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Bells and Whistles

Is there something without which you think you cannot serve or worship God? If not careful, we expect certain music, rituals, or even technology to produce a spiritual “atmosphere.” The truth is that neither a killer praise band nor liturgy and lighting candles can guarantee worship. Hebrews 10:1 says, “Since the law was only a shadow of good things to come, and not the actual form of those realities, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year.” We sometimes accept cheap substitutes of the real thing.

One example of this could be when someone comments, “I did not care for that song!” Maybe that song, whether a hymn or a contemporary chorus, was not for them but instead for someone else who desperately needed it. The way we approach ministry is often more determined by what we like and the traditions we were raised on than on biblical principles. Let’s look again to the word of God in Hebrews 8:6, “But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises.”

Sometimes we think we must have certain things present, just like the Judaizers did, or it is not real worship. We want all the bells and whistles to feel like we have been a part of special services. Let me make this clear. There is nothing wrong with bells and whistles. The problem is when we look to “them” more that we do to Him. J.D. Greear has said, “Worship need not always be spectacular, but it must be supernatural. And if we are not careful, our lust for the sensational can keep us from reliance on the supernatural.”

The problem is that all too often we spend more time focusing on our delivery method than we do depending on our Deliverer! Once again, let me caution you about saying “amen” because you have interpreted me to be talking about those other guys that do not do it like we do. What are some guiding principles on which we can build our ministry that can help to keep us focused on the right things? Why would we settle for cheap substitutes, the bells and whistles, when the real substance, Jesus Christ, is available to all who follow Him?

First, everything must be about exalting the name of Jesus! We know that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. He says in Isaiah 42:8, “I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols.” When we do anything to bring attention to ourselves we are in danger of Him not showing up in a powerful way. He inhabits the praise of His people, which is directed at Him so that He receives the honor and the glory.

Second, we need to make sure we are known as a house of prayer! How much time do we actually spend praying as a body of believers? Our job is to get into His presence so that we can hear from Him. God’s job is to move in our presence as He empowers and directs us. The wonderful thing is that when we do our job He always does His. When we pray for Him to move in our midst we know that we are praying what is His will.

Third, allow Him to fill is with His fullness. Ephesians 4:10 says, ”The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” We fill our life with so many things, but are we allowing Him to fill us with His fullness? We see in Ephesians that we are to be filled with the fullness of the Father (3:19), filled with Christ’s fullness (4:13), and filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The Father planned our salvation, the Son provided our salvation, and the Holy Spirit applies our salvation.

Fourth, make sure you strive for excellence. The key to keeping our eyes on the author and finisher of our salvation is to fill our hearts with the right things. God gives us enabling grace but we are also responsible to believe, trust, obey, and follow Him. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.” A great way of looking at excellence is to do the best with what you have.

Fifth, be thankful for what you have and what God has given you. Enabling grace from God plus enacting faith leads to us fulfilling His intended purpose. God is in charge of the gifts He gives each of us. We should not seek any particular gifts but trust how He has distributed them. The gifts He gives come from Him so therefore they need to be used and not buried. Also, no gift should be exalted above any other gift and we should humbly serve others with our gifts.

Sixth, do what you do for Christ with excellence but also do it where it can strategically help carry out the mission of God. We do not need all the bells and whistles if we are doing it for the glory of God. You also will then do your work out of your heart for the benefit of others. Then you will be able to leverage appropriate opportunities to share the love of God with others. All the tools are great but nothing can replace love, kindness, friendship, and genuine care.

Seventh, remember to make the most of the place where God has planted you. Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” God has a purpose for you. Your testimony and influence grows out of how you carry out your calling with passion. Colossians 2:17 states, “These are the shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.” The bells and whistles are all the trimmings but the real substance is in knowing Him!