designing ministry, part 2 :: good enough for church

September 29, 2009


“RE-DEEM”:  to restore the honor, worth, or reputation of…

As an artist, and as a Levite, I have clarified my mission at the intersection of church life and art.  Our God is a Redeemer, and He uses His people – sometimes His artists – to bring about the work of redemption.

My mission:  to REDEEM the phrase “good enough for church.”

I used to cringe every time I heard that phrase…  “Well, I know she’s not that great a singer.  But she loves Jesus, and she wants to sing.  I mean, it’s good enough for church.”  Ouch.  “We’re not a publishing company.  We have limited resources.  Our newsletter can’t look like a magazine, or what does that say about our priorities?  This is good enough for church.”  Whack!  “Bobby’s just learning the guitar and he wants to be on the Worship Team.  He’ll make some mistakes, but he’ll learn as he goes.  I’m sure he’s good enough for church…”  *sigh*

Seems like the only time I heard that phrase, for many years, it was being used as an excuse for mediocrity.  That somehow, because the local church is a family, full of grace with each other, half-baked (or downright bad) art is not only acceptable, in some cases it is seen as a more humble and, therefore, better offering than truly excellent art.  The excellent offering of an artist who has invested heart and soul into creating something deeply beautiful has been written off as prideful indulgence.  After all, art that is “too good” glorifies the artist.  It smacks of pride.  It is distracting.  It is idolatrous.  All we really need art to be is… right.  “Good enough for church.”

This is a lie, and it has been bought and propagated by many well-meaning Christ followers.  Art, after all, falls into the “whatever you do” category…

“Whatever you do, work at it WITH ALL YOUR HEART, as working for the Lord and not for men.”  (Colossians 3:23)

God made artists.  Kingdom artists reflect HIS creativity, and they point people God-ward.  Let them make great art for Him.  Let artists serve with excellence.  And let them set the bar HIGH.  I honestly believe that CHURCHES ought to be the pace-setters in the art world.  If ever there was a place for deep expression, purpose-driven creation, and joyful play, the CHURCH ought to be a support community for art like no other.  And the church should expect the BEST possible work from their artists.

The Old Testament affirms this value.  Read Moses’ account of the building of the tabernacle in Exodus 26-40 with a highlighter in hand.  Notice how many times the phrases “skilled craftsmen” or “skillfully made” or “finely woven” are used.  Similar adulatory commendations are used throughout the book to command creation of the accoutrements of worship for the tabernacle – always with the highest regard for artistic excellence.  It’s in there.  God wrote it.

And who does God pick to lead the artistic design ministry for the tabernacle?  See Chapter 35, starting in verse 30…

“See the Lord has chosen Bezalel… and He has filled Him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts… in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship.  And He has given both him and Oholiab… the ability to teach others.  He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers… all of them master craftsmen and designers.”

And, by the way, this God-infused passion for excellence and beauty and “master-craftsmanship” doesn’t just apply to visual arts.  Look at the account of the Levite musicians who were set apart by God for the “church music” of the day.  Who was chosen to be the head of the tabernacle choir?

“Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing;  that was His responsibility because he was skillful at it.”  (I Chronicles 15:22)

I love that God wrote that little sidebar after the semicolon.  Do you suppose He foresaw some of our churches filling the choir director slot with the pastor’s wife because, well, that’s how we’ve always done it… and she can play the piano a little bit… and it’ll be good enough for church.

God is worthy of excellent art.  Nothing less.  Can you see the obvious connection with design?

The DESIGN elements used in your church most often provide the “first impression” of the heart of your church to the surrounding community.  They are a tool that can either further your goal or hinder your ministry.  So we take design seriously at Living Hope Church.

And the REASON that we care how things look and feel is NOT that we prioritize style over content.  On the contrary.  The CONTENT of our vision and values DRIVES style, determines visual direction, and (we hope) reflects our belief that excellence honors God and inspires people.  We have the greatest and most important message to share in all of recorded history.  Shouldn’t that inspire our deepest creative efforts?  The best possible art?  Inspiring,  excellent, high-quality design work?

Recalibrating your excellence meter is a long, slow process.  It takes grace, patience, humility – but it also takes conviction and intentional direction setting.  The next time you produce a bulletin or newspaper ad or banner for your ministry, think twice before tagging on that circa 1978 clip art cross or cartoon easter lily with a bow on it.  And no doves, please.  Take a look around at the stores, the advertising, the well-crafted marketing campaigns that vie for the attention of every soul that lives within driving distance of your church.

Then ask yourself, “what would it take to get MY attention – to make me look twice.”  Work hard.  Find a team of artists who love God and are skilled in their field.  Design with the understanding that eternal souls are on the line – as working for the Lord and not for men.  And then with fear and trembling, ask yourself again…  “Is THIS good enough for church?”

How can your church take one step forward in making your design work reflect God-honoring, attention grabbing excellence?

>> Note:  read “designing ministry, part one” HERE.

Creative Commons License
“designing ministry, part two :: good enough for church” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.


Posts Twitter Facebook Google+

Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

48 responses to designing ministry, part 2 :: good enough for church

  1. Great thoughts, Josh.

    I love the point you drive about considering how our stuff looks compared to the rest of the world. Granted, one could make an argument that we’re the church and not the “world”, but we need to remember the people we’re called to reach are out in the world. And as a whole, our eyes have been trained to expect a quality that’s brutally absent from the ministry world.

