Many worship leaders are quite perplexed at the troubled relationship between skill and artistic expression in the church. How much weight should be placed on skill in the context of corporate worship? This often depends largely on the function of the tool (music, visual arts, etc.) being used. Is the purpose intended for congregational participation or not? This could perhaps be heavily involved in the perplexing decision of skill usage. The fact, whether we admit it or not, is that there is often a lack of skill in artistic expression in the church. This has not always been the case, and in fact, through the late 17th century, the primary platform for skilled artistic expression was found in the church. With the rise of secular society, however, skill has greatly decreased in the church. The question though is this: is a high level of skill necessary in corporate worship or is it even good or bad? In other words, knowing that we are required to give God our best, what does that look like in the context of worship? To answer this question, a few things need to be considered.
Adapt to Fit the Needs of Your Context
Worship leaders must adapt their skills to fit the needs of their particular context. As musicians, we want to be excellent in what we do, as we should, but our context may require something much simpler than our skill level. It could also, however, require a greater degree of skill than we possess, causing us to work and perfect our skills. For many worship leaders, however, we must realize that our skills may reach far beyond what is necessary in our context. This is not to negate excellence, but our primary role is to lead God’s people in worship. If anything distracts from that goal, we have failed as worship leaders. The attention of worship must be pointed toward Christ, not ourselves. We must, therefore, adapt our skills to fit the needs of our context.
Be as Skillful as Possible without Distracting from the Object of Worship
Continuing with that previous thought, we must be creative and as skillful as possible without distracting from the object of worship, namely the triune God. Indeed a high level of skill could be distracting. There are, however, times when a great degree of skill is necessary. The fact is that just because something is complex does not mean that it is done with more skill than something which is simple. Simplicity can be achieved with great skill, as it should. The main focus of worship must be Christ. This requires monitoring our congregation and assessing what they need in order to worship. That is obviously disparate between varying contexts. Our role as worship leaders is not to distract by revealing ourselves but to focus by revealing God.
View Yourself as a Vessel, Not the Heart
We must see ourselves as a conduit for worship. We are a vessel, not the heart. In the human body, the heart is central. Vessels work to achieve the purposes of the heart. We work to achieve the purposes of God. As we begin to view ourselves in this light, God is more clearly seen by our people and he is worshiped and glorified in a proper manner. We must essentially remove ourselves from the picture and create an environment that points directly to God as the object of worship.
We should not negate skill in the church. It is necessary, however, that we assess what our context needs. For some congregations, a greater level of skill is necessary; for others, we might have to simplify our skills for the purpose of revealing God. In all that we do, the triune God must be the affection of our hearts and the people we lead. We must ask ourselves what we can do to reveal God. This is what it means to give God our best.