It’s been a full two days here at the Text and Context Conference at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. One of the highlights was hearing my good friend, C.J. Mahaney, preach on Pastoral Care and Loving People from 1 Cor. 1:1-9. He reminded us that although the Corinthian church was filled with problems and sin, Paul didn’t start his letter by correcting them. Instead, he reminded them of God’s calling, God’s grace, and God’s faithfulness. Along the way, CJ provided practical illustrations of how we can follow Paul’s example by highlighting, celebrating, and communicating evidences of grace in the people we lead, rather than simply being aware of their deficiencies.
I spent most of Tuesday with Tim Smith, the lead worship pastor for Mars Hill. Tim is a humble and gracious man. He’s a student of God’s Word and obviously cares for the people in his church. We had breakfast together at this great restaurant called the 5 Spot, where we filled each other in on our histories, talked about Jonathan Edwards, and the Psalms. He also asked me for observations of the workshop he led yesterday. Like I said, he’s a humble man.
We then had lunch (it was a long breakfast…) with a few of the band leaders and production staff of Mars Hill. I answered questions for about an hour and a half. Tim’s first question was a great place to start: “How do you determine if a time of corporate worship has been successful?” I started by saying that only God ultimately knows what’s going on in people’s hearts. But we’re called to be faithful. So I shared that I begin by making sure I have a clear and biblical goal – to magnify the glory of God in Christ. It’s not to have a great musical experience, to pull off a flawless presentation, or to pump people up. We should want people to walk away with a clearer view of the Savior, with more love for him in their hearts, and with a greater desire to obey him in all of life. With a clear goal, I then plan to achieve that goal. So I pick songs that are filled with the gospel and biblical truth and appropriate expressions of response. I plan to say something that will help people understand why we’re singing. I arrange the songs so that the music is a servant to the words and not the main focus. During the meeting, I try to remain aware of how the congregation is engaging with what’s going on. If I sense that people aren’t involved or responding, I do what I can to direct their focus to the works and worthiness of God. If I do all those things, I think I’ve had a “successful” time of corporate worship.
We also talked about the role of music in worship, how to encourage your church in physical expressiveness (teach on it, model it, and don’t idolize it), how God transforms us from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:17-18), and more. From there we went to record a video interview on a number of topics. Tim said that he plans on posting portions of the video on the Resurgence site. I’ll let you know when they become available.
At the end of our time together, I was struck by how open and responsive Tim and the other leaders were. I’m looking forward to more interaction in the days ahead.