by Rick Pidcock
It was going to be a night that I would not soon forget. In fact, it was the first night that I would ever play my guitar publicly for a worship service. The location? The Macon Rescue Mission. The worship team? Me, and three old guys named J.L., Grover, and Shine. The music? Good old Southern Gospel.
Fast forward a few years, and there I stood in the Fine Arts building of the university I attended, in order to get my music checked before leading the Sophomore Class in worship. Of course, this time there would be no Southern Gospel, as you might imagine. This time it would be music from the university, two other music ministries that were philisophical and stylistic clones of the university, or hymns only.
Now I find myself in Denver, CO where Southern Gospel is looked upon as redneck, and where the issues that surrounded my college life are met with a collective, “Huh?” Yet in each context, the worshipers all had the same goal in mind: to magnify the supremacy of God with excellent worship. So how could people so different from one another all desire excellent worship, and still end up looking so different?
I’d like to begin a journey with you to explore what it means to have excellent worship music. In doing so, I’d like first to reiterate that every element of our worship falls short of what God deserves. Yet even still, we are called to pursue excellence in our worship.
So where does it all begin?
1. Excellent worship is made possible by knowing the Divine One.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”–2 Peter 1:3,4
Life is a prison–a prison of corruption that binds us with the chains of our own sinful desire.
In contrast, God is infinitely glorious and excellent in every way.
So how could it be possible for humanity to offer worship to an infinitely glorious and excellent God, when we are imprisoned in corruption with the chains of sinful desire?
The answer is quite simple. We can offer excellent worship to God because we know Him in Christ. By knowing Christ, we have access to all of His promises. Thus, through obtaining the promises that are ours in Christ, we escape the prison of corruption. And since we have escaped that prison, we now have the opportunity to offer worship to God through Christ.
2. Excellent worship is rooted in God-centered love.
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”–2 Peter 1:5-7
The word “virtue” in this passage could also be translated as “excellence.” In other words, we should complement our faith in Christ with excellence.
So where does this exellence come from?
This is where many well-intentioned worshipers begin to miss the point. They rightfully say that since God is excellent, we should strive for excellence as well. But then they try to come up with either a music style or a level of skill or ability as if by adhering to those styles and skillsets, they can somehow reach the level of excellence.
Biblical excellence, on the other hand, ultimately finds its roots in God-centered love. Notice how 1 Peter 1:5-7 go on to say that excellence comes with knowledge, which comes with self-control, which comes with steadfastness, which comes with godliness, which comes from love for one another, which comes from love for God.
So the next question we need to ask is this: Where does love for God come from?
Ultimately love for God stems from the love of God. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” The only reason we can love God and others is that God has loved us.
So now we are compelled to ask, “Why does God love us?”
The answer to that is where we begin to see the radically God-centered nature of love. God loves us because He loves Himself. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love.”
The very nature of God is summed up with His love for Himself. Because He loves Himself, He glorifies Himself by dealing with sinners justly. Because He loves Himself, He glorifies Himself by accepting the righteous in Christ. Because He loves Himself, He sovereignly rules over everything for the ultimate goal of magnifying His glory and excellency.
Thus, when we discuss excellent worship music, we must discuss it within this context. In other articles, I will explore on a more practical level how this will play itself out musically, lyrically, with your worship team, and in your context of ministry. But we must never forget that it all stems back to love for one another and for God, which ultimately is born out of God’s love for His own glory and excellency.