    One may say, “but the church is the people, not all that other stuff.” Yes, true. But that drives the point even further – if the church is the people, are the people putting their best foot forward? We want the lost to be found. And we want them stepping foot in the doors of the place where our best ministry happens. But if everything they see from the outside looks like we’re an out-of-touch, out-of-date, okay-with-mediocre environment, they’ll gladly stay home and enjoy their HDTV.

    You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

    • Hi Paula. To continue from my Facebook response…

      God has given people different gifts. Some have artistic ability. Some have the gift of teaching. Some are healers. Some are prophets. I’m encouraging the church to function Biblically – each member doing its part, according to its gifts. That doesn’t mean that someone with mediocre musical ability CAN’T minister somehow. One of the most powerful moments I remember from my last church was an elderly man with very little singing ability standing up front to sing a hymn accappella. But it was from his very soul. It was wonderful, and it was NOT musically excellent. So there are times for that kind of moment in our churches.

      But I’m talking about the mindset that mediocre ANYTHING (art, design, preaching, you name it) is acceptible as normal, because it’s “just for church.” God asks us to bring our BEST lamb. God appoints SKILLFUL artists. God asks for our BEST efforts – all out of a heart of love for Him.

      You have inspired me to write another blog post, Paula. I’m not sure if I will win you over (insert smile here – we’re on the same team!), but I think your comment above is far more true and far more telling than you realize. “…the thing that’s grabbing people’s attention is to reject Purpose Driven/Seeker Sensitive models.”

      Makes me sad that JESUS isn’t grabbing people’s attention. And by “people,” I think you and I both mean “church goers.” Because much energy is put into being AGAINST Rick Warren, Bill Hybels… AGAINST the label of “seeker sensitive.” AGAINST doing ministry with intentionality (which you can call “purpose-driven” as long as you’re not in the company of anti-Warren Christians.) My heart is for the church to be FOR JESUS and FOR LOST SOULS above our criticisms of other church models.

      Wrote a blog post on it here >>

      Paula, I am more and more and MORE “seeker-sensitive” to the degree that I want to introduce more and more lost people to my Lord and Redeemer, Jesus. I will be “purpose-driven” to the degree that we prayerfully, humbly, and intentionally try to figure out WHAT we are called to do, and HOW to do it effectively. I belive Living Hope is doing that. I hope you consider us part of the same team – the Church – following after Jesus. We’re not doing it “the right way” or “better than other churches.” My heart just aches to see churches REJECT mediocrity (it is a bad witness) and EMBRACE excellence (because it honors God and inspires people.)

      God bless you, friend. Thanks for the press back. You help me clarify my own thoughts. Greet your husband from me, too…

  2. I think in this generation of purpose driven church, the thing that is grabbing people’s attention is to reject Purpose Driven/Seeker Sensitive models.


    And with good reason.

  3. Josh I’m pretty sure that even if you put someone you consider to have ‘good’ musical ability up there, I still wouldn’t be satisfied. Just how to you propose to judge? I agree people should serve where they’re gifted. But this ridiculous idea put forth by the Purpose Driven paradigm and other similar spinoffs, that we can figure out our gifts by filling out a survey on a piece of paper is just an excuse for not KNOWING people personally or being so in touch with the Spirit by knowing and internalizing Scripture that you can tell where/when you should be serving. On the one hand the Purpose driven paradigm tells us to serve where we feel drawn/gifted and on the other hand these pastors who have it all figured out (because they MUST — they have a large and ‘successful’ church) are always telling us to get out of our comfort zone. Well which is it? Perhaps someone’s comfort zone is up in the music ministry. They should get out? Or someone’s comfort zone is just singing in the congregation because they don’t have a confident voice or sense of pitch — so maybe they should get up there and sing solos?

    The problem though is that if you post things like this, those who THINK they know what ‘good’ is in their own mind use it to criticize the hard working people that put musical numbers together, and create the notorious worship wars. I’m not saying that they are the only problem, obviously peacocks up there pretending to ‘lead worship’ when all … Read Morethey really are doing is enjoying the sound of their own voice and the ‘effect’ they have on a crowd is a big part of the problem too.

    BTW methodology is not neutral.

    Have you read Bob DeWaay’s “redefining Christianity – Understanding the Purpose Driven Movement” ? I would encourage you do to so. He has another one out now on the Emergent Church. He’s always excellent, reminds me much of Pastor Phil Haugen.

    Another guy you should give a listen to is Chris Rosebrough. He’s running an internet stream called Pirate Christian Radio. And yeah, he’s not the most adept at radio, but he’s learning. He’s got some great thought provoking stuff. But honestly even from what I see now, there is no way that I would have put him in a ‘radio’ ministry. Still, he is feeding God’s purpose driven refugee sheep, those who have fled the man centered message of today’s evangelicalism, which is pervading every denomination without exception. It marginalizes those who are not ‘hip’ and ‘talented’ and ‘with it’ because they cannot provide that ‘musical’ or entertainment oriented thrill that the crowd is seeking.

    I myself have found myself moved to tears quite frequently by some of the lamest gospel proclamations, simply because in our foolishness and ineptitude, simply by the power of the message preached, God’s power is made clearer.

    2 Tim 1:
    5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

    I see nothing about musical or artistic excellence in there. Go ahead and be excellent, that is great. But in your post you are implying that other people’s work is not as good as (your own?) and for such a subjective field, frankly, you cannot bind anyone according to Scripture. To lay this burden on other sheep – other than yourself – is really quite unbiblical.

    Josh, there is but One seeker. There is none who seeks God, no not even one.

