The Stewardship of Worship
As player-coaches our next responsibility is to be good stewards of real worship. If the life and activity of Jesus begins by grace which is then embraced by faith, then we find that His life and authority continues by regular acts of worship.
Our Stewardship: Lead in such a way as to help the congregation maintain a first love relationship with Jesus through Scripture-based adoration.
We should constantly remind the flock that worship is a lifestyle where we do all things for an audience of One. This simple yet powerful approach was frequently modeled by Jesus Himself. In a sense, we leaders have to be like Peter when he wrote to “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance,” (2 Peters 3:1). Our people don’t hang out at the church, they aren’t as intimately involved (for the most part) in the epicenter of the ministry, and they need to be reminded and given time to reflect and remember why we are doing this. They also need to be given real ways to express their first love for Jesus.
In his handbook, Teaching the Psalms, Christopher Ash says, “the Psalms were given by God to get us out of the pew and into the choir.” I believe we need to be the worship leaders—not in the sense of playing an instrument or leading a song, but in role modeling how every aspect of our lives can be offered up as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God.
Again, time must be given in public services, small groups, and private conversation to facilitate this.
I think a fair question is, “what is first love?” Here’s my definition: First love happens when we find in another what is desperately needed in ourselves. And, I might add, the greater the desperation, the greater the appreciation and adoration. I often say to the church, “we can live without anything but Jesus.”
All churches begin to lose the power of grace through faith when they leave their first love. A reviving brings new life, new life leads to new ministries, new ministries lead to new busy schedules, new initiatives, new ideas, new standards, and with good intent we “leave town with Jesus.” He gets lost because of “the company,” (Luke 2:44). The reality of church life is that we will always find ourselves fighting for first love. Our ministries will not drift into first love. Even a “purpose-driven” church must be very careful to assure that love for Jesus drives our intentions. Sometimes our ambition can become our worst enemy, especially if the Lord graces us with bountiful resources.
The Ephesian church had enjoyed great grace from God. The apostle Paul, along with Timothy and the apostle John, had started the church at Ephesus. Paul was greatly loved by the church there. When he was about to leave after reporting to them for the last time, they hugged him and kissed him and cried because he said he would never see them again (Acts 20:36-38).
The Lord Jesus, the Head of the church, give His assessment of this great church.
“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted,” (Revelation 2:2,3).
These were a suffering people who were patient, hated evil, tried false apostles, persevered, worked hard without quitting for Jesus’ name. From the outside, they looked almost perfect. But Jesus knew their hearts were growing cold toward Him and described them as having left their first love. Something we need to remember here is that when our love for Jesus grows cool, so does our love for each other. If we are honest, we have to admit that Jesus is easier to love than people. Often, we fail to recognize that the compromised ministry and outreach of our church started with our interrupted love for Jesus.
Jesus, with His omniscient, accurate assessment, faithfully reveals to the Ephesian church their problems, then tells them what to do about it.
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent,” (Revelation 2:4,5).
He gives them a divinely solemn ultimatum. They could remember, repent, and return their hearts to Him, or He would remove their candlestick! That’s scary! While we might excuse a cold heart for Jesus as an ”acceptable sin,” He sees it as a reason to close down a church!
Here are some general observations:
- A church can appear to be doing everything right and still be in trouble.
- Leaving our first love is a sin and grieves Jesus.
- Leaving our first love can lead to the removal of our witness as a church.
- We can listen and change and be blessed.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God,” (Revelation 2:7).
- The Lord Himself knows all the intimate details. This should always be a great comfort to any leader. It should also be a call to prayer.
In summary, the loving worship of Jesus can never be separate from the understanding of Scripture. The Bible does allow us to have objective truth (logos) and subjective reality (rhema), but we will never enjoy first love in our spirits without the Word of God.
When Jesus met the woman at the well (John 4), He said to her that the Father was seeking true worshipers (v. 23). In His dialogue with her, He exposed three categories of worshipers:
- Ignorant worshipers
Ye worship ye know not what (v. 22a)
- Knowledgeable worshipers
We know what we worship (v. 22b)
- True worshipers
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth (v. 23)
That’s our goal. In this stewardship, we must lead our flock to become true worshipers who love Jesus through obedience and adoration.
A fuller explanation of worship can be found in my book, The Life of the Vine in the Soul of the Church, Chapter 21. Request a free copy here.