellow parishioner.  This happens far too often, but that's another post for another day.  That church member probably thinks they have simply expressed their angst regarding the director of worship.  But the truth is, they have actually disrespected God.  How so, you might ask?

The musicians serve the director of worship.  The director of worship serves the pastor.  The pastor is following God's call on the church.  There really is a chain of "spiritual command" in a church and when we slam those in leadership over us, we are ultimately slamming our God.

Sadly, this sort of nonsense occurs in church far too often and, in almost every case, it leads to a  church-wide undercurrent of angst, distrust and even division.

All because a church member was miffed about a song. Or the color of the carpet. Or the angle of the communion table. Or one slide that didn't pop up at exactly the right moment. Or... or... or...

If you know someone (see how nice I was there?) who tends to bring a critical spirit with them into the assembly, please lovingly remind them that when they slam a particular staff member, or elder, or leader, or pastor of the church they are, ultimately, slamming their Creator.

Let's choose to follow our leader(s) as they choose to follow our Lord.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

BETTER WORSHIP

"Good, Better, Best, never let it rest, 'till the good is better, and the better, best." - I don't know who made this famous, but it was recited often by my high school principal, Sam Harvey. 

Working towards "best" is something we all desire. Few of us set out to do a mediocre job, right? For we who serve as artisans in the church, this topic seems to pop up quite often, especially in an era where high quality Christian music is the expected norm.  Sadly, over the past few decades there has been a somewhat unspoken teaching that "better music" = "better worship." 

Let's talk about this hot-bed, shall we?

What is Worship?
First, let's agree on what worship is, and is not.  Worship is purely a response to God for all He is with everything we are.  We use all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, to respond to God's awe, power, and might.  We respond to his favor and grace; his mercy and love.  That can be accomplished with very few, if any, extras.  In other words, we do not need a guitar or piano or drum set or choir or light kit or sound system in order to adequately worship God. In fact, we can have all of those things operating at full-throttle, all the pistons firing perfectly - and never, once, actually worship God.  This is because worship is a HEART issue, not an ART issue. 

The worship of God is actuated when the children of God bring to him their hearts, their souls, their minds and their strength.  One person alone in the desert with only the clothes on their back can completely and adequately worship their Creator, God - and, He is completely pleased and blessed by that worship.

Aids to our Worship
The Bible offers many aids or tools we can use to help us in our worship of God.  They are not at all mandatory but God, because He loves us, and has created us to be creative and expressive, has helped man develop various means of worshiping Him.  The musical world is filled with examples such as a wide variety of musical instruments, voices and songs, as well as an array of gizmos, gadgets and equipment that have come into development through the centuries.  A piano is not worship.  An electric guitar is not worship.  A choir is not worship.  A modern Christian song is not worship. A hymn is not worship.  All of these are tools we use to help us and aid us in our worship of God.  

We bring these various elements together to help us express to God our glory, praise and worship of Him. That is all they are. Nothing more.  They are similar to hammers, screwdrivers and saws that one might use to help build a house.  Nobody, when viewing a new home, comments on the wonder of the hammer that helped nail the joists together.  In the church of today (and even of yesteryear in many cases) we have put far too much emphasis on the creation OF the worship - rather than on the Creator who is to BE worshiped. And, it has messed us up.  

What is Excellence?
Now, the Bible does mention the importance of worshiping God with excellence.  Though in many churches (and Christian conferences and music companies and concerts, etc.) we have taken this notion of excellence to the excess and moved it more towards the idea of "perfectionism."  Of course, being good Christians, we would never really come right out and SAY that we want things to be perfect because we know deep down that God accepts us "just as we are."  So, we beat around the bush and make wide sweeping statements about the importance of excellence inferring that God will be BETTER or MORE worshiped the more excellently we play or sing.  

Sorry to burst your bubbles, but that is simply not something the Bible ever commends at all.  And our rationalizing of the concept doesn't make it true.  The bottom line is this - if you want to play really well, go for it!  But God will not be more pleased by your effort.  The only thing that pleases God "more" is our honest, heartfelt level of love, adoration, glory, praise and worship of Him - no matter how "excellently" we perform. 

Worship Performing, er - uh - I mean Leading
So - we live in an age where music, in general, is at extreme levels of perfectionistic performance.  American Idol, The Voice, and similar shows have trained us to seek "the best" performers out there. Those who do not measure up are discarded as if they have no value at all.  Very sad, and that is a topic for another blog article someday.  But this same mindset has crept into the church.  The Jesus Movement ushered in a new kind of church music which my generation welcomed gladly as it sounded nothing like "church music" and everything like "rock music." (That is a vast generalization, but pretty close to reality.)  Not long after this movement hit, Christian bands formed that led to the writing of a specific type of Christian music that actually encouraged the singer to connect with God at a heart level.  We called this music "praise choruses" but they were far more than that.  Some have shared that, where the traditional hymns pre-Jesus Movement tended to speak ABOUT God, the new songs were speaking directly TO God.  There was a new, "first-person" feel to the songs that seemed to help draw the singer into a deeper connection with God.  

It is my contention that, in a very real sense, these years (about 2 decades or so) of church music truly were "leading in worship."  But as music technology changed, we suddenly saw a transformation in the music and musicians.  Slowly, worship "leaders" were becoming worship "performer" and even worship "celebrities" with churches doing all they could to emulate what they heard on radio and saw in concerts.  Churches realized that, in order to keep up with trends, they had to create the same level of perfectionism that was being produced for the Christian masses.  Right or wrong, this is what took place.

Show Me The Money
Now here is where things get sticky.  Unless a church is blessed with high quality musicians who can actually pull off what is being produced by Christian worship celebrities on radio and in concerts, then they must find ways to build their base of musicians to a level that sounds and looks similar.  This means either God brings them the volunteers who can accomplish the task or the church pays pro musicians to fill this need.  

There are churches who do both.  Some have been blessed.  Others have been budgeted.  The reality is that those churches who have a budget set aside to pay for their musicians will, most likely, have a "better" quality stage presentation of the music.  And, for churches who see this as a high value, they will move in that direction.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road
The question must now be asked: "What does your church want, and why?" As we said at the outset, a group of people can gather and worship their God with heartfelt gusto without the aid of a pro band. One person with a guitar or piano, plus a few singers, can easily create an atmosphere where God is glorified providing these musicians truly are men and women after God's heart when it comes to worship.  

How can I say this?  Because I have experienced it.  I have been in a worship setting where the singer was not "the best" and the musicians were "pretty good" and the Spirit of God was flowing through the room in a powerful way because the musicians were worshiping and encouraging those in attendance to do the same.  

This is NOT a plea for mediocrity!  This is a reminder that God is the one we worship - not the presentation of the music.  The story may be very different at your church.  You may decide that you need to fill your 1000-seat auditorium three times each weekend and, therefore, you need to bring the best performance you can for every service.  My word of caution is that you always remember that just because you are putting butts in the seats does not automatically mean those people are truly worshiping God.  They might be.  But they also might be enjoying the fantastic God show you are putting on.  And - I actually think that is fine!  My issue only comes when we re-define worship as somehow directly related to the presentation.  It's not. Ever. 

Conclusion
I don't have a conclusion. This topic is never-ending and always on the table for debate.  Strive for excellence because God wants us to do our best for Him.  If you are not as good as the hip church down the street, you can moan about it, you can upgrade what you offer to compete, you can buy your way to a presentation that makes other churches jealous. Or, you can thank God for bringing you servants who do the best they can with hearts of worship to glorify their Creator.  Because, the truth is, in God's economy - Good is okay, Better is okay, and Best is okay - when the worship is for God and God alone.