Mike's Story - Worship

I've been involved with worship ministry leadership at Vibrant for a little over thirty years as a instrumentalist, vocalist, elder/liaison, band leader, ministry leader, arranging music, audio/lighting technician, teaching, and whatever else that needed to be done to help focus our congregation on God's ever-presence (e.g., set up chairs, dangling from an extension ladder perched on two 48" stacked risers to aim lights before we were finally able to buy a maintenance lift -- LOL!).

In the more visible aspects of my current worship ministry role (i.e., singing, playing guitar, leading worship), I want people to know that I don't "do what I do" in hope of being the next "undiscovered artist." Having visited the music scenes in New York, Atlanta, LA, and Nashville, I don't harbor any "illusions of grandeur." I've seen too many exceptional musicians who still work day jobs that can tear off a blistering run while singing counterpoint harmony in a different time signature superimposed over the song's base time signature, only to learn while talking to them between sets, "Yeah, I almost didn't make tonight's gig; I was running late on finishing my last lumber truck delivery."

Although I could write at length about the biblical basis for worship, the reason I serve in worship ministry at Vibrant originates with a tent revival to which my parents took me back in 1965 to hear my Dad's favorite southern gospel group, the Blue Ridge Quartet. As those four men accompanied by a pianist sang, I remember looking at my parents and turning around to look at people behind us. Even at 7 years of age, I recognized the joy, happiness, and hope manifest in the smiles and tears on those faces in response to songs that where situated in the good news of God's love for us.

Since that time, like those folks I observed in 1965, some of the more profound moments in my realizing God's presence have come through opportunities to join with other believers to "speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing and making music from your heart the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:12). When the worship team walks out on Sunday morning, I want everyone at that worship service to have an opportunity to set aside everything that's been dragging them down and realize that God's still on His throne, He's in control, and He loves them through:
  • songs that remind us of who God is, what He's done, and what He's presently doing
  • songs that help us better understand who we are in relationship to God
  • songs that encourage us to be what God has called us to be
  • songs that instill peace, give hope, and bring joy and happiness
  • songs that let us express our grief, confusion, and frustration with our life experiences

Although the Apostle Paul reminds us that the totality of worship is seen in wholly surrendering ourselves "as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God: this is the totality of true and proper worship" (Romans 12:1), music, whether as part of a corporate worship experience or used in other contexts (e.g., advertising, entertainment) is a powerful medium for learning. The Apostle Paul recognized this in his advice to the church in Colossae, "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts" (Col. 3:16). I dare say that all of us, regardless of age, can immediately bring to mind verbatim recollections of products promoted through various advertising jingles (e.g., "Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun").

While our use of music in worship is not the totality of worship, with all the competing messages about the nature of reality, music's power as a conduit to inform our understanding of life increases the importance of music in worship that emphasizes, ". . .whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Phil. 4:8). As Larry Norman, a young worship leader from the late 1960s Jesus Movement, observed, "Why should the Devil have all the good music?"
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