John Piper: “Brothers, We Are Still Not Professionals”

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.”

Gungor on “Why Worship Should Be Risky”

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:

Playing from the heart

I like this. At RC we have a relatively small catalog of songs that we do regularly in worship, and because of this I know my tendency sometimes is to just “dial it in” on sections that are especially familiar. Don’t do it!

“Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!” Psalm 149:1

The presence of God in worship

This great post by Joel Brown, one of the worship pastors at Mars Hill Church (who I actually got to hear with his band Kenosis on Sunday night), has been shaping a lot of how I think about worship for the past couple months.

I think so often as worship leaders we feel like our job is to take people into this elusive place – “God’s presence”, as if was somehow hidden from us and we have the magical secret to how to get there.  Apparently it seems that this secret usually involves melodies, beats, and emotion.  And music does serve the church well when it does what music does best – drawing people together in shared creative expression, revealing truth about God and testifying to His glory, providing a vehicle by which we can declare our love and adoration to God, and moving the soul in ways that words simply cannot.  However, it ultimately falls short if we expect it to somehow serve as our means of entering into the presence of God.  As much as I love music and as great a tool as it is, it can NEVER take me/us/anyone into the awe-inspiring, life-transforming, culture-shaping presence of God.  Only Jesus can do and does that through the work of the Holy Spirit.  He alone is our mediator.

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