    • Man… How can I agree with you on so much and disagree with you on so much at the same time?? Thanks for commenting friend. 🙂

      • Amen Luke! I agree with you all the way. Love you like a brother, too, bud. SO GOOD to be in ministry with you. High-five your wife for me. 🙂

        • Paul, God bless you. May more and more “seekers” find the answer in Jesus Christ. And if I get to be a part of the process… God get’s the glory (all of it) and I get to enjoy Him in the process. Thanks for your comment, brother.

  4. Josh – THANK YOU for writing this. I cringe every time I hear the verse “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” – because it was used in my smalltown church as an excuse to let anyone and everyone “sing” in the church choir… including those that could not read music and/or were tone deaf. As a TEENAGER it drove me insane!! I agree with you. Completely. God gives us different gifts, and we are to let our lights SHINE – whatever our light may be… but we are not all given the same kind of light…

  5. Hey Josh-

    Good thoughts! I agree that as Christ’s followers, we ought to seek excellence in everything we do for His glory! I also realize though, that God uses ‘less than excellent’ things to accomplish His work. God delights in excellence, but also delights in the humble/willing attitude of the giver/worshiper/doer. Also, at the end of the day, everything we can accomplish with excellence comes from Him and is for Him. Our best will, by no means, compare with what He is worthy of!

  6. While it is true the Son of Man came to “seek” and to save what was lost, we are also encouraged to “seek” Him. Paul’s quote in Rom.3 saying there is “no one who seeks God” comes from Ps.14 & 53 which says, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” The answer was ‘no.’ But we must reconcile that ‘status’ of man with these verses:

    “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while His is near.” Is.55:6

    “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Dt.4:29

    David to his son, Solomon, “If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” ICh.28:9b

    Again, “If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” IICh.15:2b

    “Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.” Ps.105:3-4

    “I seek You will all my heart…” Ps.119:10a

    In regards to wisdom, which comes from God, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Pr.8:17

    “You will seek Me and find Mewhen you seek Me with all your heart.” Jer.29:13

    “…for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers righteaousness on you.” Hos.10:12b

    “This is what the Lord says to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me and live.'” Am.5:4

    “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what He commands. Seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.” Zeph.2:3

    “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must belive that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” Heb.11:6

    I think it’s ok to be a “seeker.” 🙂

  7. Josh, you gave what you think is scriptural support for criticizing people as being less than gifted and singing (hey, they should KNOW they aren’t good enough, why don’t they step down?) is that not BINDING them?

  8. Paula, I never gave scriptural support for criticizing people. I would like to have a respectful discussion, but you continue to assign motives and words to me that I have not written. If your comments further the discussion, I’ll continue to approve them. If I have to keep restating my main point, I will no longer approve your comments.

    • Hey Jane! Thanks for your thoughts! You said, “I suggest that great art should not be reserved for the church building.” AMEN to that! I loved your whole first paragraph – I was cheering. 🙂

      And I agree with your point about GOing into the world, too. Living Hope meets in a Middle School. One of the things we love about that is that we are out IN the community – in a space that the whole community uses. Familiar territory.

      And yes, Christians are edified to the core by the Word of God and through the encouragment from one another in the faith. I think great art can have a role in that, too, whether or not it is necessary. Know what I mean? And I think art can play a HUGE role in catching the attention of the spiritually curious. Then God does the spiritual work – not the art. Art is the tool. God is the fuel. He gets the credit.

      Thanks Jane. God bless.

      • Thanks Hannah. Man, your words (from Francis) hit me in the gut. I want to be a part of the church family “speaking the truth in love,” and the truth is, we have different gifts. We all should serve in the way we’ve been designed to serve. It gets all wonky when feet try to do the hand’s job, etc. Then guys who don’t like kids end up teaching Sunday school, and people who don’t have the gift of leadership end up serving a turn on the church council because the slot needed to be filled. That’s not God’s beautiful design for His Body.

        This is why Living Hope has not asked me to coach the summer softball team yet. Wise choice. WISE choice. 🙂

  9. I suggest that great art should be not be reserved for the church building. Take it to the streets…use it to show our Holy, Just and Merciful God. Use it to show people His perfect Holiness and what He is worthy of from all of his created human-kind. Use it to show just how far short people fall from the Glory of God. Use it to display the perfection of God’s holy commands (ie the 10 commandments) Use it to help unbelievers see themselves in the mirror of God’s law. Then use it to show His Mercy, His Gift of Salvation in Jesus.

    He said “GO” to the unsaved..he didn’t say bring them into an architectually designed, artfully decorated building with perfect acoustics that fill the ears with precision sound. It seems to me that in order for Christians to be edified and encouraged only the Word of God(Col 3:15-17) is required, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (also Eph 5:19-21)…making music in our hearts to the Lord..and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. That is our food, our sustinance, our encouragement. Our lives are found in Christ…the One who had no place to lay His head.

  10. Josh! I was so encouraged by your post. i remember back to this past school year, at one of the church services i attended at cornerstone in Simi Valley, CA when Frances Chan spoke about women trafficking. He urged everyone to help: anyone with connections that could not only find these offenders, but also get them off the streets (especially in San Francisco). What stuck out to me was when he stressed the need for those who were GOOD at whatever they could provide (legal help, detectives, lawyers, doctors) and who were successful in what they did, yet willing to offer their professional help to save lives. I remember him specifically saying that this rescue mission didn’t need just anyone who was failing at their job and had no where else to go, but those who could actually help and get this mission on the way. When anyone is kidnapped into this trafficking it is impossible to track them after three days. God does call us to seek excellence in all we do! thank you so much for getting the word out!

