My immediate reaction to hearing the recording was to sit down and list off every single thing I heard that was wrong and share it with our team coordinator. That was the arrogant, perfectionist side of me that wants to encourage everyone to hold to the same standards that I hold myself. But when I sat down to write the email, I somehow couldn't bring myself to put on he headphones and do the critique. Instead, God gave me a bit of a revelation, or at least a cerebral smack upside the head. Some of the text of that email follows . . .
"Personally, and unrelated to Sunday, I feel as though I haven't been pulling the amount of weight I've needed to in order to give my best performance every week. You may think otherwise based on what comes out, but I know exactly how much preparation time I put in throughout the week, and it's not enough. Not for me, anyway (yesterday notwithstanding - I really had to concentrate because my voice was only about 64.3% capacity . . . I measured it). So I'm going to do everything I can to step things up. This Sunday will be hard, for instance, because I'm working a bridal show on Saturday, but I'm going to have to do what I can to prepare my voice and make it work.
But that's me. The phrase goes that we're our own worst critics, but I have a feeling no one else ever wants a guy like me to be a critic of their work. I say that because listening to those recordings were both exciting and depressing -- I was excited for what I heard that clicked, but depressed for the glaring things that just sounded . . . well, just really damn bad . . . stuff that, if we could erase from the recording as though they'd never existed, we would.
But then there's the in-between bits, the parts between the standards of excellence being reached and the depths of despair being visited, those places that fall somewhere around Good, or Could Be Better, or Almost There, or Let's Rearrange This Part. I don't know that we're ever going to give a flawless performance, but these in-between parts give me hope that we can improve. The just plain bad stuff, I think, really shines as an example of what should be just plain unacceptable, but the other stuff we can work on, and the thought of working on it as a band gives me some hope. And maybe we do a perfect job during soundcheck and have a couple brain farts during service -- I'm okay with that if it means we're consistently getting better. What I'm not okay with is us -- any of us -- phoning it in, doing a half-assed job, refusing to change our practice methods in order to improve, or thinking we can nail something we haven't even spent time with. I don't know, it's almost like there needs to be an intimacy between song and musician, especially with worship songs. Just like in the way we spend time with God to know Him better, or the way I spend time with my wife so that we can be more in sync with each other, it's imperative that a musician has some sort of communion with the song they play.
I hope and pray that our current musicians, at both campuses, grab onto this concept and begin taking it to heart, because if we don't, we're always going to be a church where the music is good and the worship just kind of happens, instead of a church where the music is always excellent and the conception of worship begins with each individual's personal practice time. In other words, Sunday morning worship starts on Sunday evening.
When I first thought to write you this email, it was to share with you the thoughts that I had about the recordings from yesterday. But in truth, my only hope is that the other band members download and listen to the tracks, and that you and I aren't the only ones that can hear what's wrong and identify what needs fixing. If that doesn't happen, my head might pop off (not verbally, just in my head), and if it does, I'll need your help to put it back on."
Now, you wouldn't know it from that email, but Sunday's service at our O'Fallon Campus was outstanding. We had a great time of worship that actually began as people were arriving to set up (our O'Fallon Campus is in a temporary location, so it's a church-in-the-box setup), and I think that mindset early on was what helped people to understand why we were there. All the musicians seemed to be in a good mood, the video screens were actually completely up by the time I'd arrived (something I usually help out with), and every service team member was clicking on all cylinders. We were able to get sound check going a few minutes early, and the musicians jammed for about 5 minutes before we checked levels and began our pre-service rehearsal. Then once we started, we were all in a great mood -- we laughed, we made jokes, and we worked through the problem areas we had quickly and with a good deal of focus. It was, by far, the most fun I've ever had during soundcheck.
And when service began and we started to worship, you could just feel the atmosphere in the whole place rise. It was as if we expected the Holy Spirit to be there, and every person that walked through the doors knew and expected the same thing. Sometimes you have days like that, and I know for a fact it began well before anyone arrived to begin setting up.
That's where my frustration came in. Even though there were some errors in our performance, there were some remarkably solid spots, areas where we were as tight as we've ever been, and those great points made the errors look that much more glaring. It's true that people don't get motivated to change anything unless they get frustrated, and I've been in a cyclical state of frustration ever since coming on staff at this church over 3 years ago.
And once again, I equate the necessary tools to what our church has dubbed the Permanent Impact approach:
- Be There
- Choose Your Attitude
- Make Their Day
I might go into these four concepts at a later time, but for right now, the concept that was brought to my attention through my email rambling was this:
One of my above paragraphs said it succinctly:
"I don't know, it's almost like there needs to be an intimacy between song and musician, especially with worship songs. Just like in the way we spend time with God to know Him better, or the way I spend time with my wife so that we can be more in sync with each other, it's imperative that a musician has some sort of communion with the song they play."Of course, I'm speaking of musicians, but this concept could apply to anyone with a job that needs to be done. The more closely associated you are with the task you've been given, the better your productivity will be. It's one of those natural laws -- if you want to learn to be a stock broker, you study the stock market and hang out with other brokers. If you want to excel in a sport, you practice that sport as much as you can, and you work with other athletes that challenge you in your sport. In whatever we do, if we don't spend ample time with the task we've been given, and if we don't seek to find others in the same field that can inspire and challenge us to constantly reach for excellence, we'll never reach our full potential. Even worse, we'll become stagnant. That's a recipe for calamity.
Assigned Intimacy. It's where you focus your energy into the area of your gift instead of just walking in it blindly. It's where we all need to be.
There Is No Box.