Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. — Romans 12:1–2, NIV
The Keeper of Standards: The keeper of standards appoints himself Supreme Court justice of all things worship. The keeper of standards is one who has forgotten that they are a sinner too. I confess that I have been guilty of this practice. And so have you. We attempt to play God. But there is only one God, and I am not him. Neither are you.
No worship leader is exempt from the temptation to lift up false standards. We are all vulnerable. I see contemporary worship leaders who despise traditional musicians for their purist conceit; yet they do the same with modern style and song. I see traditional musicians who elevate subjective standards to the level of divine. I see Southern gospel fans who are as snobbish as those who think only hymns are appropriate in worship. What standard have you placed on the worship throne? What have you elevated to the level of idol? I know mine. Do you know yours?
God despises idolatry of any kind. A worship leader is not allowed to absorb even a ray of God’s glory for his or her own pride. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that our experience and training give us the inside track. We are sure that we know more than anyone in our church— and more than most of our fellow worship leaders for that matter. We are convinced that the church owes us big-time thanks. We have convinced ourselves that we are doing God a great favor by exalting a stylistic standard. But stylistic standards are based on externals, whereas God is looking deep within.
Where can we find God’s standard for authentic worship? We find his standard only in his Word. And the Word of God is surprisingly inclusive of worship style. Instead of worship externals, God’s focus is the activity of the heart. God is running a continuous heart scan on each of us throughout every moment of worship.
It is so easy for us to squelch the power of authentic worship by becoming keepers of the standard. Jesus harshest words were aimed at Pharisees who held the truth at arm’s length so they could hold tight to religious power. Am I a Pharisee? Jesus shines a searchlight into our hearts that reveals our deepest intentions. He tests our inner core to seek out selfish pride. There is false security for us in playing God. It sets us above others and gives us a false sense of control. After all, life is very insecure. Death lurks daily. Health can come and go in a moment. Nothing is assured. Judging others by our own standards can certainly make us feel secure. But, it is pernicious pride at its worst.
These are hard words. I know as you read this you may feel under attack. You may feel defensive and possibly angry. You may feel that this is an affront to your integrity as a Christian. If that is how you feel, I beg you to look deep inside your own heart. Let these words sink into your soul and be used by God. We must submit to the laser beam of God’s judgment. We must develop a standard that goes beyond our own preferences. When all is said and done, whether we have lifted up our crucified Christ above everything else is the standard that matters most. — Mark Powers (P.S. – Wishes for a warm and wonderful Christmas celebration to you and yours! Thanks for a great year of GOING FULL CIRCLE.)