Prior to graduating from college, I served three years in worship ministry for the inter-Chinese Christian Fellowships ministry conference, Campus Challenge, which is held annually in May in the Toronto area. I was Worship Coordinator for the 2005 and 2006 conference — leading on-stage for the 2005 conference, and directed/coordinated the 2006 conference worship team from “behind-the-scenes”. Looking back, those years were the climax and denouement of my time in worship ministry. I really desired to lead the 2005 conference, because I wanted to take my worship leading to the “next level” and to do something “big” for God. In retrospect, I don’t think that is necessarily the right motive to have for serving in such a large event, even as humble of an ambition as it is. As theocentric and Christocentric as the 2005 conference worship music was, I think I served and led in order to benefit myself in terms of ministry experience. It’s not really a bad thing, but I think there was a self-centeredness on my part that nobody would have noticed — I wanted to “get” something from leading that first conference.
The second Campus Challenge conference I lead (2006) was quite simply, in one word, memorable. A lot of good and yet a lot was learned from that conference. After 2005, I still wanted to be involved in organizing the conference and coordinating worship, but in a sense that was off-the-stage and more behind-the-scenes: leading the team in devotions, providing theological oversight, overseeing the technical audio/visual needs, and leading the congregation in some invocational prayers between sets.That year, I strived to train up the next generation of worship leaders who would then take over on-stage the ministry, and also reminding the team that as musical as worship can be, there is a theological / doctrinal / Bible / Word -side to worship that music serves. I recall the emphasis of the devotionals I led the team was focused on the truth that God does not care about how good the music sounds if and when the life and the heart was not firstly right with Him and worshipful. Boy oh boy, did that ring true, for numerous musical mistakes happened, technical glitches occurred, and further, I failed to guide the team through those mishaps. And lets just say that much heated discussions ensued after the conference about why it all happened.
Numerous lessons were learned from that May 2006. If there was anything that directed me to step away from any and all musical worship leading or coordinating, it was probably the events of that conference. I learned a lot in retrospect about what I should have done when a worship band — for whatever Divinely foreordained reasons — fails musically more than subtlely and thus hinders corporate worship.Most importantly, I was convinced of how the image of God in all of us is functionally marred & hampered and structurallydistorted & perverted by our sins: pride, arrogance, selfish ambition, covetousness, envy, anger, and sloth, to name a few. The source of sin within both unbelievers and Christians — even in those of us who are chosen by God to serve Him and lead His people in corporate worship — is in what Scripture calls “the heart”. The heart is the total person involved in the act of making decisions — either obedience to God’s Word which honors him, or sins of omission or commission which dishonor Him.Whether it be playing the wrong note at the wrong time with the incorrect amount of strength, or saying something thing using the wrong words at an inappropriate appropriate time (Matt. 15:9), or not speaking words of guidance appropriately after a necessary circumstance (Luke 6:45), all this has its source in and involves the inner core of the person and the very center of his being. For sin has poisoned the very fountain of life, all of life is bound to be affected by it (Jer. 17:9).
The Futility of Music
Part of me lost faith significantly in worship music from that time forward, especially in terms of an area for vocational ministry. I simply got fed up with the vainglory that the human heart finds in today’s modern “worship” music — a hypocritical lip-service that many in our generation-x/y/z use to refrain from a holistic life of worship, that which firstly involves knowing God better. Those 30 minutes every Friday night or Sunday morning is inauthentic and futile when our 24/7 relationship to God and our brothers and sisters is not genuinely loving. Music in corporate Spirit-led worship is helpful in sanctifying our hearts through the lyrics, but it certainly does not save anybody, nor does it transform the heart or regenerate any person.I may be speaking more about myself here, but I hope that me being vulnerable here would be an encouragement to y’all reading this: the passion we exude in our public worship of God (especially on-stage) must never be louder than our private worship alone. And further, our personal relationships with others must not be more passionate than our private relationship with God (Mark 12:30). Without a continually justified and sanctified heart, any “worship” we offer is thus in vain (Psalm 50:7-11; Psalm 51:17). We must preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to ourselves daily in Word and in deed, and consequently, keeping a close watch of our life and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16).Part 3 of 3, concludes tomorrow…