    • Jimmy – you are a wise, wise man, and an OUTSTANDING youth director. So glad I get to be on the Team with you, brother.

      Now, I know singing on the Worship Team may be off the table, but I still think liturgical dance may be in your future… I have a linen ephod just your size. 🙂

      • Don’t tempt me… 🙂

        • Wow, Paul. Well said. And you and I are both drummers, so I bet we both have a hyper-sensitivity to “showboating.” An insensitive (or sloppy) drummer in a worship setting can easily turn people’s attention away from God – simply because they are often the loudest instrument in the room.

          I teach our Worship Team this concept over and over: If we do our jobs with great excellence and great humility, people do not see us. They interact with God. We are facilitators, and we’re out of the way. But when we miss cues, play wrong notes, play out of tune, etc., the attention of the congregation is on US, and not on the Lord where we want it to be.

          With great ability must come great humility, and then we can enjoy the freedomto CREATE and lead without being in bondage to (A) our own ego, or (B) the fear of other people’s opinions.

          GREAT comment. Applies to both music/visual arts AND design. Thanks, man. Please greet your fabulous bride for me, too. 🙂

          • Paul & Josh – I attend Open Door, and one of the things that draws me (aside from Dave Johnson’s grace-filled TEACHING) is the consistent high level of worship… meaning the MUSIC. As a musician, honestly, I can’t have it any other way – talk about distracted when someone’s singing off-key! It pulls me away from worshipping faster than if someone pinched me!! I’ve also been blessed to see some awesome leadership in this area – men who have been open to the Call of Christ on their lives to step down, even if for a time, to attend to personal issues or when they have sensed that THEY might be getting in the way of amazing, awe-filled worship. I’ve been led in worship by Dan Adler, Bruce Baalgard, Matt Patrick & Joel Hanson – all of whom have stepped away, and three of whom have come back… and been transparent about their process and the Call of God.

            In the meantime – although I’ve missed their “style” – God has led others and worked in amazing ways in our church body.

            Again, Josh – I think your point of using the gifts God has given us, to the best of our ability, in the areas where we are truly gifted is well-intended, founded in Scripture, and bears out in the real world. Thanks for leading us all in this discussion & raising a though-provoking issue!!

  11. Hey Guys, this is a great conversation. I can tell the motives behind all sides is pure. Can I put a couple thoughts in? I am a horrible singer. I think that my wife and the people in front of me on Sunday would agree. Do I love to sing? Yes. Do I glorify God when I sing? Absolutely. Would I be a good candidate for the Worship team? Absolutely NOT! Why? Simply put..I would be a distraction. I would direct more people towards my horrible singing than I would towards God. However, put me in front of a youth group with a few games and the Word of God…now we are talking. God is glorified and I am pointing youth towards Christ. That is my sweet spot. That is where God has gifted me to lead. My desire is to point people not push people away from God. The “Good enough for Church” style bugs me. I want to be awesome for my God. I believe that God has given all of us a sweet spot..may we all find it!

  12. Where can I sign up?

  13. In my experience musically speaking, its the best players who DO get out of the way, which is what I think is the a primary goal for a worship team player. It’s for the simple reason that we get the “rock-star-fantasy” out of our systems playing at clubs and festivals, we don’t need to exploit the Church stage for selfish reasons. The most POWERFUL worship in one of my recent Church experiences WAS IN FACT done by our Church’s best players BUT who ironically WERE the most humble and unimpressed with ourselves.

    I think the principle of bringing our “firstfruits” to the Lord as a sacrifice is extremely important, which simply BRING YOUR BEST into God’s house! If you are not very good at what you do, then maybe it’s a sign that God wants you elsewhere, and it’s exposing your motive of stage-hunger for affirmation in your art because you aren’t getting it elsewhere.

  14. haha, will say Hi to The Gwen… who is a RIDICULOUS musician, holy crap! She’s a machine. I fully concur with your sentiment, keep striving for a raised bar! I prefer to call it a “raised ceiling”, the higher the level of excellence/soulfulness/passion the higher the ceiling is for a Church to grow, i.e. more people will put up with it… While I have deep misgivings with church-growth Churches this is exactly how Crossroads went from 150 when Gwen started there 16 years ago, to 200 when I started there 14 years ago, to somewhere around 3,000 today. 1. Great preaching, 2. Great music. I was there to see it first hand.

    • Hey Gretchen. Thanks a ton. My love of Open Door runs very deep. It was my home church before I began ministry in the mid-nineties. I consider Dan Adler my first “mentor.” I used to call him up to ask what to do about issues in my church, etc. He and Bruce and Matt have all been my worship leaders at one point or another. Much respect for those guys, for Dave Johnson, and for Open Door in general.

      And Open Door was the first place where I experienced deeply excellent music led with deep sensitivity to the Spirit and deep humility. The Spirit moved in me, and I was wrecked. I would never again settle for playing church. Going through the motions. I wanted more of God. Open Door was a beginning point on my journey toward this ministry life I live now. They are a great example of EXCELLENT art that isn’t self-indulgent or ego-driven.

      And THAT is effective ministry!

  15. I think it’s amazing how our paths didn’t cross again until FB!! Glad we’re getting to know each other, Josh – much better this time around, I think. BTW – Open Door “wrecked” a lot of people… ripped us open, tore out our guts, and made us truly see the Love of Christ, often in human form… ’nuff said. 🙂

    • Hey brother Jason! Great to hear from you. Thanks for the feedback. Very thoughtful, and it made me think. A few responses to your critique.

