Where Heart and Skill Meet
by Jenry Pawhay
In any worship ministry, we will always struggle with seemingly opposite priorities and motivations. It’s easy to think of situations where one of these items win out over the other. I have seen situations where musicians are hired based entirely on their skill, with no thought for spiritual maturity or alignment to the vision of the church. And I’ve also seen situations, especially in smaller congregations, where a leader is all heart and the music is of objectively poor quality.
Ultimately, we all realize that a worship leader should both possess a heart and skill, but which do we place priority on? Development of skill limits distractions and facilitates a transparent worship experience, but a focus on anointing enables a leader with G chords and a capo to focus entirely on shepherding. So where do we end up in this tug of war?
The Need for Skill:
“I believe that worship is an act of the heart. Does that mean that I shouldn’t bother putting effort into my craft and it’s ok if I don’t play or sing well? Because after all, God doesn’t care what it sounds like as long as my heart is in the right place”.
It may have been said slightly different one way or another when you heard it, but no doubt you’ve heard people make this statement many times. But is that really true? How does God really feel about the quality of the music we offer up to Him? Is it really even necessary to perfect it? Rehearse and polish our harmony and sound. Is it really worth it to train your voice and perfect your gift? Or is this all just vanity for the sake of our own egos?
Many don’t think He cares at all. In fact, some believe as long as you’re singing for, to, or about God, anything is ok. Often you see this argument come up when people are being pushed past what they can comfortably do with a minimal amount of effort and/or rehearsal. For some reason, most people really resent any extra work, training, effort or rehearsing to perfect music done for God. Let’s consider the following Scriptures:
I Samuel 16:17 “And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me.”
Psalms 33:3 “Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.”
I Chronicles 15:22 “And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was for song: he instructed about the song, because he was skillful.”
When you study the scripture relating to music ministry, one of the first things you notice is that almost every time scripture speaks specifically about a singer or musician, it always point out that singer or musician’s high level of skill.
Often times, it’s not a passion or even a concern for doing right by God that causes people to begin protesting against the work that goes into perfecting music ministry. It is the disdain for the work itself. The truth is, to play or sing skillfully in music ministry, it does take a lot of work. Anointed Gospel choirs don’t just walk into the choir stand and automatically sing like that. Exceptionally gifted musicians don’t just wake up playing that way one Sunday morning. It takes work and hours of practice. It takes higher levels of training and study. It takes going over parts over and over.
Not everyone has the same level of natural ability. And for those who don’t, could certainly get there with some extra work, or some training to hone their craft. But rather than do that work they would rather give themselves a pass by making the argument that “God doesn’t care about all that”, or “It’s not about being perfect, it’s about what’s in your heart.”
Ironically that statement about how God really cares more about what’s in your heart couldn’t be more true. God doesn’t care if your gift is perfect. What He does care about though, is whether or not what you’re giving Him is your best. That explains why those singers, musicians, and choirs who train and practice and perfect their musical gifts and ministries are often bestowed higher levels of anointing.
Heart in-tuned with God
“What if… I’m a really good guitar player and come Sunday morning I bring a performance that would make Joe Satriani sound like a beginner, then can I disregard my motives, my devotion, and my personal journey of discipleship and worship?”
When you search the scriptures, you see skill given high regard in music ministry. But you also see that skill alone is not enough. David was famous not only because of his high level of skill, but because of the anointing on his music.
Guard our Heart… Proverbs 4:23 tells us the heart is so incredibly important, and its condition is so critical, that watching over it should be our top priority. The Hebrew literally reads, “More than all guarding.” The words of this verse are a reminder that if we are going to do what must be done, we must keep our hearts in tune. Guarding is a call that demands pro-activity because life starts in the heart. What directs the course of our lives is not merely the decisions we make, big or small, it’s what lies beneath those decisions.
Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil…” (Luke 6:45).
Look to Jesus, as an example.
- Like Jesus, we are to do nothing on our own – Listen to God to guide us so that we are not just taking the initiative and following our own agenda as we do these things.
- Like Jesus, we are to be in close relationship with God – We are to be led by the Spirit. And so we can have a sense of what God wants in particular situations.
- Like Jesus, we are to do exactly what God wants us to do – Once we hear God giving us very specific instructions – that is exactly what we do. We are to be in complete submission to God.
What is it that matters, is it heart or skill?
Worship is where heart and skill meet in order to bring the Lord a pleasing offering. Heart and skill demand one another, constantly pulling us back toward Excellence, so long as we do not ignore them. It’s important to note that excellence is not perfection but bringing our best. It is an attitude or mindset that drives us to do the best we can with what God has put in our hands.
By Jenry Pawhay
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxji8jkZ2CQ – In Tune with God by Liliane Doukhan
Brad Kohring – https://hillsong.com/collected/blog/2016/09/heart-vs-skill-what-actually-matters-in-worship/#.WXWzoNOGOV5