“My team is on the floor.” This is Gene Hackman’s line from an absolutely crucial scene in the movie Hoosiers. Do you know it? What a movie! It is based on the true story of a tiny town in Indiana going all the way to the state championship where they…well, let’s not spoil it. Wonderful movie.

But the turning point in the middle of the film happens when these few boys have to decide whether or not they will follow the coach’s plan, or their own. One decides to play basketball his way. So Coach Hackman benches him. The problem, of course, is that his team is so small that there is no one to take his place. Even the referee points out: “Coach, you need one more.”

My team is on the floor. Only people that will follow the plan obediently will be on this team.

This phrase has come back to me over and over over the past three years. When I arrived here in West Jersey, our praise team had twelve members. In the middle of the pandemic, we were down to two. Two! And I was one of the two! As a former symphonic musician and trumpet player, this was tough. For years we aimed for total musical perfection. Now, when I look back at those livestreams, my singing conjures to mind an old dog howling away at the moon. A pretty far cry from earning a living playing only the right notes.

There is another side to this story, however. I need to share some insight into the 12 that were pruned away. There was a lot happening there that leadership hadn’t known about: one vocalist had moved in with her boyfriend. Another female vocalist had taken up a girlfriend. One fellow was using a lot of dope. Another was cheating on his wife. Yet another again was sliding into the DM’s of some of our young housewives, looking for attention. As these revelations were becoming known, one at a time God was pruning them away. But it felt kind of like we were sliding down a hill where we couldn’t see the bottom. How deep does all this go? And how do we proceed forward in a contemporary praise team in a  world that craves big sounds?

The answer came from scripture and couldn’t be simpler. I was studying for a guest message on the Levitical law and came across the simple description of the grain offering from Leviticus 2.

Read for the adjectives: “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (ESV, Lev 2:1–2)

The offering will be fine flour, reinforced twice in both verses. It is easy to picture this, isn’t it? We would go to the storehouse or pantry, and there, in the quiet of that closet, a decision must be made. Do I choose my best flour that I worked hard for, that I know is pure? Because I kind of want that for myself! Or do I select the flour I found some stuff in, that looks fine, but I know isn’t my best? And the point here is that if properly selected, this all gets put on the altar, and lit on fire. Oil, flour, and sweet-smelling spices on hot stone. I think the smell was delicious, said in my most Jim Gaffigan voice. We can be sure of this because of the other descriptor: “a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”

Which brings us back to Coach Hackman. We know what God is looking for here, and it isn’t just what is said or sung on Sunday. (Although that is a huge part!) Jesus Himself quotes Hosea 6 with the explication that the Pharisees had heard what Hosea said but never learned what Hosea meant: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” (ESV, Mt 9:13)

God is looking for a sweet-smelling obedience that pours out of obedient hearts, not just the visibility of obedience empty of the true intention. That fits the Pharisees perfectly: ‘whitewashed tombs’ that appear polished but are death inside, and smell like it in God’s presence.

In other words, though we didn’t know it, we were far better off having fewer team members with purer intentions than more team members with something less. We could repeat that over and over. Because one of those two options is a sweet smell unto the Lord, an offering found acceptable, and the other one is not. To put it bluntly, one of the two smells delicious, and the other smells like, well, garbage. That is what sinful hearts masquerading as grain offerings smell like when it all gets cooked up: stink.

As a result, this formed the basis of three lessons learned from our season with few on the floor:


The question we were forced to ask was simple: where did the grain come from in the first place? The answer is blindingly obvious. God. God is more than able to provide for His own glory. A small praise team isn’t forced to craft praise like the Hebrews trying to make bricks without straw. Manna from heaven is the far better model. Even if we sing an unaccompanied hymn or a youtube video, He receives the glory He deserves from right hearts, and we have obeyed the many scriptural commands to sing to His glory. He has a plan to provide for His own glory giving, and it is a joy, privilege, and pleasure to be a part – however that is configured. But be sure, God has a plan for His own glory to emanate from you, His creation.


When you or your team leader retreats to the storehouse to select from whatever is there, be prayerful and be careful. Is Christ glorified? Is this selection rooted in the promises of the Bible? Is this selection tightly tethered to the message that God is writing for Himself in the ministry of the Word? Our only concern is that it is acceptable, the most commonly used word to describe offerings in the Old Testament. This capably leads to the third…


As a former musician, this was a hard bridge to cross. It is so tempting to put talent over trustworthiness. But God looks at hearts! Although I hope none of us are forced to choose between the two, we rightly would rather have someone deeply devoted to Jesus that capably knows a few chords over someone that can improvise in 15/8 on the pentatonic scale but isn’t faithful.

One final story: After Sunday’s worship this week we had a church family feast. Food everywhere. So good! We stayed late, and had such a good time that no one remembered to take out the trash from the sanctuary. By the time Wednesday came around, which is our rehearsal day, I came in early and ugh! The building was just full of that garbage-y smell…just all up in the face, in the nostrils, say it again: ugh! Get it out of there!

Beloved, this is precisely the visual language the Bible uses to describe how sin rises up in God’s face. And it got me thinking once again about pruning, once again about my team on the floor. What gets out of here. What remains. God looks at hearts. He craves a people devoted to Him with hearts full of love. Even a season of pruning and a season of few can be sweet when we realize this. God will provide apt ingredients, apt people, for the glorious purpose of His own praise in His perfect time.

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Joshua Rasdall

Senior Pastor at Grace Fellowship
Joshua joined Grace Fellowship as senior pastor in August of 2017. Alongside his college sweetheart Jessica, Josh enjoys every minute of living in Hunterdon County. Formerly a musician, Josh played trumpet in orchestras and jazz bands across the Midwest before hearing a call to ministry in 2008. Acting on this call resulted in a Masters of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois; immediately on graduation he worked for five years as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Montvale Evangelical Free Church in Montvale, New Jersey. Josh and Jessica are both still avid fans of music, performing in their free time when not serving the church, but are even bigger fans of their two handsome boys, Isaiah and Timothy.

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  1. JJ Meyer on December 7, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    Thank Josh. Well written and a great reminder.

  2. Josh Ott on December 7, 2023 at 1:45 pm

    This was a great post. Thank you Josh.

  3. Dave Martin on December 6, 2023 at 10:33 am

    Thank you, Josh, for a bold call for walking the “narrow” road of maintaining high expectations of ourselves and others as leaders of God’s people. It’s not easy, not comfortable, often not understood nor applauded. But it is what God asks, and yes, requires of us. Your reference to offerings in the OT which were to be “acceptable” reminds me of what Paul says of our “sacrifice” of ourselves today in Romans 12:1-2 – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Thanks, dear brother!

  4. Jeff Kliewer on December 6, 2023 at 10:28 am

    Amen. Better a few with pure hearts

  5. Paulo Freire on December 6, 2023 at 7:56 am

    Thanks Josh!!
    May God continue to create “fine” worshippers in your midst.

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