      1. I give a hearty AMEN to your 1st paragraph. 🙂

      2. Regarding my use of the word REDEEM and it’s definition: If you read carefully, you’ll see I was never talking about the redemption of PEOPLE or the restoration of honor or position to PEOPLE. Only to the phrase “good enough for church.” That’s all. The definition I started with was not intended to be a Webster-approved complete exposition of the term. Just a clarification of the definition I was using.

      3. Your discussion of the criteria for deciding what is excellent (or beautiful, for that matter) in art was challenging and thought provoking, but not the focus of my blog post. After all, VOLUMES of books and entire semesters of graduate level study are given to this subject. My blog post is about 1000 words. Your comment even beats that. I can’t cover every nuance of every issue in every blog post, or my posts would be rambling and no one would read them. 🙂 I set out to communicate one core idea: Church, bring your best offering to God, because settling for less is wrong. That’s it.

      4. Regarding point 3 above, I understand your challenge to be saying without a common understanding of what “excellent” means, my post is at least sloppy (if not dangerous) in that it leaves the reader open to interpret for themselves what that standard is, and thereby may he or she may apply worldly or self-aggrandizing methodology to decide who gets to serve God and who doesn’t. Is that accurate? If so, I honestly think you are assigning way too much influence to my one little blog post. 🙂 In other words, I’m trying to make a simple point, not fundamentally change the Church. Again, I’m saying to the local church – do your best! I don’t think a philosophical construct needs to be developed to communicate that simple truth. Otherwise, I would worry every time I tell my kids to do excellent work in school, or sing their very best in choir.

      5. This paragraph was brilliant: “Are you arguing that (a) only those with as-yet-undefined-but-significant talent and training should be allowed to serve in church? (b) That a body that’s unable to develop advertising that holds its own in the local media should close the doors until it can, or hire out the expertise that God hasn’t brought to the congregation? (c) That excellence is a fluid target, depending on the size of the church and the talent and training of the people within it? Regardless of your intent, I could see all three positions claiming the support of your article, even though they’re mutually exclusive!” My simple response to all three options:

      (a) Try to find the people in your church with the best blend of God-given gifts, spiritual maturity, and personal passions to serve in a given area. All are subjective criteria that require relationship development, much prayer, and Spirit-led discernment.

      (b) Every local church should do the best they can with the talent God has provided, and then be discerning about what to try to accomplish. Example: I love church choir music. But we don’t have enough people with choir ability in our congregation to do it well. Therefore, we have decided not to put a small, bad choir ministry in place. Rather, we’ll wait and pray and see if God provides people with the right gifts to begin that ministry. With regar5ds to advertising in the community, I’d encourage every local church to try to figure out who has the best eye for the job – or the right set of skills. It may or may not be the church secretary, right?

      (c) Sliding scale of excellence? I’d say yes. 🙂 A small church may have fewer people with unusually distinct artistic gifts. But I think you and I both agree that the best effort of a mediocre artist is of higher value to God than the half-hearted service of someone with great natural talent. To the big, to the small, to the talented, and to the not-so-talented, I simply say… Bring you BEST, with all your heart, and never settle for half-baked offerings.

      6. I’m not an advocate for -or- a critic of the “seeker” movement in this post. That’s off topic, although I may tackle it down the road. (You can read my general thoughts on division in the Church here >> Frankly, I’m happy to dispense with that term forever if it will help unify the Church around Jesus Christ crucified and risen again. But doesn’t common sense tell us that good quality design work may encourage someone who is spiritually curious to check out a local church – or badly designed work may keep them away based on a bad first impression? I mean, it seems so obvious to me that I’m quite surprised at the amount of press back I’ve fielded today.

      7. I have grace for the out of tune singer. I may not hand them a microphone, however, but that doesn’t reflect in any way their value. Again, no one in their right mind would put me in charge of the church finances. That’s not where my gifts lie. That doesn’t affect my value in any way – nor does my ability to sing, play drums, or lead worship. What gives us our value is our relationship with God, our Creator. Therefore, ego can be removed from the equation, and we can talk honestly with one another about where we are best suited to serve our King – in the best way we were designed to serve. That is the Biblical picture of the Body – each part with its own assigned role.

      8. I’ll end with this… I disagree with your statement, “The embrace of pragmatic methodologies is causing enormous damage within churches today.” I actually think the polar opposite is true, and I know you disagree with me. For too long, too many churches have eschewed their responsibility to adapt their methods to the changing culture. Notice I said METHODS – NOT content. The message remains pure Biblical truth, but our methods of communication must adapt and change to the culture around us, or we will become ineffective. YES, God does the work. But He enlisted us – His bride – to GO and make disciples. When Jesus called fisherman to be his disciples, he spoke their language – talked of becoming “fishers of men.” I’m frustrated when I see churches that refuse to change, to reach out in the language of their surrounding culture, because for some reason they feel that their church found their “proper method” of ministry, and that method then becomes a sacred cow. Does effective = good? Maybe not all the time. But I’ll say this with conviction… INEFFECTIVE does NOT = good. And churches who make the case that God alone is responsible for their growth while doing nothing to try to increase their effectiveness in communicating the gospel are in sin.

      OK. Bed time for Joshua. 🙂 Good to hear from you, Jason. God bless.

      • Hi Manfred. My name is Joshua, and you can reply to me directly here instead of in third person. And I mean that as a genuine invitation to have a conversation, here.

        We do not worship excellence. We worship Jesus. We present our best offering as an expression of love to Him. No legalism. No squelching anybody. I may be wrong, but it sounds like you had a bad experience with a former church artist in leadership. Is it possible you are projecting some of your frustration onto me? Not sure, but I’ve never had coffee with you or gone to a Twins game or gone fishing with you. If you met me, you might like me. 🙂 Maybe we don’t disagree as much as you think.

        I know the Bible says to make a joyful noise. That reference is not intended to speak specifically to worship pastors about who should be up in front of the church. It is written for you – and for me – encouraging us to sing in our cars, in the shower, all the time – songs of praise to God. All day. Not specifically with a microphone in hand with everyone else in church listening to us.

        I wrote this to another friend on Facebook, and it is a sincere question… If the Bible encourages us to share our faith with others, to “tell of His wonderful deeds” in our life (and it does), then by your logic, why shouldn’t every believer share equal time in the pulpit, sharing their knowledge of God with the church? What’s the role of the teaching pastor? Isn’t that arrogant to think that he may be more gifted or qualified to teach than someone else in the church?

        “To some he gave the gift of teaching…”

        Of course not. And I’ll say it again – we’re not discussing a person’s VALUE. Our value is not tied to the quality of our PRODUCTION, artistic or otherwise. Our value is secured in our relationship with Jesus. What I’m talking about is someone’s ROLE in the church. I think there is ample scriptural support for people having different roles, according to their God-given gifts.

        Manfred, the only place I will take a hard stand and ask for your reconsideration is on behalf of the good people of Living Hope Church. If you met them, you would find a congregation of humble, deeply kind, joyful believers. Our church services are meant to honor God. It is not a circus, and our people are not goats. You owe them an apology.

  16. I’d agree completely that too often “good enough for church” is used as an excuse for doing less than our best for the Lord. I’ve been on the soapbox fighting against that myself; it’s no different than excusing poor Bible teaching or preaching because according to Is 55:11, God’s Word “will not return… empty”.

    Having said that, I don’t believe you’ve made your case well.

    First, while I really appreciate that you provided a definition for “redeem,” yours seemed sloppy, particularly given the first use you make of the term: “Our God is a Redeemer, and He uses His people – sometimes His artists – to bring about the work of redemption.”

    God’s work of redemption is not fundamentally a restoration of honor; it is a buying back of His chosen people, paying the debts they cannot through Christ our Redeemer’s inexpressible sacrifice.

    I have no quarrel with your later use of the term talking about redeeming the phrase “good enough for church.” But I hesitate to frame God’s redemption of the believer in terms of restoration of honor or reputation of the Christian. Our redemption is completely by God’s grace, through His gift of faith, by His choosing, and to His glory. Our value, honor, worth, and reputation is only found in Christ; we should be careful to always keep that in mind, or we’ll be starting down a dangerous road.

    Second, you spend quite a bit of time encouraging the church to create “excellent art.” I would agree, IF we share the same criteria for excellence. That’s the rub within any critique of art, and I think it’s even more important when evaluating anything created directly for usage in worship or other ministry.

    For example, are there objective standards of beauty that can be used as criteria? If so, what are they and what is their source? Are they self-evident in the nature of created order, or are they founded in some aspect of God’s character?

    Here’s a more difficult one: Is effectiveness a criterion? If so, where does it rank in priority? Is “Does it work?” synonymous with “Is it good?” This is not an empty philosophical question; pragmatism is a horribly seductive error. It’s seductive because it’s so in tune with American cultural values of hard work and success; it is a two-fold error because at its core it assumes that we can (1) by our efforts move anyone toward (2) choosing salvation, contrary to Eph 2:8-9, and Luther’s useful synopsis of Scripture found in the explanation to the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed. The embrace of pragmatic methodologies is causing enormous damage within churches today.

    Until one has a biblical, consistent criteria of evaluation, there is no point in “recalibrating your excellence meter.” In fact, it may be harmful, if one’s meter allows worldly standards to trump eternal ones.

    Unfortunately, you don’t develop any criteria in this regard, Josh, so the reader is forced to supply the missing context. Frankly, that is dangerous. Are you arguing that only those with as-yet-undefined-but-significant talent and training should be allowed to serve in church? That a body that’s unable to develop advertising that holds its own in the local media should close the doors until it can, or hire out the expertise that God hasn’t brought to the congregation? That excellence is a fluid target, depending on the size of the church and the talent and training of the people within it? Regardless of your intent, I could see all three positions claiming the support of your article, even though they’re mutually exclusive!

    I don’t want to just throw stones, so here’s what I’d argue, and I believe I can support: God has called us to be faithful, not effective (see Ezekiel and Jeremiah). A church that preaches the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:21-27), edifies the body, and practices church discipline is being faithful; any numeric growth (or lack thereof) is by God’s will according to His purpose. To be blunt, there is no such thing as a “seeker” as defined by Revs Warren and Hybels (per Rom 3:10, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.”)

    Given that, we as believers should be good stewards of the gifts and talents that God’s given us, as we are faithful in the works He has prepared for us. I would agree that Col 3:23 has implications for the believer in serving the church, and that it calls us work diligently, to the best of our ability, but always keeping in mind biblical priorities and constraints. For example, could I play piano better on Sunday if I practiced three hours a day? Yes. But should I do that if it means ignoring my family? No.

    Does this mean that sometimes I have to lower my expectations a bit because I’m singing with people who are less skilled? Absolutely. And I’m sure that tomorrow or next week, another in the body will have to be patient with my clumsiness in some other way. We strive to do our best, but if we keep in mind how flawed and defective our BEST is (outside of Christ) in relation to God’s perfection, I would hope we’d be better able to be patient with someone else in church who has trouble staying on pitch every now and then.

    • Thanks for the time in writing a response, Josh. There’s a lot I could say to clarify what I meant or refute what I disagree with in what you wrote, but I think you’ve done a good job finding the core bone of contention between how we teach/think/believe: pragmatism within the church. I’ll stick to that; the rest (e.g. changing methodology over time or culture), however important, is secondary, and largely an application of the central issue. And I’m sorry this is still long; I’m too tired to effectively edit it down.

      We may not mean exactly the same thing by “effective,” but your reply was pretty thorough, and I think we’re close. And yes, you’re correct: I disagree with you. I’d go further, and say I believe that your position is counter to Scripture, and its typical application lays the enormously heavy burden on the servant of God. (We haven’t spoken for years, but trust me when I say that I don’t use terms like this often or lightly. This is a serious subject.)

      You said “Does effective = good? Maybe not all the time. But I’ll say this with conviction… INEFFECTIVE does NOT = good.” Yikes, Josh. It is a very small step from there to “INEFFECTIVE = bad.” Do you have any idea of the disastrous weight such a concept places on the believer that God, in His wisdom, has called to preach without visible result?

      Effective and ineffective are moot; ONLY FAITHFULNESS = good in this mathematics. Jonah preached to the Ninevites and they repented; was his ministry better than that of Noah, who preached for a century without effect outside his own family? Or Ezekiel, who was sent to Israel to give God’s message and was actually told by God that he would be completely ineffective!? (Ez 3:4-9)

      What of the missionary that faithfully labors years or decades preaching the Word and displaying God’s love in the field before seeing a convert, or the pastor of a small flock that he shepherds faithfully, but without growth in numbers? Are we to condemn their lack of “success?”

      Point 1: We are called to be faithful, not effective. The results, whatever they may be, are to God’s glory, for His pleasure.

      Clarifying subpoint: Part of faithfulness is to be good stewards of the gifts and talents God gives us; being lazy or half-hearted in one’s service is not being faithful.

      You continued “And churches who make the case that God alone is responsible for their growth while doing nothing to try to increase their effectiveness in communicating the gospel are in sin.” There’s a lot of wiggle-room in how you’ve phrased that, so I’m going to hold back a bit. I’m concerned we’ve started talking past each other.

      There may be churches that actually behave as you’ve described. But are there churches that deliberately avoid preaching on certain passages or topics because it might offend attendees or give a bad impression to “seekers”? Or that structure their worship music or other service elements to manipulate emotional responses (or even decisions for Jesus)? Which version of the error (for both are rooted in sin of elevating tradition to the level of Scriptural authority) do you think is more widespread, and thus probably needs to be fought more stridently?

      Point 2: “Does it work?” is fundamentally a man-centered question, and it will inevitably shape the message to be more man-centered, regardless of the methods used. And a man-centered Gospel is another gospel; it is not the good news.

      • Joshua,

        My comments were just that, they weren’t an attack on you or your church – nor even addressed to you. Your initial post didn’t make clear (to my dull thinking, at least) that your remarks were regards “worship leaders”, as opposed to regular people. I don’t owe people I said nothing against an apology – I didn’t call the people in your church goats and I didn’t call your church a circus. As much as Rob Bell might be a heretic (in another of your posts), those things might be true. I don’t know and I didn’t allege. I commented on an attitude that is very wide spread in churches today.

        I don’t look to the Old Testament for info on what the officers (elders) of the New Testament church ought to be doing. I don’t argue that we should not do our best for the Lord – in all things. It’s clear in Scripture that we should.

        It’s not just my experience, it’s my view of Scripture: a healthy regulative view. Don’t find the office of music leader or leaders. Do find the office of teacher and elder, etc.

        We might well get along. I’ve heard that Tim Challies thinks Rick Warren is a very likable guy. Both ya’ll may be nice guys that I could talk with. That’s a far cry from having a common view of the depravity of man or the holiness of God.

  17. YIKES!!!!! Sounds EXACTLY like the music man at my previous church. Excellence in all things! It becomes a religion of excellence, squelching folks who love the Lord but don’t have the requisite talent. I used to try to gather a men’s choir once a year, telling guys that the Bible reveals the Lord’s demands for His redeemed to praise Him. “Make a joyful noise” it says. Anyone with the Spirit of God within has reason to praise God and He does not demand the level of excellence according to the human ear that men do.

    So many folks forget Who the audience is. I guess one has to tune the circus to the goats if those are who you are gathering.


  18. 1. I reject the notion that musical excellence cannot be judged… sorry, but it can, it’s not as mysterious and subjective as one might think. YES different people bring different tastes to the table, but excellence vs. amateurism is pretty clear to someone who knows what they’re doing – I’m not saying that just because someone has the title “Pastor” means they know what they’re doing… From my experience the whole “can’t judge a musician” usually comes from someone who never got their personal fill of face-time on a stage. So, YES the heart is extremely important, but if you suck at your art yet think you have to inflict it on an entire congregation it exposes your heart as being self-seeking. I also realize that some excellent musicians have hearts in the wrong place too, especially the paid ones who ONLY see playing in a Church as a paycheck.

    2. This may sound like a contradiction, but I don’t even think every Church needs to have the whole “bigger better shinier” goal, I personally find that a bit soulless, so if you lack musical talent go to a Church that is smaller and doesn’t care as much.

  19. Rebecca Enderlein September 30, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Josh, I wont go on and on or delve too deeply in all that has been writte, even though I have found the entire post, and further discussions very thought provoking. I just wanted to add my 2 cents…I concur. I feel that the biggest hinderance to God that the Church does is to perpetuate the notion of “good enough”. I have felt angered, hurt, humored and many other emotions by christians who justify their actions this way. I personally am a great lover of the arts. I find that I am moved and deeply blessed by a service with outstanding music, a sermon that is intellectual and challenges me, writers who prod me to think, and other expressions that give me joy.

    I love to sing, especially worshipfully, I feel God’s presence and feel filled with his joy. However, I grew up in a church where anyone could sing, especially sunday special music. Yikes. Some bad memories. Including my own – I organized a group of middle school girls to sing “He ain’t heavy, hes my brother” for special music. I cringe at it now. Do I think we blessed anyone? No. Do I know that we amused some people? Definitly, especially one of my very mortified brothers.

    Anyway, ramble…ramble…I think that God expects our best and we should give it to him. I think we all have different and varied gifts we are given and that we should use them accordingly. I would choose to argue this point more on the issue of those in “leadership” who have no gift of leading, but chose to do so more because they think they are being of service, or revel in the power. I think that we, as the Church body, do a great disservice to God, and to the spread of his TRUTH by standing by and not speaking forth on these things. Bless you Josh.

  20. Josh-

    I love you bro. I really miss being in ministry with you at LH. The grace at which you have communicated your thoughts and responses throughout this entire blog entry is so refreshing and in my opinion, so Christ-like. As I read your thoughts, the fruits of the Spirit living and active within you were so evident. I appreciate your authentic heart for God and for people. You continue to influence me in significant ways, my friend.


    >> I will no longer be posting any comments from Paula on my blog. She may see this as cowardly, or who knows what. But I no longer believe her comments are furthering this discussion in a meaningful way.

    This is actually a very difficult decision, because I would very much like to allow just about anything to be said freely, for the sake of an open exchange of ideas – for mutual edification.

    >> Paula, your last two posts were unkind. They not only were hurtful and aimed at me personally rather than my positions, but you also began to name other people with whom you disagree. They are not a part of this discussion, and it is inappropriate to bring them up here.

    I wish there were a better solution here. I asked you to continue any personal challenge to me in a more private forum – Matthew 18 DOES apply in this case. I then asked you publically on Facebook to please refrain from sarcasm and personal character attacks. Unfortunately, I feel I have no choice. You have lent PLENTY of voice to this discussion. I will not remove any of your prior postings. If you wish to continue to express your opinions you are welcome to do that in another forum of your choosing. Just not here.

    >> For everyone else, I apologize for this uncomfortable exchange. If any of you feel I’m in error here, let me know. Thanks for your understanding, and to all of you for the UNBELIEVABLY RICH conversation. Much appreciation to everyone, and a request for grace as I try to deal respectfully with opposing viewpoints while maintaining a civil discussion of ideas.

    -joshua skogerboe

  22. Hi Manfred. I’m learning how my blogging platform works, but apparently I can’t respond to a response to a response. 🙂 I guess I ran out of little windows.

    Therefore I’m posting this as a new comment. Thanks again for commenting. I understand better now your circus/goats reference and won’t take it in a way that you didn’t intend.

    You said in your last comment, “I don’t argue that we should not do our best for the Lord – in all things. It’s clear in Scripture that we should.” AMEN brother! That’s really the heart of what I was trying to get across in my post. And what’s funny is that I actually DIDN’T intend this to be SPECIFICALLY about music or musicians (or worship leaders). This is actually part two in a series of posts I’m writing about DESIGN work in church. Like, logos, and bulletins, and signs. The musical references were just supposed to be examples – where I was encouraging anyone with artistic ability to do their best! That’s all. I think we agree here, don’t we?

    Also, with regard to your last sentence – I don’t think I’ve had much to say at all about my doctrinal position on man’s depravity or on God’s holiness. Don’t assume we disagree before you ask, brother.

  23. This is for Paula:
    “YOU can just sing in the congregation… it’s my job to tell you that you’re not good enough for me and for all who worship here.”… Read More

    That doesn’t strike you as just a tad condescending? No matter how ‘nicely’ you try and say it?

    Paula…….. You are completely missing Josh’s point, continuing to take this post (and FB) in directions the conversation is not intended to go, and refusing to give up. It’s starting to feel like a puppy with a bone… Can you just politely respect Josh’s requests, agree to disagree, and try to simmer down? This isn’t personal – but unfortunately you’ve made it so…

    Josh hasn’t dropped a hammer on anyone’s head here. Nor will he.

  24. Open comment – Joshua FYI please read carefully:

    The ONLY ones who can seek after God are His elect. This is why there is an apparent contradiction. Men everywhere are to be told the gospel and commanded to repent and believe. Only His sheep will hear and obey – man cannot discern.

    At the following link is my attempt to explain why seeker sensitive is wrong. The underlying issue if that of focus: if one is focused on the creature (seeker sensitive) he will not be able to have his ONLY focus on the Lord, which is the call for men who preach and follow Him.

  25. Wow…your sure stirred up a hornet’s nest on this one. 🙂 Great post…I’m with you on this.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. designing ministry, part 3 :: rebrand 2009 :: logo development « - October 5, 2009

    […] After this earlier post on excellence in artistic output and design in our churches, I feel like this post needs the following disclaimer:  There are MUCH BETTER designers out there than the Living Hope team.  MUCH BETTER designers than me, for sure.  MUCH BETTER logo designs, etc.  Please don’t misread my passion for excellence in the church as a belief that our design work at Living Hope has set new standards of awesomeness.  Not at all.  I thought a look at our design process might be both interesting and informative, so I’m sharing it for whatever it’s worth.  Cool? […]