Pulitzer Prize in worship?
This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale.
My journalist friend described his method for writing. After completing research for an article, he quickly writes and reviews the very first sentence he has written. In reading just those first few words it becomes clear to him that the Pulitzer Prize for journalism (pictured left) cannot be won with the article he has just begun. And having rid himself of any notion of attaining journalistic glory, he is then free to simply do his best with the time and resources available, and what he writes is nearly always quite sufficient for his publisher and readership. Being realistic can be enabling. I got a kick out of my friend’s admission, and have tried to take his wisdom to heart.
But it gets more complicated with ministry and worship. While there’s no Pulitzer Prize for a worship service, we tend to set awfully high standards for ourselves. We want powerful life changing worship services that glorify God and minister to brethren with inspiring praise and effective prayers, beautiful songs, powerful and memorable sermons, fitting comments and testimonials—all taking place in beautiful surroundings—with God lifted up and people made ready for mission. (Have we pinched ourselves yet?)
Then as we put together our first thoughts about next week’s service, we are quickly reminded of our limited abilities to speak, sing, pray, lead, encourage, etc., and of our small church with meager resources. We soon realize this service will not be the glorious worship service to end all worship services. In fact what we are cooking up is starting to look very vanilla, and we just hope it won’t be flat as a pancake.
So while my journalist friend finds freedom in ridding himself of visions of grandeur—the opposite may occur in ministry circles. We want so badly to please and glorify God and to serve our brethren that we may get stopped in our tracks while focusing so much on our inadequacies that we feel like giving up before we start. We want to offer a more perfect praise—want to be a living sacrifice—but if we are not careful we may allow ourselves to just feel stuck, empty and discouraged instead.
We need constant reminders that Jesus is our true Minister and Lead Worshipper. He is not only the Lamb of God, the perfect Offering that God has already mercifully provided for us that is worthy of worship, he is also the Minister of the Sanctuary. But he’s not a zillion miles away either. The Son of God and Son of Mary, born in a humble stable, is still Immanuel—still God with us—here sharing in our own circumstances as we share in his. Having already offered a perfect life of worship, and now ascended and glorified, he is still fully God and fully man, and through the Holy Spirit is in the midst of all those he has gathered together (even in the smallest and most humble gatherings).
Despite all appearances to the contrary, Jesus is in our midst praying perfect prayers and offering perfect praise to the Father on our behalf (Heb 2:11-13). That’s part of what is meant when we speak of the ongoing vicarious humanity of Christ. As our incomplete, fractured, inaccurate and weak offerings of praise and prayer (even our very lives) are gathered up in Jesus through the Spirit and delivered as whole, perfect and complete responses to the Father, his response becomes ours. And our humble participation in Christ’s present ministry and worship brings with it the surprising and healing joy of the Lord.
In Jesus we are taking part in the ministry of the Author and Finisher of our faith. He exceeds all expectations. Every minister and worship team member can find great peace and comfort in the realization that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is with us as we worship (2 Cor 13:13). A Pulitzer is terribly small by comparison.