Worship Ministry at the Corner of Liturgy and Life
7 Essentials of Worship and Life
It has been said that worship happens at the intersection of Time and Eternity. The logical conclusion, then, is that worship leaders live at the intersection of spiritual truth and material reality—of Liturgy and Life.
In private prayer and public worship—at the corner of Time and Eternity—the love and sufficiency of Almighty God encounters the confusion and need of a fallen humanity. For those golden moments, God’s grace abundantly flows into open hearts as worship rises to the Lord’s throne room and blesses His heart. That’s some intersection!
In all the other moments of life, and many not at all “golden,” we live at that other intersection—the corner of Liturgy and Life—and the good news is the Spirit flows here, too.
The Seven Essentials
The essentials of True Worship are really the essentials of the Spiritual Life. “Liturgy” is commonly defined as “the work of the people.” The work of the worship leader is “the work of the people:”
- Faith. and the greatest of these is
These essentials transcend morning quiet-time and Sunday loud-time. Private prayer and public worship are focus times when we realign our behavior with our beliefs. As we head into the day or start another week, these are the things that make each day and week count in eternity.
The modern world has diminished prayer to one function: to ask God for stuff. The stuff is really important and we need his provision and intervention but prayer is really so much more than this. Prayer is simply fellowship with our God. There is no other way we can obey the biblical injunction to “pray without ceasing.” Prayer is to the human spirit like breathing is to the body. In constant prayer we inhale the atmosphere of heaven—the scented realm of God’s throne room—and it is life to our spirit. Prayer is not just something we lead others to do, it is the environment of our daily lives.
“God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble,” So the Bible says in several places, making a humble spirit the only posture for pure praise and worship that can break the sound barrier of a sinful world and tune our hearts to the music of heaven. Humility is the essence of worship and pride is the antithesis of worship.
A humble posture in the appearance of a worship leader on Sunday must carry over into that person’s daily life. We can make this application: Humility is the essence of godly leadership and pride is the antithesis of it. Those of us who have been trained by the world’s systems of music education or entertainment must be converted if we have been infected with the pride that contaminates those systems. Pride on the worship platform and in leader’s office puts the lie to a “humility” feigned on Sundays.
For us the Bible must be more than source book for Sunday. Eternal, God-breathed truths must speak so clearly to our hearts that they form the structures of our lives, sturdily built on the foundation, Christ Jesus. While every problem we encounter may not be named in the Scriptures (What does the Bible say about guitar settings?) we can find life principles to guide us through every dilemma. More than this, our ministry philosophies and priorities must spring from Biblical truth. Daily, as well as on Sunday, our feet need a lamp and our path requires a light.
We must do more than sing about grace—we must constantly show it to others. Grace is amazing because it is essential to what happens in our hearts as our bodies and minds do what they do. We seldom think about the extent of God’s grace in our lives because we are so busy walking in it as we work and rolling in it when we play. The important thing is this: Grace must flow through us, not just to us. To whom much has been given, much is required. Let us be gracious people not just singers who know all the verses to Amazing Grace.
We cannot know how often the songs, scriptures, and prayers we lead on Sunday have given much needed hope to the worshipers in front of us. Every week someone is in crisis:
- Unexpected events and challenges
- Sudden losses
- The interval between the biopsy and the results
- Catastrophic personal failure
There, at the intersection between time and eternity, hope changes them:
- This is not the end
- God is still on the throne
- I will trust in the Lord and not be afraid for the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense
Hope, true hope, flows in the liturgy. When the services are over, we can walk in these same promises for God has not given the worship leader the spirit of fear!
There is such power in believing. In John 6, Jesus called believing the “work of God.” We need the affirmation of the liberating truths of the Gospel story just as much as our people do. Faith is the process of the Liturgy becoming Life. Theologians call this “incarnation,” when what we believe puts on flesh. The Virgin Birth of Jesus is the beginning of the wonder of incarnation in our lives.
Through prayer and worship this is how the believer gets through. And faith is how the worship leader gets from one Sunday to the next. Faith is acting like something is true whether or not we feel it is true. This obedience pleases God. We do not believe because of evidence; that’s science. We believe because of choose to believe God; that’s faith.
Of course, the greatest of these essentials is love. Jesus lamented that the worship at the Temple was an outward performance springing from unloving hearts. “With your lips you draw near to me but your hearts are far from me.” You can hear the pain in His voice. The first and great commandment is to love God with everything we’ve got and the second is similar—love people.
When worship leaders walk in love for God and people through the week, they inspire trust in the congregation and in the worship team. Love can be counted on to do the right thing and when love is the chief characteristic of the ministry, people can trust the leader even when love appears to be in doubt. Genuine love for God cannot be faked. None of us has enough wool to pull the wool over God’s eyes. Genuine love for people cannot be faked for long. Events will make sure the counterfeit is exposed.
Real love will produce a long and resilient life of ministry at the corner of Liturgy and Life. That’s some intersection!
Dr. Stephen Phifer