Every successful organization has goals…
Every successful organization also has a set of guiding principles that it bases its decisions and endeavors off of. These principles are the foundation of what they do and they keep them on track to accomplish their goals. Having guidance prevents frustration, burnout, and the “side-routes” that often suck up much of our time and energy.
To any church “leaders” or ministers I would ask: What principles should guide our decisions regarding the worship ministries within our respective churches? To the average “church-goer” or layperson I would ask: What principles should you be noticing within your church’s worship ministry?
There is obviously no single “set-in-stone” list… but I believe there are four basic principles that provide for us a good foundation to build off of. I will discuss them below.
- Exalt the Lord
Psalm 99:5 says,
Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!
That same Psalm continues in verse 9 to say,
Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!
This couple of verses does well to form a foundation of where our worship ministries should begin. They set forth an obvious goal…
All of our efforts in music ministry begin with the priority of exalting the Lord.
We strive for many things within the Body of Christ. We know that we have one purpose of glorifying God, but we tend to take many routes and avenues to get there. That is fine… but in all of our goals we should have a priority of exalting the Lord. We should be continually striving for excellence in our efforts to exalt the Lord.
Psalm 96:1-13 says,
Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
Psalm 95:1-11 says,
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Ultimately in our worship ministries, and services, our music is offered to glorify the Lord.
1 Peter 4:11b establishes that very line of thinking where it says,
In order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
In our planning, leading, singing, and living we should be focused on helping other people to get a glimpse of the great God that we praise, so that they themselves may see that He alone is worthy of exalting.
A last side note to this point is that we should be living humbly and teaching an attitude of humility and service to our choir/ praise team members, soloists, and instrumentalists – so that God alone receives the glory.
- Edify the Saints
Let’s acknowledge the facts…the world is a fallen place and Christians are bombarded all week with discouraging words and events. It is far too easy to live in a constant season of discontentment, discouragement, or in we need if refreshment. In our weekly congregational worship gatherings we need to intentionally be working to encourage those around us with the Gospel.
My advisor, Greg Brewton, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary once told me,
If what you are doing doesn’t encourage you personally then there is either a problem with what you are doing or with your heart.
I think as leaders in our respective churches we all must ask ourselves: is our worship encouraging the people in our church? I hope so! After all, this is the Body and Bride of Christ that we were, and are, entrusted with to care for until His final return.
1 Corinthians 14:26 says,
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
We all have been given something! This gift isn’t for ourselves… it is for Christ and for sharing with those around us to build them up!
Romans 14:19 shares this thought when it says,
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Ultimately, every song, element, and aspect should have a purpose… and that purpose is to build up the church. All things that take place when we are gathered together are to be shared by Christ and His Bride (the church). Our songs and elements should build each other up… they should teach and admonish.
In fact, Colossians 3:16-17 says exactly that,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- Equip for Ministry
Another foundation or focus we should have within our churches and ministries is to be equipping others for ministry!
I often have said that my goal is to replicate myself… in NO way does that mean I think highly of myself or that I have it all together. I just want to know that I am pouring into someone else and that if something were to happen to me then the particular ministry I am involved in could continue on without missing a beat.
Imagine yourself away from your ministry… what happens? Does it fall apart?
That is the true test on how you have equipped others in your ministry. The leading of the music is the easy part… the equipping is the hardest part. Ultimately if all we have is a band and no leaders of the Gospel then we have done nothing more than a public school band director. That isn’t a sucker punch at band directors… but that isn’t our job! We are ministers… which means we are to be ministering!
Ephesians 4:11-14 says,
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
This passage in Ephesians tells us that as leaders we aren’t the lone rangers of the Gospel. We aren’t to carry out ALL of the ministry. As leaders we are to be equipping others to do ministry. We are leaders who lead by example and equip those around them to live out the Gospel.
For us who are “ministers” this is a challenge because sometimes it is easier to just do the work ourselves… but our job is to equip, so we need to spend time enabling and trusting others.
As a “church-goer” or layperson this is also a challenge because it puts some of the weight back on your shoulders. Ministry isn’t just a minister’s job! You share in the responsibility… they are there to provide instruction, guidance, and support.
- Evangelize with the Gospel
We all know the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20,
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
The act of going takes priority in all other actions. If you are “going” somewhere then it is typically apparent to everyone around you. Sometimes we tend to forget that this is a commandment and not a suggestion. That commandment doesn’t exclude our worship ministries either!
The great commission is a commandment and worship ministry is not an exception to it.
Our worship services are also outreach opportunities! Our music ministries should support the overall vision and goals of the church – outreach, missions, etc. In the end, the worship ministry is a part of the church as a whole and not a separate entity. We are ALL to be evangelists in ALL things.
Let’s commit ourselves to not just focusing on our ministry or preferences!
We need to be singing and selecting songs that express the Gospel story in clear terms, and we must also be concerned with the spiritual condition of those within our music ministry – choir members, instrumentalists, children, youth, etc.
My advisor, Greg Brewton, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has also told me this,
We have failed if we have produced trained musicians and a congregation full of music lovers, but have not produced Christians growing in their walk with the Lord.
So… what principles exist and guide your worship services?