Today's guest post is written by my friend Jonathon Willis, a talented musician and passionate Christ follower. Jonathon takes seriously the responsibility of using his gifts and talents to encourage others to engage in Christ-centered worship. Jonathon has worked with many artists and you can find his keyboard recordings at CD Baby. ______________________
So, Michael has asked me to write an entry for his blog this week. I am honored to do so. Michael and I have a long and rich history going back to 1994, where we first met in a church in Owensboro, Ky. I had become somewhat disillusioned with church at that time in my life - young and newly married, my wife dragged me kicking and screaming one Wednesday evening to the obligatory mid-week dinner and Bible study that we baptists have grown so fond of over the last several decades. (And I must confess, I DO like to eat… but I digress.) My wife, Diana, had been visiting for a couple of weeks. She introduced me to Michael and Melissa that night, and a long-lasting friendship began - as did my re-education and rededication to the worship of our Lord and Savior. My family and I now worship at Clearview Baptist Church in Franklin, TN, where I serve alongside Michael as a member of the worship band. Over the years, our friendship has grown, as we have shared our victories and our struggles as brothers in Christ.
Why the brief history lesson, you might ask? Well, of all the things I have learned while working with Michael throughout the years, perhaps the one thing that has etched a permanent place in my mind more than any other is the notion that while perfection is unattainable, excellence in worship is the least that we should offer up to the Lord. In other words, God demands our best - it is not a request. In exchange for the sacrifice He made for us through Jesus Christ, it's really not too much to ask. This can be a double-edged sword at times. I mean, after all, we as creative people tend to have rather fragile egos, get our feelings hurt too easily, and as a result we tend to compensate for this by becoming perhaps a bit too competitive at times. You see, "our best" can quickly become "we must be better than everyone else". Ah yes, vanity - Satan's favorite sin I've been told. This mindset can lead to feelings of discontentment with our worship experience… and spiritual dehydration. Unfortunately, I know from which I speak.
It comes on slowly, without realizing it is happening - God no longer becomes the intended destination of our worship. We do. A euphoria sets in for a while, an emotional thrill of sights and sounds, applause and accolades - and we slowly, without realizing it, begin directing all of this attention inward instead of upward. We are fooled for a while longer, as we continue to push the perverbial envelope - seeing how we can keep outdoing ourselves, and more importantly, outdoing the churches down the street or on the other side of town. Then eventually, we try to outdo each other and ourselves. And as we continue to convince ourselves that we are doing the Lord's work, the despair of discontentment and spiritual dehydration begin to settle in, and we slowly become bitter and angry with God, and with those around us, because the applause and accolades are never enough to fill an emotional need that we created in ourselves.
It became clear to me a few years ago that I had slipped into a self-imposed imprisonment of spiritual depression, and I had to get away for a little while. Well, actually God began to make it painfully clear that He needed to send me to spiritual boot-camp and re-educate me to the meaning of worship - what it is, and why we do it. At the end of it all, I had forgotten what I had learned from Michael years ago in that Kentucky church where I played piano. You see, God really does demand our best. In everything, not just worship on Sunday mornings. By committing to excellence in ALL things, we become the witness to the world He longs for us to be. It is the ultimate display of thanksgiving for His blessings, and the testimony of His sacrifice for us in our lives. When God remains the focus of our praise, our best reflects His best for us and in us. As worship leaders, school teachers, business professionals, construction workers - our ultimate in worship is when we trust God to finish the good work He started in us, and let that be our light to the world around us. And once we are able to get out of our own way, that is when He is able to complete this work.
Have you been in that place where you have pursued perfection rather than God?
How do you guard from wanting the applause from the audience?