Up 1. Prelude 2. Pray 3. Pictures 4. Pitfalls

1. Prelude



  Day 1  

Want a Guiding Vision for Fruitfulness in Music Ministry?

  • The starting point: 

    • "We would like to see Jesus" (John 12:20-28)

We know that without a vision, our ministry will perish, and unless we are able to proclaim the vision, the people will perish, throw off restraint and follow whoever happens to stand up to the microphone. (Prov. 29.18. See previous article and quotes) To have a clear and inspiring vision is vital, but from where, who, how and when are going to get that vision? Leaders need a clear vision and need to proclaim it clearly. But visions devised from one's own imagination are not the answer. (Jer 23:16 "...They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.")  I remember the beautiful carved wood pulpit in one church where I served had these words inscribed on it: "We would see Jesus". That congregation longed to see Jesus. They wanted to be fed with a word from the Lord, and not just clever sermons from man. But that quote from John 12 actually reveals a somewhat different context. The Greeks in that story wanted to see Jesus, but there is no record that they actually did - at that time anyway. Their pursuit of a vision of Jesus was thwarted. Their motives were wrong, and it seems they didn't overcome the initial stumbling block that stops so many of us from pursuing the vision. To really 'see' we have to first 'follow'.

Imagine this scenario. Jerusalem was a buzz at this time of year. The religious community were in celebration mode. The Passover Feast was about to take place. People were coming from everywhere. Year after year they came to worship at the Feast. It was their religious duty to do so. Perhaps, after years of faithful observances, they found it a little routine and longed for something to make this Passover special. Then the appearance of a man called Jesus was causing quite a stir. Recently, He had even brought a man back to life (Lazarus, John 11.1f), and just a few days ago, as the huge crowd was gathering for the Feast, they had lined the streets, waving palm tree branches, and singing out "Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" (John 12.13). Depending on one's point of view, this One they were calling 'King' would either be a huge disruption to this year's worship at the Feast, or could be the One Who would make this celebration unique. The Jews were fearful of the former and were plotting to kill Him, but some Greeks in the crowd were perhaps looking for something or someone to spice up their worship.  

They went up to worship at the Feast. It seems they'd heard of all that Jesus had being saying and doing, and they were impressed. They were intrigued by this amazing man. "Let's see if we can see him, since we are in the area, on our way to worship," was perhaps the gist of their conversation. It seems their concept could have been to see Jesus as a miracle worker for the sake of their worship and for the fruitfulness in their service, and to make their trip worthwhile. 

 Reality Check:

Do we just see Jesus as a divine resource for helping us make our worship more significant? Do our services revolve around us more than Him? - Our plans, our performances, our needs, our likes and dislikes? And do we then just seek after Christ's presence to authenticate our worship?

But Jesus had a different agenda. His Father had a different way of bearing fruit. Jesus talked of a different qualification for those wanting to serve Him. Curiosity about Jesus is not enough. His reply to their request to see Him, was to talk about a 'kernel of wheat' falling into the ground and dying so that it can produce many seeds. Christ, by His death, became the grain of wheat which fell into the ground, to die and thereby to produce many grains for the church. 

(Speaking of His own death to produce 'many sons' : "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering." Heb 2:10 NIV ). 

In John 12, Jesus went on to say that 'whoever serves me must follow me'. The Greeks didn't see Jesus, because they weren't prepared to follow Him.

 Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.  
 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.   
 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.  
       -(John 12:24-26 KJV)      

The prerequisite for 'seeing Jesus' is to 'follow Him'. 

1. Follow Christ

The Prelude to a Vision for Fruitfulness in Music Ministry is to follow Him. 

 (Mat 16:24 NIV)  Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 

Ulch! But this 'cross to bear' is not just some burden, or inconvenience that we have to patiently endure without complaint all our days. No! the cross means DEATH! 

This means Death!

Death to self, selfish ambition, death to the world. All too often, we don't even make it to the plate, let alone to first base! We are too comfortable in our lifestyle, too bound up in our own opinions, too preoccupied with our own ambitions, to be willing to die to self, and simply follow.

Do you want a Vision for Fruitfulness in Music Ministry? 
Are you then willing to Follow Him? 
Then, are you willing, as Paul said in 1 Cor 15:31 to "die every day"?  
And as the song of Philippians 2 says, will you take Christ as your pattern, humbling and emptying yourself, even unto death? 

This is not the false humility and look-at-poor-me-I'm-a-martyr approach that some of us adopt so that we appear 'spiritual'. Neither is it dwelling in the Death state and never overcoming, because once we're dead, we then can claim the glorious resurrection Life where Christ is our Life.

Once dead, then Life!

(Rom 6:4-5 NIV) We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

We are attracted by the 'Life' with a capital 'L' part. In fact we have been eager to take that verse about having 'life abundantly' (John 10.10) to mean that Christ came so that our life would be abundantly pleasurable and prosperous, neglecting to note that He was referring to our 'zoe' life, (eternal, spiritual life) and not our 'psuche' life, (soul, breath, human, life) which is the life Jesus went on to say He would lay down (John 10.17). 

Our 'psuche' life - selfish desires, ambitions, comforts, and personal pursuits and opinions are huge stumbling blocks to seeing, pursuing and fulfilling a vision of a fruitful music ministry. We need to lay this life down, and live the 'zoe' life. This will equip us for fruitfulness. In fact, death to the soul-life is one of the three factors that characterise the overcomers who will ultimately bring down the 'Accuser' in Revelation 12:11.

(Rev 12:11 NIV) They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

So our baptism symbolises following Christ through death to resurrection and to Life. Let us continually and willingly lay down our soul life and be open to the Spirit of Christ to live in and through us. [see also Romans 8 and Philippians 3] Can we say with Paul:

(Gal 2:20 NIV) I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Well actually, I've said and sung that many, many times, but how often do I live it? I still see many signs that I'm not dead yet.

 Signs that I'm not dead yet:

  • I get easily offended 

    • when someone challenges my choice of music

    • when people suggest that my preferred style of music is 'old hat'.

    • when people try to change the tempo I've set

    • when I'm not asked to contribute my skills

  • I'm always talking about myself and my music

  • If people don't applaud, I can't go on

  • I enjoy pointing out everyone else's poor taste and weak musicianship

  • I'm more concerned about how I look on stage, than how my life is

  • I spend more time tuning my instrument than I do my heart.

But we need not only to hear this word, but to DO it. There are so many thorns which choke the growing plants, and destroy the fruit of music ministries. Being driven by the cares, riches and pleasures of our daily lives, will clearly choke the life out of any music ministry.

(Luke 8:14 KJV) And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.

Or perhaps we give up following and serving because we are like Demas, whose love for the world was stronger than his heart for serving the Lord.

(2 Tim 4:10 NIV) ...Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.

But we don't have to be like Demas. Instead, let's lay aside the cares, riches and pleasures of our soul life, discarding all the things that weigh us down, don the team colours, and stride confidently to the plate, with a clear vision of the coach and his game plan. This is the first, and perhaps the hardest step towards a fruitful music ministry. History is littered with many who dreamed of being a winning pitcher, or of hitting the winning home run, but were too comfortable and self-sufficient to let go of self, empty themselves, and pay this price to get to the plate, and to follow. I have too often been such a dreamer.

What does this mean for me?

But let's be perfectly clear here. The concepts of death to self and taking up one's cross and following Christ have been interpreted in many different ways over the centuries. So what does this mean in practical terms for us? To help clarify the situation, may I suggest some things that I believe it doesn't mean.

 What this doesn't mean for me:

  • It's not that life is not worth living! The darkness and despair that pervades our society, leading many to try 'ending it all', is a trap of the enemy, to cheat us of real Life! This is extreme self-centredness.
  • It's not about denying my personhood, personality, or passions. As one writer has put it, it is not about being "so busy trying to demonstrate our spiritual correctness that we lose the art of living out of our souls. We downsize our souls to achieve a safer bottom line of religious acceptability. We are left to live between the rock of crisp correct religious doctrines and rules, and the hard place of duty-bound activity as supposed proof of our spiritual fervor. To open up our souls and discover the fullness of who we are in the stream of God's love has not even been an option for many Christians." ( Jeff Imbach The River Within Navpress 1998 p.23) This false pursuit of 'spiritual correctness' is not dying to self. This is another way of being preoccupied with self, and denying the reality of who God created us to be.
  • It's not making myself a martyr. Self-imposed denial to impress others with how 'spiritual' I am, is just as self-seeking as the Pharisees who trumpeted their acts of righteousness before men. (Matt. 6.1,2)
  • It is not self-imposed self sacrifice (especially when done publicly for selfish gain).
  • Low self-esteem is not an indication of spirituality.
  • Self put downs are another form of self-centredness.
  • Self-pity...

