Practicing For Eternity

By James R. Hart, D.W.S.

IWS President Jim HartDo you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Co 9:24-27 ESV).

As a musician, I have to practice every day. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t practice for one day, you know it; if you don’t practice for two days, everyone in the ensemble knows it; if you don’t practice for three days, everyone in the world knows it.” Practice makes permanent; correct practice makes perfect. Well, not really—actually correct practice helps the musician to improve, becoming hopefully better than before.

Currently, the IWS administration is completing our self-study for reaffirmation of accreditation with the Association for Biblical Higher Education. Accreditation is a peer evaluation and certification process that assures the quality of an institution’s educational offerings. Our Director of Assessment and Planning, Dr. Steve Huntley, is patiently and competently leading us through this process of evaluation, benchmarking IWS against other similar higher education institutions and helping us to identify areas of achievement and areas of needed improvement. Maintaining and growing the quality of our educational offerings requires practice, helping IWS to improve, becoming hopefully better than before.

The accreditation process is much like Lent. In Lent we practice disciplines that help us to “improve” our Christian lives, becoming hopefully better than before. Or, more correctly stated, the disciplines of Lent contribute to our growth in Christ-likeness as we “practice” prayer, fasting and alms-giving. These disciplines don’t make us more holy or more faithful, but, rather, they assist us in denying ourselves and taking up the cross of Christ and following him, identifying with his sufferings and participating in his death, resurrection and ascension. In following Christ in this way, we have the opportunity once again to set things right with God, ourselves, each other and the world.

In Lent we are called to keep practicing for an eternity of growing in Christ-likeness. Thanks be to God!

About the author

Dr. James R. Hart has served as President of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies since 2007. Dr. Hart was a member of the first IWS doctoral class, the Alpha class, and served as Dean of Students during his matriculation. After graduating from IWS, Dr. Webber appointed him as the Dean of Administration, and then Provost in 2006. In June of 2007, he was inaugurated as the second president of IWS. Dr. Hart holds a B.M. in Sacred Music from Oral Roberts University, an M.M. in Trumpet Performance from the University of Tulsa, and a D.W.S. from the Institute for Worship Studies. He was critical to the formation of IWS in Florida and has held administrative responsibilities since its inception in 1999. He is a professional trumpeter, choral director, and worship leader, and a published composer/arranger, songwriter, and author. He has been involved in worship leadership in various contexts around the globe for over 40 years and has taught in the areas of worship, theology, and music in various conferences, colleges, and seminaries. Dr. Hart and his wife, Carol, have three daughters and three grandchildren.