From the mouth of babes

This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale.

“I’m not really of much use to this church.  I’m only a volunteer worship leader, and not a full-time staff member.  My role here is so small, and besides, I really need to know a lot more about the theology of worship.”

It was well over a dozen years ago, but still seems like yesterday.  I was feeling down and had begun to question my value as a volunteer member of a worship ministry team—wondering if those few hours of ministry each weekend were making any difference to anyone, and also wondering if I was really up to the task.

Part of the problem was that for most of my adult life I’d been employed by a church, but severe budget cuts and large-scale layoffs had put an end to church employment, so it was easy to feel less a part of “real ministry.”

Added to that, at the time I was stuck working as a temp on part-time jobs, and the kind of work wasn’t what I would have preferred as a career.  On the bright side, I was taking a few evening classes at a seminary to learn more about worship and theology, but since most of my classmates were employed by churches, they were another reminder of what I was not.

Then at perhaps my lowest point, the Lord brought clarity to the situation from the mouth of a “babe.”  As has sometimes happened in this surprising journey with Jesus, a timely reminder and humbling redirection came from one of our children. One of our sons arrived home from kindergarten carrying his gray plastic dinosaur, and began telling my wife and me how his “show and tell” session had gone that afternoon.

“Well, we were supposed to talk about something that started with the letter “D” and I was gonna show everyone my dinosaur, but I decided instead to talk about my Dad—and I said he’s a worship leader!  And he sings this song….”
Lord I lift your name on high
Lord I love to sing your praises
I’m so glad you’re in my life
I’m so glad you came to save us
You came from heaven to earth to show the way
From the cross to the grave, my debt to pay
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky
Lord I lift your name on high
Our tiny kindergartener had stood in front of teachers and his public school class and had sung in his clear high voice every gospel word—proudly announcing that his Dad was a worship leader that lifts up the name of the Lord and sings the praises of that same Lord that came from heaven to save us! 

What a wonderfully gracious reminder from the mouth of a “babe” of the work of the Holy Spirit!

[Two asides:  1. Those who know me well might say my son was still talking about a dinosaur in talking about me!  2. Rick Founds (pictured right) wrote Lord I Lift Your Name on High in 1989, and even in 2010 this catchy gospel-in-a-nutshell song is still one of the most sung praise songs of all time.] 

The kids had heard the songs I sang in church, and I had also played guitar and sang some of those same songs at night as the kids were drifting off to sleep.  But without his realizing it, my son had spoken directly to my identity and could have said nothing that would have been more encouraging or have touched my heart more deeply at the time. I was his Dad and a worship leader that praised Jesus.

It is easy to forget that being a father is a ministry in itself, and is a full time job, even though there’s no check in the mail for doing it. 

Most importantly, in serving as a worship leader (or for that matter, serving in any ministry) the main thing is not whether you are a volunteer or a employee—it is pointing to Jesus—the risen, ascended and glorified Lord that was sent from our loving Heavenly Father to pay our debt and make his life ours.  He is the Way the Truth and the Life.

Pictured here is the classic 15th century painting by Grunewald in which Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the disciple John grieve at the crucifixion.  To the right is John the Baptist (already having been killed before the death of Jesus) holding the Scriptures (they too point to Jesus) and pointing his finger to Jesus, the Lamb of God.  A reminder that we too are to point away from ourselves and instead point to Jesus, and to the love of God that is revealed in the life, work and ongoing ministry of Jesus. (Theologian Elmer Colyer, professor at U. of Dubugue, mentions this meaningful painting in his recent video interview on You're Included.  Link is on right side on this page.)

Jesus has chosen to be with us and for us.  He draws us to himself and binds us to himself—the Minister of the Sanctuary—by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In doing so we are included in his ongoing worship of the Father, and in the joyful loving relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit.

Scripture indicates we are unable to offer fitting worship on our own—so the Father provided the perfect Offering and Response for us—Jesus.  He is the one and only perfect worshipper—perfectly knows the Father—perfectly prays and worships—and in making his life ours has freely chosen to include our imperfect prayers and worship in his.  The Holy Spirit enables us to respond to the Response and give our “amen” to the one perfect Amen.  When we know that, we know a lot about the theology of worship.

Whether we work as a volunteer or work full time, we are joining in the perfect ministry and worship that Jesus does.  Otherwise we have no ministry at all.  May God bless us all to humbly point to Jesus!