The topic of motives came up in yesterday's sermon which my friend Ee-Tan and I discussed a little in relation to our service to God in our singing and worship leading.
I always see it as a very, very fine line - do I sing to serve God or do I sing to perform? Am I doing it all with the right motive?
I am often in that dilemma - is it for me or for God? Or can it be both? Maybe having that very dilemma is a good beginning.
I don't know. I am still struggling with that question every time I go up onto the chancel to lead in worship, to sing the anthem either by myself, with others or with my choral group.
Of course I want to make sure that I sing well so that the songs will be well-ministered to the people. I will be doing a disservice if I sing in an awful way without proper techniques, same as no one plays the piano in church if they can't play it at all.
I like what my choral director Joanna said to us once: we should train ourselves to the point that when we sing, the people do not "hear us" at all but only hear the song and be ministered by it. It means that we should sing so well that people will not get distracted by our singing but are focused on God through the music. The focus is of course God, not us.
It's like when we listen to radio, no one, except maybe the vocal pedagogy, would think much about how the song is sung but what and why the song is being sung.
So in relation to my motives in singing in church, I will continue to train and improve in my singing technique but I also need to daily commit what I do and what I sing to God, that when I sing, my mind should be focused on both producing a good sound--nothing wrong with that--and in centering what I am doing in God as worship.
So can I say then that it is both for me and for God? For me in terms of the effort and for God in terms of my worship of him.
Pastor mentioned Dallas Willard yesterday as one who cleared the confusion about effort and works. Maybe I can't apply it directly here but I like what Willard said: Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.
So in my effort to produce a good sound when I sing, it's the action that I do that should not become an attitude of pride, of what I can do, but as an offering to God in music and worship.
It's tough, but not impossible.