In “Mr. Tanner,” the late American songwriter and storyteller, Harry Chapin, sings “He did not know how well he sang, he only heard the flaws.”

When I speak with singers and players on various Praise & Worship teams, it’s common to hear them lament about every mistake (they think) they made, and how poorly they think they sounded. Now, it goes without saying that we all want to do our very best every week, but for most of us, what we are able to contribute in terms of time and talent is far less than is required to be as good as we’d really like to be. Most of us have other jobs and obligations that keep us from being able to practice with consistency.

Having personally enjoyed both the experience of being up front, playing “with the band,” and standing behind the console in sound booth, I can say without fear of debate from any other church sound tech that it always sounds worse on stage. I had a few there weeks when I played so lousy (in my mind, anyway) that I just wanted to put down the instrument and walk away… forever. Ironically, it would be those weeks when I would get the most compliments. I would wonder to myself,  “Are these people deaf?”  No, they aren’t deaf, they just didn’t hear what I heard, or maybe, just maybe, that “big mistake” I made blended in just fine (I love it when that happens). On the sunday’s when I thought I was really nailing it, no one would say a word. So, I’ve since come to accept the reality: When we think we’re good (and are apt to take the credit), the Lord humbles. When we feel like we totally blew it, then God provides the encouragement.

Bottom line? It’s just another reminder of who created who. It’s not about us, it’s about giving glory to the one who put us here, and blessed us with whatever talents we have. To him, the music doesn’t matter, it’s all about the praise. We just have to remember to leave the old ego out in the parking lot.

We all want to play and sing our best each week, and that requires dedication and practice. With the hectic schedules most of us keep, that’s darn near impossible. The weeks fly by fast so as soon as one set is finished, it’s time to prepare for the next. Here are three common sense tips (reminders, really) for busy people who perform in choirs and Praise bands:

1—Attend practice. Every practice. Illness or family emergency should be the only acceptable excuses. The operative word in Praise Team is “Team.” If you are part of the team, then you need to play with the team. When folks who missed practice show up on Sunday to perform, it’s a total distraction to the leader and a disservice to the other members who have made the commitment.

2—Play in lock-step with the team. This is an extension of #1, and brings in the all important concept of listening to the others. When the team is playing as a team, a myriad of mistakes will go totally un-heard. When the band is totally and tightly in sync, there’s an energy—a momentum—that moves through the congregation. You can feel it on stage—but doesn’t come without a price, it takes dedication, desire, and….

3—Practice. Ideally, you should be able to play or sing your part without even looking at the music. Admittedly, that is pretty impractical for most people working busy schedules. But you  do need to set aside at least a couple of hours (other than team practice) to make sure you are familiar with the upcoming week’s set list, and that you know your parts.

Getting back to “Mr.Tanner” (I’ve posted the video below, if you are not familiar with the song),  It was his friends who encouraged him to go outside his comfort zone, beyond his own limits, to pursue a career as a professional singer. Fortunately, most P&W team members are more grounded and realize that being able to participate in music ministry is a very noble cause unto itself, so I end with the final line from the song … “And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul. He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.”

Images from the trailer for the 2008 movie “Praise Band” –

Originally posted 2013-03-10 19:11:31.