Dear Church Family,
I have noticed an odd paradox in our world today. Rugged individualism stands on one side and is highly praised in our society. But on the other side stands the expectation for others to support one’s unashamed self-determination. Furthermore, when praise is given for an individual’s achievement, it is usually expected that he or she give credit to others for their support of that individual. I can’t help but think of something like the Oscars or Emmys. It is always expected that whoever wins the award will invariably thank other people who helped with the achievement and also thank the fans.
We as believers obviously have a different approach to (and even definition of) achievement in our lives. And we know that any achievement of ours ultimately comes from God, because without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). But I wonder if we realize how much God has designed for our growth in the Lord and accomplishments in life to be connected to support from others. If we look at successes in our lives, do we see all the people along the way that made that possible? Do we see how much that was a part of God’s plan all along? I believe that if we see the regular pattern of support and accountability from others that God has designed, then we can pursue those things intentionally and reap even more fruit out of life.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 says that “a chord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” Often this verse is used in weddings, which is a perfect application of the text. But the meaning of the text is not simply restricted to married couples. It refers to the wisdom of having a relationship with another person for the purpose of mutual support in life. The significance of the number three points to the need for God to be included in this support system. So the principle we can take away from this is that we need God-centered relationships with people who can help support us, and whom we can help support. In this we will find much success and strength in our lives.
This is a matter of wisdom. So that means that if you do not follow this principle in life, then you might still be a genuine believer who loves Christ. But you will be missing out on many opportunities to experience more of Christ and His blessing in your life. And on top of that, you may be hindering yourself from making more of a difference in the Kingdom of Heaven.
There are many ways to apply this principle to our lives. There are accountability partners, mentors, discipleship groups, and probably many other things people do to make this happen. One way this happened for me was when I was in high school and one of the men in our church asked me if I would like to join him working out at the gym. He knew that God wanted him to help support and grow the younger men in our church, and working out together was just one way he knew how to do that. In our times at the gym, I learned and grew physically. But we made it a point to spend time praying and talking about spiritual things too. So it was not just our muscles that we were training, but also our faith in the Lord.
This is what we in the church need to be doing. So if you are not in a regular relationship with another believer for the purpose of supporting the growth of each other’s faith, then I highly encourage you to pray for God to help you find that person and enjoy the blessing of a three chord relationship.
Pastor Brian Van Doren
Dear Church Family,
Of all the ministries that are going to be kicking off again this fall, I am really excited about student gatherings starting up again, particularly because I get to assist Pastor Brian in relaunching the student praise band. Student worship ministries have a very dear place in my heart. I grew up in a musical family, and thoroughly enjoyed playing trumpet in my local public school. But it was the worship gathering of my local church where I truly fell in love with music, and the student praise band was foundational in starting me down the road toward music ministry. Now, I know first hand that the sounds a 13 year old can make with an electronically amplified instrument are not always pretty. But it is incredibly exciting to see young people learn and develop their musical abilities over the course of a school year, or even just a semester.
However, as exciting as it is to help students grow musically, it is far more exciting and important to help them develop a healthy theology of worship that will protect them and build them up into God glorifying worshippers. Along with playing an instrument or singing on a stage comes a lot of attention. There’s just no way around that. And every time we step up onto a stage we are tempted to take our focus off of glorifying God and onto glorifying ourselves. But our goal is not to train up talented musicians. It’s to train up godly lead worshippers. That is a long discipleship based process, but I’d like to take a few minutes and share with you where we are going to start that process.
I have found that the greatest commandment provides us with an excellent foundation on which we can build our theology of worship, and that goes for those who are on the stage as well as for those in the congregation. We all need to check our ideas and feelings about musical worship against this theological framework, so let’s do that together. In Matthew 22:37 we read, “And he [Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (ESV). Now, if we are to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind (Mark adds strength as well), that encompasses our whole being. Therefore, we should be able to find application for this command in every aspect of our lives and beings, and our corporate worship is no exception.
This should not be surprising to anyone. Of course worship should be centered around and permeated by our love for God. After all, If we were not actively loving Him, then our worship would not be very worshipful, would it? Actually, you might want to stop and think about that for a moment, and it is pretty much my whole point. If we are participating in musical worship out of any motivation other than love for God then it is not Him whom we are worshipping. I could talk about this point all day, and about how we love God well in worship by singing words that are true about Him because He is lovely, but we need to move on and read Jesus’ next words.
Without even pausing for effect Jesus adds these words, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Other translations use the word hang. All the Law and the Prophets is a lot to hang on these two commandments, but we are right to hang our theology of worship on this framework as well. So how in the world do we love our neighbor while we worship? Well, once again part of that is by singing words that are true about God, because we are bearing witness to the loveliness of God. In doing so we are stirring our brothers and sisters up to love and adore God, which is certainly a loving thing for us to do. I have also written previously about how in Colossians 3:16 we are told to teach and admonish one another, “singing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Teaching and admonishing each other is also loving and is an important part of loving our neighbor as ourselves, because we need to be taught and admonished too.
So we have talked about loving God, and we have briefly talked about loving our neighbors, so where in this equation do we get to talk about ourselves and what we want to experience in worship? Well, the fact is, that is not part of the equation, and that is the very first lesson I hope to teach our young lead worshippers. Worship is not about me. It is certainly not about displaying my musical talents for other people to ooh and ah over. It is all about God, loving Him, and loving His people, and when we realize that, it allows us to experience corporate worship like never before.