The Worship Leader’s Lifelong Quest
Under the New Covenant, pilgrimage is a metaphor for the Christian life rather a requirement for worship. We are pilgrims on our way to heavenly realms. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that New Covenant worship is not a trip to Jerusalem here on earth or even to the Mountain of the Old Covenant, Mt. Sinai. Instead, New Testament worship is a pilgrimage to Mount Zion, the Heavenly Jerusalem—the place where King Jesus lives and rules. (Hebrews 12: 18-24)
As worship leaders, we can also see our on-going ministry as a pilgrimage. Today, our church occupies a certain spiritual location in worship, but we sense a call to a higher plane. There is more to be had of God than we now have. We have met on the common ground of a particular set of musical styles and scriptural teachings, but we long to move to the higher ground of a Divine visitation that would take us more fully into the healing, transforming presence of Jesus.
This is our lifelong quest—more and more of Jesus in our public worship services and less of us. We want to see less of our personalities on parade, our doctrines on demand, and our technology on tap and more of the Presence of Jesus. We want to ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in the Holy Place. Our life and leadership is a pilgrimage from the place we find ourselves to the place we feel God wants us to be.
We do not make this pilgrimage alone; we take many people with us: vocalists, instrumentalists, technicians, pastors, deacons, and, most importantly, congregants. Worship leaders are the trailblazers, the pathfinders, the highway map-readers. It so important that we blaze the right trail, find the right path, and locate the correct highway so we and all those who depend upon us can travel with us. This is our pilgrimage to the Heavenly Jerusalem; this is our ascent of the Holy Hill of Zion, and this is our blood-bought privilege to stand in the Holy Place.
Finding the Biblical Road to Worship Renewal
In 2012, Lord willing, on the third Thursday of each month, and starting with this post, Creator Magazine will publish a Thursday Morning Email from me. My topic will be worship renewal. Then, each Friday and Tuesday, I will post a blog at TheWorshipRenewalCenter.com to elaborate on the topic introduced in the Thursday Morning Email. There will be space for your comments after each installment. I hope you will engage in this conversation with me on the issues I raise or bring up other issues for discussion. Together, we will explore a biblical road to worship renewal. Like Medieval worshipers on the Canterbury Trail, we will fellowship together as we walk along. Such holy conversation is a blessed means of grace.
Since we all start from different points on this pilgrimage, I want to travel the one path we all share—the Bible. I will make no attempt to manage your worship culture—you are well able to adapt the principles of Scripture to your setting. I will attempt to mine the riches of the Word to find and present truths that are applicable in any worship setting.
MAPQUEST: One Journey, Three Routes
Like a long motor trip, we will use more than one route to get to our destination. The biblical metaphor of the Road of Life has many expressions in the Bible. I want to base this series on three of them.
Renewal of Spirituality: The Path of Life (Psalm 16:11)
This amazing Old Covenant promise is full of descriptive truth about the spiritual life. The corporate renewal we long to see in our churches must begin with a renewal of daily spirituality in our lives and in the lives of the people we lead. In the weeks ahead we will deal with concepts of the presence of the Lord, the importance of joy and the role that pleasure plays.
Reformation of Public Worship: The Highway of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3-5)
The words of the Old Testament prophet were heard again in the preaching of John the Baptist. The theme is an essential one, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Those who heard John’s message and prepared their hearts were ready to receive miracles and deliverances from Jesus’ hand when He walked among them. The Lord is looking for a people prepared for His coming—not just His return to this earth—but for His visitation today. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus is seen walking among the candlesticks which represented the churches. He wants to walk among us today as we worship Him in Spirit and Truth. We must prepare the way for Him to move through us, His church, so that His “glory can be revealed and all mankind see it together.” But, before that can happen for us, there is much work to be done.
Revival of the Church: The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)
From one of the most beloved of Resurrection accounts comes the story of the two travelers on the Road to Emmaus. So many things in this story inform us about the impact the resurrected Jesus has in our everyday lives. One of their testimonies was that their hearts “burned within them” as Jesus spoke with them, even though they didn’t know He was their traveling companion. This flaming heart, set ablaze by the presence of Jesus and the power of His Word, is a picture of revival in the local church. It can be truthfully said that this flaming heart is our destination—a church alive with worship on the Lord’s Day and moving at the impulse of His love and in the power of the Spirit everyday.
Join me and let’s walk this pilgrimage together!
Dr. Stephen Phifer has a doctoral degree in Worship Studies from the Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies. He currently serves as Creative Arts Minister at First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Florida. Dr. Phifer has written numerous musical and literary works which have had extensive use in churches. He is the founder of TheWorshipRenewalCenter.com.
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