I don’t like making mistakes, and I downright despise making mistakes when I am leading worship. I want to read perfectly, pray perfectly, preach perfectly, speak perfectly, share perfectly and come as close as I can to singing perfectly. That has been my goal as a Youth Minister, as an Associate Minister and has continued to be my goal as a Pastor. I deeply desire that everything in worship go right, that the words are said correctly, that the songs match the service well and that everything should fit together; scripture, prayers, children’s moment, call to worship, music, communion, offering and sermon. I think that this is a common desire, that the congregation and other worship leaders feel the same way. But I am starting to question it.
There are plenty of reasons that I can come up with for wanting worship to be perfect and plenty for not wanting it to be perfect. I want to focus on two reasons I don’t think worship should be perfect. But first, I want to add the caveat that I am not saying that I am sure worship shouldn’t be perfect but we should at least question the assumption that it should be. First, I think that perfect worship can be a barrier for imperfect people to experience God. Second, I think that when we are focused on having a perfect worship then we become so critical of imperfection that we worship the service not God.
When we attempt to make worship perfect then we have a tendency to exclude that which is imperfect, both intentionally and unintentionally. Intentionally, we try to make sure that we only have the best; the best readers, the best singers, the best preachers or whatever else. And our definitions of the best tend to be narrow and exclude those who may be able to bring us a word from God or an experience with God in the midst of their imperfection. Unintentionally, we may make those who are deeply scarred and badly broken feel like they aren’t good enough to be present in our worship. If someone who is keenly aware of their imperfection finds themselves in a service that is geared around being perfect then they will not feel like they belong or are welcomed.
As for ourselves, if we are spending our timing worrying about the worship being perfect then we are focused on the perfection of the wrong thing. We are called to worship God, who is perfect, but we are called to worship God as ourselves, imperfect and flawed. Focusing on worship being perfect takes our focus off of God, and may prevent us from experiencing God, as our focus is on being critical of the service instead of on encountering God. We should try to make worship good, but our focus should be on creating opportunities to experience God, not on making every element of the service perfect.