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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

on excellence and humility

I have two observations on excellence and humility:

The first has to do with musicians and worship. I feel free to write this because 1) I am a lifelong musician; and 2) the music director I work with agrees and understands this 100% and has helped diagnose the challenge. I believe one of the biggest challenges facing church musicians (and church music) is the reality that nearly all serious musicians train from an early age to be performers. I was one of them. I started playing piano when I was five, started classical training at 7, and continued that formal training until I was 22. Yes, I studied the art and the theory and the interpretation, but it always ended with recitals and public performance with me taking a bow. And it's not limited to formal training. I started writing and recording music (and playing in band) in 9th grade, and that has continued in various forms until today. We were either looking for places to play for an audience or submitting our recordings to record companies to "hit it big." In some variation, that is the background of many musicians, including church musicians.

So, what does that mean when we bring someone who has been performing organ recitals for 16 years in to be our organist? What does it mean when we bring a 20 yr. old guitarist in to lead our praise band? Do you see the problem? And the solution isn't as easy as saying, "Play for the Lord." Musicians - and I - are nearly hard-wired for performance.

Secondly, for all we smug, spiritual pastors nodding knowingly about the musicians we work with, we face the same reality, but it's ever so more subtle. Again, I point the finger first at myself. Is not the pulpit our instrument? Do we not go to seminary and train in public speaking? (At least I did.) How do you use gestures and intonation and pitch to best communicate the text? How easy it is for the focus to move off the text and onto me! And then there's all the stuff I've mentioned before. What is a "successful pastor?" Do I run the church well? Do I have good business sense? Do I visit often enough? Do I entertain from the pulpit? Is the church growing in numbers and budget? Will I one day become a "tall steeple pastor?"

In addition to the training I've described above, I was also raised to be a go-getter, 110%, smart, successful person. I've competed all my life - in school, sports, and anywhere else I can.


Yet I am convicted that good pastors (and good musicians) must deflect attention away from self and onto Christ. We point away from ourselves perhaps only after we have experienced godly brokenness, humility, and dependence. That's Jesus' model for ministry, but boy doesn't that sound weak?

Re-posted from 2007.


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