I recently overheard a conversation between two elderly ladies: "..all that twanging on the guitar, it's more about musical prowess than about worship"!
This got me thinking. The comment was made after a large worship session at a recent Christian conference, and the ladies in question did not know the band personally.
Is that really how people see us? I know there have been discussions here before about this, and as Christians we all try hard to make our playing about serving God and serving the church in order to lead the congregation to a place of true worship. We try to focus on being servants rather than performers.
So when we play well do we give the impression of being "about musical prowess" rather than" about worship"? Or is the real problem that people like this are making false judgements? How do we combat this? Or do we press on regardless, knowing that God knows everyone's heart and He is the only true judge?
A long time ago (circa 1978) I was in an original Easter play written by one of our asst pastors and an all-original music score written by a good frend of mine. Most of the stage blocking was done by a young lady who was a theatre major in college. I was playing one of the disciples (James of Alpheus) and when not on stage played a 3rd guitar part.
THis lady had an attitude the size of texas. She certainly knew her stuff but we all knew HOW WELL she knew her stuff and she never let us forget it. The play went well and we did it several more times. (into the early 1980s)
I spent time in prayer for her and her attitude. She certainly loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him, but her demenor was certainly off-putting even to other performers. This "artistic temperament" I found most offensive.
Then one day while in prayer for someone else (a musician exhibiting the same attitude) the Lord impressed on me that I had that temperament as well.
Furthermore, HE had given it to me.
Apparently I had hid it even from myself. (but some like my wife saw it at times) I had to repent of judging her and from not recognizing this fault of my own. On the latter part I ran into trouble. How can you repent of how God made you?
That all comes down to perception. I still have a hard time comprehending how some music sounds to a non-musician; but I am learning. slowly. It is vastly different than what we musicians hear. Just as I was not a trained thespian who saw her instructions very differently than she was giving them, I had to conclude that at least part of the problem I had with her was how I perceived her instructions and her training. It was not just performance pride. There was a real genuine desire to make it work right and I failed to see that.
There is a fine line between pouring your heart out to God in your instrument and showing off. There is no external indicator of one versus the other. Phil Keaggy (one of the best guitarists ever) can play worship music doing incredible things but it never stands out. You might even miss it if you were not listening for it. To my way of thinking that is a good balance; playing your heart out to Our Lord (what HE is listening for) but keeping it back in the mix so as to not distract those who might have their attention drawn to yourself instead of the Lord.
The elderly ladies probably don't like guitar, and that's all that that's about. But the caution is are we focusing so much about how we are worshiping that it takes away from an honest awareness of who we are worshiping . Good musicianship is fine if it adds to the message and doesn't replace it. Lack of good musicianship can also take away from the message, so we still need to strive to be good.