 

 

If these things aren't true dying to self, what is?

 

 What this does mean for me:

  • Life is too short to hang around waiting for something that isn't going to happen. Let go! 
  • Death of selfish ambition:
    • to be somebody
    • to make a name for myself
  • Death to fallen nature:
    • "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Col 3:5 NIV) 
    • "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips." (Col 3:8 NIV) 
  • Life is for living. Wholeheartedly pursue and embrace Life in Christ.
    • to enjoy Him,
    • to be vital because of Him, and not of myself
    • to be renewed and energized through God's Life in me, to live wholesomely and with passion
  • Daily seek after God, 
    • more than sleep, comfort, money, security...
  • To be real and not just one who seeks and only talks about trivial and passing things.
  • To let go of preoccupation with money, material things, and a comfortable lifestyle.
  • To Live it and not just talk about it.

As followers of Christ, we then can Focus on Him.

  Day 2  

2. Focus on Christ

Starting Line: 

"Look, the Lamb of God!"

(John 1:35-36 NIV) The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. {36} When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"

A Heavenly Vision. 

We must all start our ministry with a vision from heaven - a vision that strikes us down, and changes our lives. John the Baptist had such a vision. He pointed Him out to others as well. "Look, the Lamb of God". Have you truly seen Him? 
Saul saw Him on the Damascus road, and that vision changed him completely. He was transformed from the zealous persecutor of Believers, into the apostle Paul who said: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20 NIV) 
Our vision may not be as dramatic as Paul's, but nevertheless, we all must be struck by the same life changing, and about-face encounter with Jesus, and go on to live Christ by faith.

(Acts 26:15-19 NIV) "Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' "'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. {16} 'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. {17} I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them {18} to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' {19} "So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.

Paul's steps:

  1. A vision of Christ

  2. Struck down

  3. Called to the Lord

  4. "Get up and stand on your feet!"

  5. Appointed tell and show

  6. Sent to open eyes, and turn people from darkness to light

  7. Obedient to the vision

 Reality Check:

Are we being obedient to the vision from heaven? 
Are we attempting to build a music ministry because we want to do something worthy of God, or are we responding to a vision of Him that changes us into ones who no longer attempt to live for Him, but rather let Him live His Life in and through us?
Are we just religious zealots doing what we think God wants, 
or are we responding to His Light, Vision and expression?

So, having responded to the vision, and called to the Lord, it's time to run the race!

"Get up and stand on your feet!"

Throughout the Race:

Fix our eyes upon Jesus.

(Heb 12:1-3 NIV) ...and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. {2} Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. {3} Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

It is not sufficient, just to sort out your philosophy of music ministry during your training or study, or during the first years of your ministry. As important as it is to do that, it is only the beginning. 

Runners at the starting line might look at the finishing line, visualise their technique for negotiating all the hurdles, and go over details of the race plan in their mind. But that is not enough to complete a race. They also have to run the race, hurdling each and every obstacle, with their vision firmly fixed on prize. 

At every step, the guiding vision is freshly applied. Adjustments are made in every stride in order to keep you striving towards the goal of your guiding vision. 

Finishing Line:

For we shall see Him.

(1 John 3:2 NIV) Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Don't you long to really SEE Him as He is?

"The Bride eyes not her garment
But her dear Bridegroom's face
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand
The Lamb is all the glory
And my eternal stand!"
                           -Anne Ross Cousin

Fruitful ministry begins, continues, and ends with a continually Fresh and Refreshing Vision of Christ.

It is not enough to KNOW this, we have to LIVE it daily:

  • PRACTISE His Presence

  • PARTICIPATE in His enjoyment

  • PERSEVERE in following Him.

Let's not be those who:

  • once 'saw Jesus' 

  • once had a vision for music ministry.

But rather, let's be those who: 

  • are 'fixing our eyes upon him' every day as we run the race He has set before us 

  • daily are seeing Him, loving Him, enjoying Him

  • seek continually are seeking Him

  • daily serve Him

  • will ultimately see Him as He is

Focus on Christ from the start to the finish!

 What does this mean for me?

  • Turn to the Lord every morning, but not because of religious duty or because guilt drives me to it, but simply to open myself to Him, enjoy Him, and be fed by Him.
  • Call on Him regularly throughout each day, even when things are going well.
  • Acknowledge Him and be guided by Him for every step, big and small.

FOLLOW

FOCUS

Death to Self
Christ, my Life

Look to God
Christ, my Light

 


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