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#ThursdayWorshipThoughts 09.06.18

Play Skillfully

play skillfully

In his book, Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell makes a case (based heavily off of the research of psychologist Anders Ericsson) that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to truly become a “master” of something. That is a lot of hours! According to this idea, if you were to commit yourself to becoming a “master” of your instrument, it would only take you 5 years to do it… if you deliberately practiced for 40 hours a week!

If you could only manage to deliberately practice for 20 hours each week, it would take you 10 years to become a “master”. Only have 5 hours per week to commit to deliberate practice? Well, in that case, it would take you 40 years to become a “master”. Yowsa!

At this point I have some good news and I have some bad news… The good news is that anyone can become a “master” of their instrument. The bad news is that, in all likelihood, you will probably never become a “master” of your instrument.

Personally, I like to encourage people to practice their instrument for 20 minutes each day. I really believe this is the best strategy for really getting good at your instrument. But with this “20 minutes per day” strategy in mind, it would actually take someone more than 83 years to become a “master”. At my age, I wouldn’t even be halfway there (and that’s if I began at birth)!

The “10,000 hours” rule is fascinating research, but I have some really good news for Worship Team members… you don’t actually have to become a “master” in order to adequately worship the Master! God’s rule is substantially easier than the 10,000 hours rule.

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. (Psalm 33:3, ESV, emphasis added)

God’s rule for Worship Team members is simply to play skillfully. That’s it! But what does it actually mean? I think it means (at least) a couple of very practical things. Let’s consider these ideas together. 

God deserves your best, not your leftovers. Playing skillfully means putting your heart, soul, mind, and strength into it. Isn’t that the kind of worship God is looking for, anyway? Put your heart into it! Don’t just go through the motions. Put your soul into it! Aim to truly connect with God as you worship Him through music. Put your mind into it! Really think about what you are playing and / or singing. Put your strength into it! Set aside time to physically and adequately prepare. 

Playing skillfully is all about doing your best! It is not about comparing yourself to someone else’s best… it is about comparing yourself to your best! Are you giving God your best, or are you giving Him your leftovers?

It really is up to the individual church leadership team to decide what skill level is required for being a part of the Worship Team. 1 Chronicles 25 is a chapter from the Old Testament dedicated to describing how King David organized the Temple Musicians. Note that the chapter is completely descriptive and not prescriptive. In other words, that’s how he did it, but it doesn’t have to be how you do it. He was organizing 288 skilled musicians. Most churches don’t even have 288 congregants! 

Each individual church leadership team should decide what practical skill level is required for Worship Team members. Personally, I like to require that musicians have a basic understanding of their instrument, that they can play well without being a distraction, that they can play along with a metronome, that they practice on their own and know their parts prior to rehearsal, that they continue to grow, and, eventually, that they are willing to teach what they know to someone else. But that’s just me. The skill level requirements that you or your church set for Worship Team members may be very different. I would strongly encourage each church to think through what it means for their Worship Team members to play skillfully -but I don’t think I would set the skill level at 10,000 hours…

For a printable version of this article, click here.

Artwork provided by my good friend, Brooke Gehman, an authentic and wonderful man of God, devoted follower of Christ, and an amazing husband and father. Brooke is a gifted Worship Leader, an incredible artist, and a Potter by trade (check out his website).

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