After serving on the music teams of youth groups and churches for more than a decade, I still struggle with pride, and I still struggle with the desire for people to think well of me.
When I was leading as a teen, I used to watch my friends' facial expressions to see how well I was doing. Were they singing? Or were they distracted? When I married Hans, I would watch my husband's facial expressions. What was he thinking about? Did he not agree with the theology of this song? Should I have chosen a different song?
Our pastor preached a sermon on 1 Peter 4:10 a few Sundays ago: "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." Pastor Josh exhorted the congregation to serve the Lord and serve one another—excellently. Self-centered excellence, in the words of our pastor, is the American dream. Family-centered excellence is the Asian dream. As I was listening to his evaluation, I realized that I was both self-centered and family-centered.
The Church, according to Pastor Josh, is to strive towards Godly excellence, selfless excellence.
We strive for excellence because we worship the one who is Most Excellent. Our talents and abilities, no matter how awesome, are nothing compared to the worthiness and splendor of our Lord. We are worshiping the King of kings and Lord of lords. The
mindfulness and the hours we pour into the details of Sunday worship are
all part of the gift we bring before him. Therefore, we delight in practicing, preparing, and praying to God for help, that we would know him and make him known.
Godly excellence, according to Pastor Josh, is done in God's way and for his name sake. While worldly success
is measured by the number of thumbs-up, followers, and viral links, godly excellence
cannot be measured — at least not by human means. The Lord is looking at our hearts. Are we faithful even in the little things? Do we serve because of love? Do we delight in fearing the Lord?
We must pursue excellence not only when and where people can see us. Godly excellence, in fact, shines the brightest off the stage, from moment to moment, behind the closet doors of our souls, where the only person who sees us, sees everything about us.
Godly excellence is selfless. Selfless excellence points to Christ. To know Christ and make him known is the goal of an excellent worship team. We
strive for excellence for this purpose: that the congregation would together delight in and meditate on the Word of God.
Mistakes can be distracting; sloppiness attract attention to ourselves. Therefore, during our worship services, we strive to minimize distractions. We get every Powerpoint slide to come up when it is supposed to. When reading Scripture, we practice saying the names in our passages; we make the passage a part of ourselves by reading it over and over and over again during the week. We think about our attire and choose outfits that would communicate reverence for the Lord. We pick truthful songs suitable for congregational singing, and sing them in keys that do not make us squeak. We balance the volumes on the sound system, and we make sure all the microphones are working and the stands are at their right heights.
We carry out the little things faithfully, and with love.
On this side of eternity, I will continue to struggle against pride, and against the desire for others to think well of me. I will struggle to serve selflessly and excellently. I will struggle to serve in faithfulness and love. The songs that I sing and sentences that I string will be flawed.
I will find comfort in the words of John Owen: killing sin is the work of the living. The very act of struggling is a sign that I am alive. I am alive in Christ. Apart from him, I would be dead. And dead people do not struggle.
Therefore, I will fight against my inclinations to pride, laziness, and disobedience. I will fight against my unloving, self-seeking, people-fearing tendencies. I will struggle against distracting thoughts on Sunday mornings, but mostly, I must struggle kneeling before the One who sees me, behind the closet doors of my soul.