Do you ever play in your worship band for a number of consecutive services, and find that the 1st one tends to be a little rough around the edges, even despite a great practice?

Our church is located in Three Hills, Alberta. Since this is essentially a college town (home of Prairie Bible Institute) you can imagine that general church attendance in town fluctuates throughout the year, favoring September through April. Because of this, our church holds 2 services throughout these months, and thus we play the same set twice. It always seems like our first set is just…off. Critical parts of the song get a little jumbled, someone messes up the words, or someone forgets a cue and either comes in too early or too late. Some days are worse than others, but you are getting the picture.

“Ok, Justin, if it isn’t all about the music, who cares? Worship is worship right?” Well, yes and no. There are a couple of reasons why I can’t settle with that logic. On the one hand it is a good thing that somebody actually takes a step into God’s light and begins to worship. On the other, we need to consider the worship being offered.

Example: John is supposed to open the song with a fairly basic strumming pattern on his electric guitar (a la How Awesome is the Lord, Chris Tomlin) but he somehow forgets the actual timing, and the whole opening rhythm is essentially cut in half, leaving the drums, bass and acoustic wondering what the heck they are supposed to do. They catch on fairly quickly, and John instantly knows what he did wrong. The rest of the song goes off without a hitch, but John’s enthusiasm is shot. He doesn’t want to be up there anymore. Neither does the drummer for that matter, John’s mistake made her look like a fool. Not only do they have to put up with the other 5 songs in the set, but they have to do it all over again!

Look at what we have now. Both John and the drummer, Alana, don’t want to be up there. They have completely forgotten the notion of being a vehicle for worship, and don’t care to lead others, much less lead themselves. Here, worship is no longer worship. Worship became a chore, maybe even a fake smile. Now, part of this can be attributed to the players’ attitudes, another part to practice, and maybe another to pure chance. Something, somewhere went wrong.

I won’t claim to know where it all started, because I don’t know. What I can tell you is that a few things need to happen. This “1st service blues” as I call it, needs to be broken because it is potentially starving people of their desperate need to connect with God. People can come to a “blue” service, and you can sense that they wanted more when all is said and done.

From what I can see, there are a few parts to this. One, these team members need to change their attitudes. This is where I would say “It isn’t all about the music.” It is about the heart. If you lose heart, you lose focus. Secondly, there needs to be a concerted effort made to ensure that the music goes smoothly. I say that almost painfully because it sounds so rigid. But look at what the beginning of Psalm 33 (KJV) says: 1″Rejoice in the Lord, o ye righteous; for praise is comely for the upright. 2 Praise the Lord with harp, sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing unto Him with a new song, play skillfully with a loud noise.”

Play skillfully. From (Synonyms) ready, adroit, deft, adept, apt, clever, ingenious. Skillful, skilled, expert refer to readiness and adroitness in an occupation, craft, or art. Skillful suggests esp. adroitness and dexterity: a skillful watchmaker. Skilled implies having had long experience and thus having acquired a high degree of proficiency: not an amateur but a skilled worker. Expert means having the highest degree of proficiency; it may mean much the same as skillful or skilled, or both: expert workmanship

Now, we all began somewhere, and thus were amateurs. But even amateurs can play skillfully. I have seen men who have played the drums for 20 years show less genius in their playing than someone with only 3 or 4 years under their belt. SO what does this say to us? Well, for starters it says give your gift of music to God, and be a good steward over it. Practice, eliminate those hitches where they occur. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing for you to make a mistake, which is relieving because we will all make a lot of them. But if you had to choose between screwing up a progression and not screwing up a progression, what would you go for? Exactly.

The message here is that we all make mistakes with our playing and with our attitudes. A circumstance like ours (having the 1st service blues) can be broken through practice, prayer and self-evaluation, just like your situation can. So with that I encourage you to play skillfully, and with a loud noise. Peace be with you.