When it comes to doing church we can tend to gravitate toward one of two extremes. The first is the over the top, “everything must be awesome” extreme. The band should sound like as much like U2 as possible, and the worship leader should have that “I’m cool, but I’m not trying to look cool” look. Worship should feel similar to a rock concert, except, of course, we’re singing to Jesus. The lobby should feel like a fair-trade, organic only coffee shop, and the children’s ministry should resemble Chuck E. Cheese. If all these things coalesce at the same time it’s quite possible that the Third Great Awakening could take place.
The other extreme is the “it’s all about the heart”, don’t try to manufacture God’s presence, extreme. The worship band sounds like a steel pipe being put through a wood chipper? It doesn’t matter, it’s all about the heart. The children’s classrooms smell like vomit, playdough, and goldfish crackers? So what? The sanctuary is dingy, cold, and drafty, and the coffee served in the lobby tastes like peat moss? It doesn’t matter, because we try to attract people through the things that really matter, like preaching, and the gospel.
Neither one of these extremes is right. The Bible does speak of playing skillfully before the Lord, and of filling the sanctuary with beauty. But is also states very clearly that nothing truly good or spiritual can happen apart the supernatuaral work of God. It doesn’t matter how awesome or awful the worship or preaching is, God must still do the work. I appreciate how John Piper puts it:
The category we have found most helpful is “undistracting excellence”. The adjective “undistracting” means that the quality of an act must help, rather than hinder, the spiritual aims of the ministry. Lead worshipers aim by the power of God’s Spirit (1 Peter 4:11) to awaken the mind’s attention and the heart’s affections to the truth and beauty of God and the gospel. (Still Not Professionals – Loc 160 Kindle Version)
In worship, children’s ministry, preaching, coffee, sanctuary temperature, lobby greeters, and ushers, we are aiming for “undistracting excellence”. If our service to the Lord is sloppy, disorganized, late, and smells bad, it will distract people from communing with God. If the worship team sounds like a walrus seal massacre, people will have trouble focusing their attention on God. If no one greets newcomers and they are left to wander about the church, they will feel uncomfortable and out of place. On the other hand, if everything if everything is glitz, glamour, guitar solos, and perfectly ripped Gap jeans, people will be distracted by that as well.
Our goal should be to serve the church and the Lord with undistracting excellence. We want to serve with a level of excellence that is not distractingly bad, but is also not distractingly good. Our goal is not that people would say, “What an awesome worship service,” or, “What an awesome preacher,” but that they would say, “What an awesome God!”
This Sunday, let’s strive for undistracting excellence.