A CLEAR SENSE OF direction
While taking a philosophy of ministry course in seminary in 2001, I crafted three vision statements that have characterized the worship and arts ministries I have overseen for the past seventeen years. The statements are:
Cultivating the Heart of the Psalmist
Recapturing the Story of Redemption
Celebrating the Gifts of Artistic Expression
Though they have been fleshed out a bit differently, they have given direction and clarity in each unique church and context. They have served as my compass, giving me a clear sense of where we are going in worship. Over the years my passion for these three vision statements has only grown stronger. In the following paragraphs I'm including a brief explanation of each statement and some personal and practical examples of how they have been translated into ministry.
CULTIVATING THE HEART OF THE PSALMIST
From the most exuberant of praise to the darkest of lament, the psalms give us a lyrical record of lives lived in perpetual response to God. This dynamic of unceasing worship and honest expression is what we are seeking to cultivate - not a once-a-week observance, but a lifestyle of perpetual response.
I have always resonated with David, Asaph, the Sons of Korah - all the various psalmists. They demonstrate what an open, honest, and intimate conversational lifestyle with God looks like. Whether it is through the words I use with my congregation, the songs I write, the devotion and prayer times with my worship teams, or over lunch with my volunteers and staff, I have tried to imitate the honesty and "real life" posture that we see demonstrated by the psalmists.
RECAPTURING THE STORY OF REDEMPTION
So often we live life in a dislocated manner. We can so easily begin to live selfishly and independently, or we can get easily discouraged by the harsh realities of life. Corporate worship - through the power of Word, sacrament, song, and prayer - paints another reality for us and places us in the context of a story larger than ourselves. Worship opens our eyes to the beauty of the gospel and relocates us in the eternal nature of God and his kingdom, in the context of community and relationship.
The idea of story and meta-narrative has always been compelling to me. The Bible is so much more than a list of propositions, it is a great drama of redemption. We retell this story in one sense every week in corporate worship. However, we also tell this story as we follow the rhythms and seasons of the Christian Year. We remember and experience the beauty of the gospel as we celebrate the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, and his sending of the Holy Spirit.
It saddens me that so much of modern evangelicalism only observes Christmas and Easter. As a worship leader I feel compelled to help "pass on the story" by recognizing all of the various festivals of the Christian Year.
CELEBRATING THE GIFTS OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION
Artistic expression is a natural overflow of a life of worship. We are continuously exploring the intersection of worship, art, and gospel, and desire to invest in the next generation, recognizing the legitimacy of a vocation in the arts.
Since 2006 I have intentionally tried to identify and invest in one student each year - someone who has (1) a demonstrated level of skill and musicianship as well as (2) a trajectory of continuing on in either music or worship ministry. This has been such a fruitful endeavor. Each year it seems that God has put someone new in my path with whom to build a relationship, musically. Because so many people invested in me, the least I can do is give back some of what I have learned over the years.
I have also tried to celebrate those with gifts in songwriting, dance, visual arts, aesthetics, and literary arts. I love encouraging people in their primary area of passion and gifting and helping them identify a way to use that gift in the context of the local church.
I am grateful to have spent some time wrestling seventeen years ago with how to articulate my core values regarding worship - values I believe are well articulated in God's Word.