So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ. I Corinthians 4:1
Scenario 1: You have received an invitation to dine with a distinguished community leader. On the appointed day, you anxiously arrive at the massive entrance to his palatial estate, ring the bell and wait. Immediately you are greeted by a gracious butler who takes your coat, puts you at ease with just the right words of how glad the host is that you have come, and escorts you down the hallway to the presence of the revered and generous host. After greetings and introductions, a great feast begins...
Scenario 2: Same invitation... same palatial estate... same massive entrance. This time, however, the butler, after taking your coat, strikes up a conversation with you in the foyer about the weather, his health, what his children want to study when they go to college, and so forth. You're drawn into the conversation, and after a lengthy and engaging chat you take your coat and go home. On the way home, you come to an alarming realization: you never saw the host!
You say, "it would never happen!" But sadly, it happens all too often. Worship leaders and musicians (...and really all ministers) are like butlers whose job it is to bring the congregation before the King. But many people on their way home from the service find themselves with a nagging dissatisfaction... they didn't get to see the King.
Being Good Butlers
How can we who serve in God's house make sure we are good butlers? Let's consider 3 words: Purification, Consecration, and Service.
First, purification. Many church musicians were, as I was, musicians trained by the world. I played jazz and learned to love that feeling that came when you aced your solo and the crowd clapped and cheered.
Guess what? You can get addicted to that. Guess what else? That addiction's got to go before you're ready for God's service. In God's rehab, i.e. discipleship, you'll learn that there's another audience you'll be performing for: God Himself. His "well done, good and faithful servant" is what you live for now.
Deep-sea divers have decompression chambers. Our music ministries need something similar. In Christian music, whenever our shepherds notice that we're drinking too deeply of the people's accolades, they should invite us to the decompression chamber: "Take a couple of months off until the joy of singing in your living room before God alone is greater than singing before the congregation."
Music, apart from God, has a contaminating mark that goes all the way back to the origin of human culture in Genesis 11 and the story of the tower of Babel. Their governing passion was to make a name for themselves. In contrast, God told Abraham in Genesis 12, that, if he would walk in obedience, he would bless nations, and God Himself would make Abraham's name great.
Purification is about moving from Genesis 11 to Genesis 12... from a self-promoting passion to a God-honoring passion... from wanting to make your name great to wanting to glorify God and be a blessing.
Consecration means to be set apart or devoted to a specific sacred task or purpose. Before the ark of God's presence returned to the city of David in I Chronicles 15, the priests consecrated themselves. Before the glory of God filled Solomon's temple in II Chronicles 5, the priests consecrated themselves.
Modern day worship ministries need to be consecrated too. In II Chronicles 5, we see the dynamics of consecration:
"All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves... All the priests who were musicians... stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord."
Of interest to me is that they joined as one "to give praise and thanks to the Lord." They weren't uncertain about their purpose. Oh, the awesome force of being united in purpose! When they put those linen garments on, it was like a soccer team dressing out to play for the championship, except their task at hand was to bring sacrifices of praise to God! It wasn't to entertain the congregation; it wasn't to make a name for themselves as the best worship team in the Middle East. It was to minister to the Lord.
May I suggest that on every occasion of public ministry, before you walk through the doors, you and your team mentally put on the linen garments of praise... that you unite yourselves in the holy purpose of leading God's people to the One who is really worthy of praise... that you remind yourselves that it's about Him and not you.
Did you know that in both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the words for service, worship and ministry are almost synonymous? Worship is service. Service is ministry.
The desire to serve is the Kingdom characteristic that our King so perfectly exemplifies. Jesus said He came not to be served but to serve. What an amazing contrast to the ways of the world! Here is the Creator of the universe -- that's pretty important -- not trying to convince anyone how important He is, but serving His Father's honor and the needs of those around Him. As a result, His Father highly exalted His name!
I love to think of the Church as heaven's colony on earth, where its citizens reflect the ways of their King... a kingdom where everyone - including the musicians - are servants.
Picture this: worship leaders who have become good butlers... cleansed of the Babylonian taint... consecrated and united for a holy purpose... devoted to a lifestyle of service.
"May I take your coat. My Master is eager to see you. Here... right down this hall."