Ministry: Public Worship
Four Ways to Prepare the Highway to Glory
The Voice in the Wilderness
The wilderness and the prophet were made for each other. His name was John and he was known for baptizing people in the River Jordan. He dressed in animal skins and ate what he could find in the desert: locusts and wild honey.
Filled with the Spirit of God from His mother’s womb, John’s passion, his food and drink, his message was the Word of God. He possessed the appearance, the spirit, and the power of Elijah and the words of Isaiah.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Isaiah 40:3-5 NKJV
John preached in the desert and the crowds came to him—priests, Pharisees, poor people, soldiers, shopkeepers, scoffers—sinners all. His was not a message of comfort but of violent repentance, of lives turned on end, of renewal, reform and revival. As he spoke, it was a like an axe laid to the root of their lives, cutting to the heart with conviction over sin. The only relief was found in the brown waters of the ancient river, for centuries the passageway from bondage to freedom.
Why? Because Jesus—the Glory of the Lord—was coming their way!
Coming Our Way
The Bible promises an outpouring of the Spirit of God.
…I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days… And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved… Joel 2:28-32 NIV
This outpouring will be for everyone with no gender or racial or social distinctions. On the day of Pentecost, this was Peter’s text for the first evangelistic sermon given under the New Covenant.
The Bible also warns of a simultaneous and opposite event, a falling away.
Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 NLT
While the “man of lawlessness” has not yet been revealed, the rebellion is certainly underway all around us. As worshipers and worship leaders we must heed the warnings of Isaiah and John the Baptist and prepare the highway for the Lord. In many ways, public worship is that highway.
- There are dangerous depressions in the roadway that need to be filled.
- There are hindering mountains in our right-of-way that must be leveled.
- There are rough places where boulders of human effort hinder the smooth transit of the Spirit.
- There are detours of our own construction that send us far from the true path of life.
How Do Worship Leaders Prepare for the Glory of the Lord?
There are ways we can prepare to receive the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit. If we do these things, when the Spirit is poured out, we will experience the blessing.
We must focus our worship on the Lord Jesus. Any other focus is a crooked path. Whether we use the latest songs or time-honored classics, our music must be about who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do. The music of worship must never be about the singers, the players, or the congregation. The presentation of worship must never be about the setting, the look, the atmosphere, the effects, or the tech. These things must be used to bring attention to Jesus—that is the interest of the Holy Spirit. (John 15:26-27; 16:14-15) If anything or anyone other than Jesus occupies the center of our worship, we are at cross purposes with the Holy Spirit.
We Must Banish Pride from the Platform. Pride is a mountain in the Highway of the Lord. Musical or spiritual pride brings God’s resistance, not his blessing. (James 4:6) Musicians learn pride as they learn music. The music education system trades on pride—first chair, first place, trophies, medals—we must teach and model artistic humility. For players and singers who are trained in the entertainment industry, success comes with stardom. We must model and teach servant hood.
We must capture the heart of God—the biblical theology of worship. Song-based ministry without a theological base is a deep valley that must be filled with truth. It is possible to operate a music ministry with only the knowledge of music. A worship ministry requires knowledge of the heart of God—theology. I never want to be a “Professor of Impractical Theology.” If we are to move with the Holy Spirit, we must be acquainted with the ways of the Spirit. This knowledge is most practical.
We must learn to depend on the Spirit of God. As thoroughly prepared as we might be, human effort without the anointing of the Spirit is a bumpy, bumpy road. The smooth path is a deliberate dependence upon the power of the Spirit of God. This is not laziness or presumption, but a determined effort, a smooth road of expectation, as we constantly choose not to lean our own talent and training. To paraphrase Paul: And my (music was not presented with the enticing artistry of my own wisdom and skill,) but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the artistry of men, but in the power of God. (from 1 Cor 2:4-5 KJV)
To experience the great outpouring of the Spirit, our faith must be in the power of the Spirit, not in the skill of our own hands.
The Coming Glory
The same Jesus whose voice, touch, and presence transformed those who were prepared for Him in his earthly ministry is coming our way. The highway He travels is the worship we lead. There are people in deep trouble who need to encounter Him.
There are voiceless ones who long to sing, sightless ones who want to see, and those who cannot hear who desire to hear.
- There are the disabled who want to dance and the depressed who long to hope again.
- There are lost people who want to be found and questioners who want the answer.
- Those who have believed the lie that their lives mean nothing need to hear of their actual worth to their Creator.
- The aimless, purpose-less ones in search of a cause worthy of their lives will find it when He finds them.
If we will prepare the way, He has promised to reveal His glory to us.
This is our John-the-Baptist moment. We must take courage, we must become a voice in the wilderness and watch the Holy Spirit do the work.
Our lives and Our desert were made for each other.
© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved