Turn the Corner
In one of those health and safety films at school, I was taught that intersections are dangerous. Most accidents happen at intersections. In the film illustrating this alarming axiom, a car raced past a stop sign and smashed into another car attempting to cross legally. The resulting crash was violent and deadly.
When we were teaching our daughters about driving I impressed upon them the defensive driving technique of watching other cars at oncoming intersections. Sometimes when I approach an intersection, I still see that speeding car wiping out the innocent one.
In Worship Leadership there is a corner that must be turned.
There is an important intersection ahead for each of us, for every worship leader and lead worshiper, for every Christian artist and craftsman. There is a corner we must turn if we want to continue on the biblical road to worship renewal, to biblical reformation and to spiritual revival.
And it is a turn for the better.
If we don’t make this turn, we are headed to a very different place, far from the regions of renewal, reformation and revival. Without this turn, we will find ourselves in a “worship land” where the tastes of the “worshipers” form the rules of conduct, a land called “Market-driven Worship.” In this place, worship is seen as a church growth tool, as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. If we remember the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman, the Father is seeking worshipers who worship in truth, that is, the purity of single motivation rather than the confusion of mixed motives.
Ministry to the Lord
It is amazing how important a little preposition can be. Most of us are comfortable with phrases like “ministry from the Lord” or “ministry for the Lord” but the pre-positioning of the little word “to” is a surprise. We can minister to the Lord.
This little word is the corner we must turn if we are to ever see true worship become the “new norm.”
Turning this corner on the path of life clears up worship by focusing the worship on the Lord Jesus.
- We can bring a smile to His face.
- Our art is for Him, others get to experience it, but it is not for them.
Our services of worship are meant to bring honor and glory to Jesus, not to us
A Better Definition of “to Minister”
Most of us have an incomplete idea of what it means to minister. We think that ministry involves some sort of hierarchy:
- the strong minister to the weak;
- the able to the unable;
- the informed to the uniformed;
- the “haves” to the “have-nots”
- the well to the sick; and,
- the “up and coming” to the “down and out.”
This immature definition of ministry gets us nowhere fast. It is rooted in a fallen nature; it is a misinformed notion of our superiority over others. This is the car barreling through the intersection without even a glance at the stop sign because the driver is blinded by pride. This idea causes the deadly crash of corporate wills we see in the inter-generational collisions over the worship arts.
The Apostles had a different definition of ministry, one based in deep humility:
Acts 13:2-3 NKJV
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
The Greek word translated “ministered” is this:
NT:3008 leitourgeo (li-toorg-eh’-o); from NT:3011; to be a public servant, i.e. (by analogy) to perform religious or charitable functions (worship, obey, relieve) (Strong’s)
This is the root word for our word “liturgy.” Many modern translations use the synonym “worship.” Based on this word, in my book, Worship that Pleases God-The Passion and Reason of True Worship, I present “The Lord’s Office-Place” as one of seven biblical models of worship. When we minister to the Lord, He ministers to others through us.
Worship is Ministry to the Lord
This changes everything:
- The planning focus shifts from pleasing the people to pleasing the Lord.(Ps 29:1,2)
- The methodology changes from manipulating the people to engaging them. (Col 5:19; Eph 3:16)
- The audience shifts from man to God; the people become a congregation.(Ps 22:22; Heb 2:12)
- The people grow from spectators into worshipers.(Psalm 148:14)
- The walls between competing cultures collapse as Jesus tears them down. (Eph 2: 14-18)
- The equivocation of worship takes place as everyone ministers to the Lord! There is no hierarchy anymore. (Gal 3:26-29; John 17)
- The anointing of the Holy Spirit falls upon the congregation because they are in agreement with His purpose—to exalt the Lord Jesus.(Jn 14-16)
- The Holy Spirit speaks giving direction and clarification. (Acts 13)
- The Word of the Lord is proclaimed in power for there are no competing points of view.(all of the book of Acts!)
- The promised signs and wonders follow this tightly focused presentation of the Word of God. (Mk 16)
- The Lord Jesus shines in such worship because there are no competing personalities.(Col 1:15-20)
- The Lord performs his Messianic mission. (Lk 4:16-21)
- The worship service is a time of ministry, not entertainment. ( ICor 14:23-25)
- The Kingdom of God on earth is advanced.(Mat 6:9,10)
There is so much to be gained down this road. With apologies to President Lincoln, this is the way out of the confusion the land of “worship of the people, and for the people” and the entrance into the land of the worship of God “by the people.”
Warning!—No Turning Back
Once a worshiper, a lead worshiper, or a worship leader, turns this corner, there is no going back.
- When the people of God graduate from audience to congregation, we should never again demote them in a worship service.
- When the singers, players and technicians who produce the services discover the joy of serving the Lord and not their leaders, they will find strength in that joy.
- It will empower them in the ways of the Spirit of God and fruit of the Spirit will replace the petty bickering and jockeying for position that plagues an organization centered upon pleasing people.
There is no turning back from this corner, this intersection of God’s grace and our need.
But then, who would want to turn back?
© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved