Some people have asked why I post a blog update every day while I’m away at my conference, and so I figured I should give an answer. It’s really two fold. One reason is that my church has been gracious enough to pay for the conference, so I want to post updates so that people from my church can follow along. The second, and really more important reason, is that it is the best way for me to reflect back on over all I have learned each day and begin to internalize it… Today I’m working on doing my reflection early since my wife is coming up this evening around dinner time so we can spend the evening together, so I want to have this done before she arrives 🙂
So let’s reflect on today… While the worship in the AM service didn’t hit me quite as hard as previous days, the message was absolutely out of this world – revolutionary would be the best word to describe it. Mike Harland spoke again, and he started in 1 Peter but then moved over to the gospel of John. His focus was on the interaction between the woman at the well and Jesus, with a particular emphasis on 4:24 where Jesus says those who worship God “must worship in spirit and in truth.” Without having to summarize the entire sermon I’ll just say he revolutionized the way I saw that verse. He said (and I agree) that when we talk about this verse as worship leaders we always talk about the two words “spirit” and “truth”. But then he made the statement that changed how I saw this verse, but I think he’s right on here… According to Harland the most important word in the verse is not “spirit” or “truth” but “must”. He stated that when people see Jesus for who he is the only response they have is worship, and then he tied it to Revelation where John talks about all creatures worship Jesus at the end of the age.
If you’ve been following my blog at all this week you know that the one major thread that’s run through every session I’ve attended and every reflection I’ve done is a focus on Jesus, and Harland nailed it on this point. He took me back to my most basic statement: worship is about Jesus. I have served on staff of two churches in the past six years – two very different churches in style and denomination – yet in both interviews (and at both churches) I said to the staff and the members that what is important is Jesus. “If you’re preaching and teaching and worshipping Jesus then all the other stuff is pretty insignificant.”
But over the past year or so I think I’ve lost sight of that, to an extent. I’ve become more focused on song styles and special music and Christmas cantatas and big choir numbers and orders of service and… You get the idea. If nothing else, this week has served to turn me back toward my first love – Jesus – and my most basic belief about worship – it’s all about him.
Harland also reminded us that we were not called to “lead music” but called to “lead people”, and, in light of the above statement, this one hit me between the eyes. When I first came on at my church that was one of the things I told people at church, and one of the things I consciously thought about and worked on. But, again, in the last several months, perhaps last year, I started to loose sight of that. And I believe it’s negatively affected my ministry. The morning session I attended by Phil Barfoot focused on practical ideas to grow the church choir. Several of the ones that I took away, and I plan to use this coming year, are ones that re-focus us on the people in the choir as individuals. Doing things that honor and connect with each individual on a personal level. And so that’s my goal for this coming choir year.
Finally, this afternoon I attended two sessions led by a minister of music named Larry Grayson. He gave two sessions, both which were very powerful. He shared the stories from his own life that defined who he is today, and then challenged us to create our own list of “Defining Moments” and “Defining People”. While I am going to work on this over the next several months I can tell you that this conference is becoming a defining moment in my ministry. There are others that I can already name off the top of my head: the night I became a Christian in 7th grade, the day I got married, going through the death of my sister, and becoming a father. He also shared a fantastic church dream that I want to quote below. I’m still trying to find the full context of it, but here’s an excerpt of what he shared:
We dream of a church where people find real help, experience real change, and discover real answers; where destructive lifestyles, habits, addictions and compulsions are forever jettisoned; where wasted lives are retrieved and new beginnings are launched.
We dream of a church where marriages are healed and parents’ hearts are turned toward their children; where children and youth are made strong in their ability to serve the Lord and stand for Him in a godless culture.
We dream of a church were grace is accepted and extended; where love for people springs from love for God; where joy permeates the air; where service is considered a privilege and not a burden.
Wow – that one hit me square between the eyes!
Finally, he focused on the characteristics of a worship leading choir, something I’ve been speaking about with my choir, but I have decided I need to go further on. I’ve been able to get some resources and contacts that I am hoping will help me with this concept…. I’ll be doing a dedicated post on that idea later in the summer as I digest this more and more.
In closing, today has been another fantastic day. The only way I can describe it is that it has been revolutionary in how I am viewing worship and my role as a worship leader. Tomorrow is my final day here, and it is really just an AM worship service, but I am excited about what God will be doing there, too. Now I get to look forward to one final reading session this afternoon before my wife gets here, and then a wonderful evening with her.