We are fascinated with people of great skill.
As a kid, I remember watching Michael Jordan dance his way around defenders to take the game-winning shot of game 6 in the 1998 NBA finals. I was awestruck. To my young mind, MJ was the greatest human being on the planet, the pinnacle of human perfection. I wanted to be like Mike.
Jordan was the most competent player to ever compete – both in his skill and in his knowledge of the game- and this competency led to his larger-than-life legacy and multi-million dollar status.
Our culture idolizes people of great competency. We love to cheer on the worlds best athletes, to buy from the worlds most pioneering businesspeople, and to send our kids to learn from the worlds best and brightest scholars.
Competency gets you places.
But competency alone won’t get you very far in God’s economy. In fact, it’ll get you nowhere without something that God desires more – character.
“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV)
As broken humans, we struggle to see beyond outward performance. We value our competency in a particular skill set because it brings us recognition and respect. But Gods vision and understanding goes so much further. He sees and knows the heart. He wants people of character. He wants us to want to be people of character.
It’s only when our competency is directed, shaped, and ruled by God-honoring character that it truly becomes pleasing to God. It’s only when our competency is combined with this kind of character that our skills become sharpened arrows for God’s use.
In the Austin Stone Worship Manifesto, our lead pastor of worship at the Austin Stone, Aaron Ivey, writes:
“Artists tend to focus on skill level over character, but character is a necessity for anyone with influence. The size of the platform doesn’t always equal the size of the inward character. Platform typically illuminates skill sets, but the eyes of the Lord see the condition of the heart. Worshiping teams realize that character always trumps competency.”
My students worship band and I recognize the need to lead from a place of humility rather than pride, from brokenness rather than being “the complete package.” It’s when we take on an attitude of humility that we can see our gifting and skill sets properly – as a gift from God to be used for His glory and the good of others, not as a means of self-promotion or gain.
Although my band-mates and I are broken people, we belong to a holy, overwhelmingly kind and loving God. He sees our hearts, and wants them so much more than he wants our songs and skill sets. As a band, we care far more about the inner person than an outer performance.
We value character over competency.
— For the past few months I’ve been been writing about ten values that are shaping my students worship band. This value, “we value character over competency” was borrowed directly from the Austin Stone Worship Manifesto.