When it comes to worship, preparation is crucial. In my experience I find it more enjoyable to worship God being led by musicians who are skilled at playing their instruments and who know the lyrics to the songs they’re singing. It becomes easier for everyone to encounter God when distracting musical mistakes are eliminated from worship. Mistakes are bound to happen but the worship team that strives for excellence seeks the good of the congregation.
Preparation involves both an individual and team dynamic. If each individual on the worship team puts effort into improving their skill privately it becomes much easier to improve the skill and sound of the team. When we practice and craft our skill we need to realize it’s not only for our good. In seeking excellence we seek the good of our team and the good of the congregation; it is for this reason that God gives us gifts: to serve others.
That’s not to say that God doesn’t anoint a worship service executed by individuals who are still learning and growing as musicians. God is looking for those who will make themselves available to Him and what He wants to do. Once again it’s not about the music; it’s about our hearts connecting with God’s heart. Excellent musicianship only enhances that connection.
Psalm 33:3 says, “Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully and shout for joy.” Playing skillfully does has value. In that respect, being on a worship team is just like any other job, whether it is a mechanic, carpenter or chef. As with any service that is provided we most appreciate those who are efficient, skilled and excellent in their trade. Worship teams need to take the time to practice and improve the excellence of their skill. I believe that as a worship team excels, playing and singing music becomes second nature. We no longer worry about how to play the next part of a song but rather how we can focus on God. When this happens the team becomes free to engage with God and to assist in leading others in the room to God as well. As Bob says, “It’s not worship until we move past the songs and encounter God.”
I also believe the congregation benefits the most when those who lead them into worship are living holy lives. Just as a pastor is expected to, “practice what he preaches,” I believe worship teams are also expected to, “practice what they sing.” They ought to practice the truths they sing of by living out what they believe offstage. When others see that they actually live according to the truths they proclaim in worship I believe it will encourage their hearts and give them an increasing hunger for God. We need to be devoted to pleasing God offstage so that when we’re onstage it is simply a display of how we already live in our private lives.
Bob Sorge is absolutely right: When we prepare for worship it actually equips us to be free and to move with purpose towards the river of God. As we increase the capacity of the songs and styles we have in our repertoire the easier it is to follow the Holy Spirit down the river. Finally, we need to take the moments before a service begins to intercede that the Lord would move and minister to everyone as we worship Him. After all, our goal is not that people would be blown away by our awesome music, but blown away by our awesome God.