What Skill Helps Us Do

Featuring Bob Kauflin Posted on April 8, 2010

A divine perspective on skill will both motivate us to develop skill and protectus from exalting it. That's because God wants us to be skillful for specific reasons. Here are just a few.

Skill Helps Us Focus on God

I've been asked numerous times, “How can you concentrate on worshiping God while you're leading others?”
Becoming more skillful is part of the answer. The more comfortable I amwith practical aspects of leading, the more I can think about the One to whom I'm singing. I focus on developing skill so I'll be able to focus more on God. We want to get to the place where musical, administrative, and leadership issues become second nature as a result of rehearsal, repetition, and careful planning.

And remember, the goal of practice isn't doing something until you get it right. It's doing it until you can't get it wrong.

Can we worship God even if we aren't thoroughly familiar with the practical skills required for leading? Sure. God can use whatever we can manage. But my lack of skill can tempt people to be distracted, confused, andpotentially irritated. I might be worshiping God, but I'm not doing all I can to help everyone else join me.

Skill Helps Us Serve the Church

Joe, our friend at the beginning of this chapter, really wants to bring glory to God with his gifts. What he doesn't understand is that his lack of skill is an obstacle. God gives us gifts so that we can “serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10).

How do we serve one another?

By leading clearly so people aren't wondering what words to sing next or what the melody is. By using fresh arrangements that aren't distracting.

And by possessing a calm and joyful countenance that expresses the hope in the God we're singing about. “Those who look to him are radiant” (Psalm 34:5). If I'm trying to remember the lyrics to verse 2, how to play aB7sus, or how the bridge melody goes, I'll have a hard time looking to the One I'm worshiping, and my face will be anything but radiant.

But if I don't have to think much about the mechanics of leading, I'll be free to look to the One I'm worshiping, and my face will show it. And that will serve the people I'm leading.

Skill Multiplies Serving Opportunities

A few years ago, we were looking for a music and worship intern at mychurch. The individual we were considering had a master's degree in organ performance. In some churches that would be a requirement, but in our situation it didn't carry much weight. In fact, it was a strike against him. We don't have an organ and don't plan to purchase one.

But this man had also spent a significant amount of time developing his improvisation skills on the piano and had experience in songwriting, choir-leading, and arranging. Because he broadened his skill set, he was able to serve in more areas and was a perfect fit for us.

Skills to Develop

Our varied skills should function like the frame around a classic painting. If the frame is too bold or extravagant, we'll hardly notice the picture it displays. Onthe other hand, if the frame is cheap, shabby, or marred, we'll wonder whysuch a masterpiece is surrounded by junk. The right frame complements the picture in all the right ways, directing our eyes to the brilliance of the artist, not to the frame.

John Piper calls the right balance “undistracting excellence.”2 It's a proficiency that doesn't draw attention to itself but rather points away from itself.

We can pursue undistracting excellence in a number of areas. The first and most important is our knowledge of God and his Word, which we looked at in the last chapter. But the nature of worship leading requires us to give attention to other areas as well.

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