Today The Resurgence posted a great interview that Mark Driscoll conducted with John Piper. In it, Piper shares some of the lessons he has learned in his decades of pastoral experience on risk, leadership, and stereotypes. The whole interview is good, but the (slightly edited) excerpt below I found to be an especially excellent piece of wisdom and a great reminder for anyone in Christian leadership. The last paragraph is especially good for anyone involved in music ministry:
“Professionalism has connotations that don’t serve us well in describing the ministry. The ministry is supernatural, or it is not Christian ministry. The natural things we do—preach, teach, counsel, write, organize, visit—are not in and of themselves ministry. Unbelievers do all those things. Even unregenerate pastors do those things, and they may do them with great professional skill. But all of that professional excellence would be utterly in vain.
…the heart of the ministry is supernatural and our main aim and focus should be on that aspect of our work. There is no professional faith, no professional hope, no professional joy, no professional thirsting after God, no professional empathy with sufferers, no professional purity, or professional passion for the lost. You get the idea. The essence of what we are about is simply not professional, like raising the dead.
Of course, supernatural does not mean methodological stupidity. The people do need a place to park. The meeting needs to end in time to get some sleep. The sound system needs to work. But all of that sort of thing is pursued “by the strength that God supplies” so that God gets the glory (1 Pet. 4:11), or it is not Christian ministry. Professionalism doesn’t show us that.
Undistracting excellence is the way we talk about the natural wineskin of ministry that holds the supernatural wine. This means that we take seriously the biblical call to play your music skillfully and be apt to teach. But the aim is for a kind of excellence that does not distract from God or the spiritual engagement with God in all our natural acts. Both fumbling and finesse distract. This is why professionalism simply won’t work as a ministry aspiration. It is not the aim of professionalism to become transparent for the glory of Christ.”
The following is an edited transcript from a brief encouragement I gave my church during worship a couple months ago.
Here at Redemption Church, we say that “It’s All About Jesus.” We’re unapologetic about that – it’s what we want you to know about us right from the very start. Jesus died on our behalf, and we are His church – the Bible calls us His bride – so it really is all about Him.
Recently I read an article by someone in Christian leadership – in other words, someone who has some measure of influence. The article was a blog post about how this person had actually stopped singing at the church that he attends. He presented a list of reasons why, such as overly simplistic music, poorly written lyrics, and so on. And I have to say that I got his points. I really did understand and could sympathize with the criticisms he was leveling (in fact, several of them were criticisms I myself have voiced about modern church music). But his ultimate conclusion – to simply stop singing – broke my heart. It was tragic to me to read that because I realize all too often that it can become very easy for us to miss the mark when it comes to worship. Very quickly, our tendency can be to start shifting the focus from worship being all about Jesus to it being all about us. We start asking more, “What can I get out of this experience?” or “How does this make me feel?” rather than “What can I give to Jesus?” or “What pleases Him?”
I recognize that at our church there will be times when the music will not be your thing. It won’t be your style. And we own that. And who knows – if today isn’t your day, maybe next week will be! Or perhaps you’re fine with the music but you’re just not “feeling” into worship yet today – you woke up this morning and it’s taking a while for your heart to be in that right place. My encouragmenet to all of us would be, rather than choosing to simply not engage, remember that when we come together to worship we want it to be all about Jesus. That means, and my hope is, that today is not about an audience watching a performance happening on stage, but today our audience is Jesus in heaven. Those of us on stage are kind of acting as prompters, leading the charge in a sense, but we are all performing together for His glory!
So my encouragement to all of us is that you will sing today – and sing loud! Not to impress the person next to you, but because Jesus is worthy – because of what He’s done and what He’s doing in your life.
Maybe singing’s not your thing, or it is somehow hard for you. Well, that’s ok – there are other ways you can worship. Maybe clapping along is your thing. You feel the beat and that’s how you can express yourself. But don’t do it because you’re excited about the music, but because you’re excited about God! That’s our heart and our hope.
Or maybe you don’t clap – maybe you don’t have any rhythm in your body. If that is you then, then please DON’T clap! But you can raise your hands! Psalm 134 says “lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord.” The bottom line is that we simply want to bless God in some way when we come together.
So ultimately worship is not about what we get or receive. And like I said, if the music’s not your vibe or your style – maybe next week it will be, I don’t know. But the point is, let’s all be asking ourselves: today, right now and in this place, how can I engage God, how can I give Him glory and bring Him the praise? That’s what it’s all about.
This is a great Relevant Magazine article by Michael Gungor on how we craft our worship services. In it he points out how too often our services are characterized by a lot of unrelated elements (a disconnected collection of “hits”) rather than a cohesive storyline recounting the narrative of God’s work and our response. This is a great reminder and encouragement to leaders to be intentional on how we craft the “stories” within our worship gatherings.
Read the article here: