Which America’s Got Talent performance would get God’s Golden Buzzer Award?
Once a year, our community’s ministerial alliance holds a Singspiration, an evening musical program that combines singing of favorite songs with one or two performances from each church. This past year’s performances included a choir that sang two gospel songs, several vocal solos, a piano solo, and a mandolin/dulcimer duet. As one might expect in a small-town rural area, the performances varied in quality as well as style.
Well, my definition of quality.
I found myself getting crabby about the whole affair. Evidently, the audience mirrored my feelings, for some pieces prompted more enthusiastic applause than others. The more polished the piece or the more poised the performer, the louder the clapping and cheers. I doubt any of them would have made it past an AGT first audition. Well, except the dulcimer/mandolin duet.
I brought myself up short.
What did God think about each performance? Which one would He judge the best?
What is God’s check list for a pleasing music performance?
- Execution and polish
- Well blended harmony
- Perfect rhythm, pitch, and elocution
- A mistake-free performance
That’s the score sheet used on me in high school choir competitions. While we look at those criteria as signs of a great music performance, surely God is looking at other criteria as well. Gotta get in that spiritual aspect, after all.
What would God’s evaluation sheet look like?
- Attitude of the performer – one with a contrite heart
- Song with the most compelling spiritual message
- Connection with the emotions and spirit of the audience
- Take-away – how long audience members remember and mediate on the message in days to come.
Back to my first question. Which of those seven different pieces at our Singspiration appealed most to God?
I have a feeling that in spite of my musical analysis and perfection oriented pickiness, God liked every single one of those seven performances because they were done to honor Him and they proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ.
As a musician, I’ve had this mistaken idea that the better I perform, the more God will like what I do. I’ve had to put the brakes on that attitude many times. Now, as a mature adult, I know better, but doesn’t my response to people’s praise of my musical efforts betray that my former attitude toward musical prowess lingers? So many times, someone has told me how inspirational my music was to them and I immediately respond, “Oh, I made a bunch of mistakes.” Have I bought into the myth that the better my music performance, the more God will like it and be able to use
it in the hearts of my listeners?
Yeah, like God is keeping a scoreboard of how many missed notes and beats I made.
How does one define God’s standard of musical perfection?
Man designed the structure and system of music, not God. The Lord’s evaluation sheet looks quite different than the one I would use for myself or others. I have a hunch God isn’t impressed by voice vibrato or complicated piano arpeggios. He truly is interested in our passion for the message we share.
Any musical ability is a gift from God, something I offer back to the worship of His Holy name in the presence of the saints. Yet, God says this in Isaiah 66:2:
“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”
When I give a music performance, God is listening to my heart more than my voice. Instead of fretting over the power of my voice or the dexterity of my fingers, I need to do an attitude check.
- Humble or arrogant?
- Praising God or myself?
- More aware of who He is or of who I am?
- More uptight about my performance than I am of my ability to convey the message?
Do I have something I need to sing or am I singing because I feel like I must sing something? There is a difference.
The Audience Response:
If it is true that God considers the heart of the performer as a gauge of a good performance, how am I as a member of the audience to judge the performer’s attitude and relationship with God? How can I tell if it’s a good performance in God’s eyes?
I can’t. But I can glimpse clues:
- The struggle the person went through to even get on that stage.
- Tears on the performer’s face.
- A sense of sincerity.
- The choice of music – whether the emphasis is on the message or on the music style.
The Lord can still use music and the message to bless and encourage His people even if the singer’s heart is not right with God. The success of a musical performance depends on the audience as much as on the performer. An audience must be ready the receive the gift, to engage with the message, and have a commitment to carry the message, comfort, and encouragement of the music out the doors into the ordinary track of life. That kind of reaction is the responsibility of the listener and the interaction of the Holy Spirit as He connects the performer with the people through the conduit of music. It has little to do with the performer. The performer becomes only a vessel, a conduit for presenting the message.
A performer can’t control what the Spirit does with his art. For that to happen, hearts of the listeners must be open and accepting. They must be primed to listen for the message. All a performer can do is pray that God will take whatever happens and use it to upbuild the Kingdom.
The Bottom Line
The best music in God’s mind is when both the performer and audience have an openness to God’s leading, a humility to admit that we aren’t as good as we might think we are, and a devotion to follow God in righteousness beyond the performance moment.
Whether we perform on stage or use our gifts of music appreciation by sitting in the audience, we all have one goal – to praise and honor the Audience of One who deserves all that we have to offer Him and so much more. No matter what we do or how we do it, if it is done in His Honor and in His Name, He’ll love it. Heaven’s halls will respond with His cheers.
Think how freeing that is. I can give God whatever I have, mistakes and all. If I hit a clunker, it’s no big deal. I will still attempt to do my best because I don’t want a poor performance to detract from God’s message. But after I’ve done all I can, I don’t sweat the small missteps. I turn my performance over to God, realizing He is concerned about much more than hitting a wrong note. And, He can do amazing things with my gift of praise that I may never know about this side of life.
As a member of the audience, I give grace to the person up on stage. I learn to listen to the message rather than the music. Instead of noting how the choir is failing to sing well together, I focus on the words and I praise God for those people’s dedication and willingness to get up on stage. I move my focus from who does the music to the One for whom it is done. I praise God rather than praising the performer.
And I stand up and cheer with the hosts of Heaven because God has been glorified once again. I cheer because the music performance becomes a symbol of Grace On Parade.