Some of the most effective ministry leaders I know often debrief on their church services/big events afterwards. In short, they’re asking one question; was this a win? This question is actually not a bad thing. They really aren’t asking if the event brought lots of money into the church, or if it made them the most popular church on the block. They’re asking things like “did people hear the gospel? Did we bring souls into the kingdom? Were people changed by God?” We should all take inventory from time to time to make sure we are being good stewards of the ministries God has given us. Although, sometimes as worship leaders that “win” is a bit harder to quantify. What makes a “win” in a worship set? How do we know if we are hitting the mark? How do we know we’re missing it?
The book of Hebrews actually has a lot to say about how we should run our worship services. Much of the book highlights Christ’s sacrifice enabling us to enter the presence of God, and the practical outcomes that follow. The discussion reaches a climax in chapter 10:
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” Hebrews 10:19-24
So according to Hebrews, we have confidence to enter God’s presence because of Christ’s obedient sacrificial death. Out of this revelation, the author gives three exhortations that follow. I believe that these three things make up a spiritual litmus test for our worship gatherings. In other words, when our worship is true to the gospel and is faithful to celebrating Jesus, these three things will always be present in our church culture.
1. People are drawing near to God with hearts full of faith.
“22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
When we realize that our uninhibited access to God comes from Christ’s death on the cross, our faith is fully assured and confident. This comes directly out of the revelation of Christ’s death. This is why our worship gatherings should chiefly be focused on Christ and his atoning work on Calvary. If you can get your people to the cross, their hearts will come alive when they realize their worship doesn’t depend on their efforts, but Christ’s finished work. They can confidently, assuredly draw near to God.
2. People are holding on to the Christian faith in true hope.
“23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
The first response of faith sets off a chain reaction, triggering a cascade of hope like an avalanche. When we draw near to God in faith realizing what Christ did for us, our hearts are strengthened in true hope. It works like this; if it’s true that God saved me through Jesus, then the other things that God has promised are also true. If God saved me, He will also provide my needs (Matthew 6). If God saved me, He will also protect me (Psalm 91). If Jesus died for me, he will also guide me (Psalm 23). If you want to create amongst your congregation a deeper hope in the promises of God, get them to the cross; True hope just follows! This truth echoes the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:32.
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Christ centered worship causes hope to rise up within the congregation, to confess and hold tight to God’s promises.
3. People are relating to and encouraging the redemptive community in love.
“24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works..”
Can you imagine a worship service so powerful that it made the people in your church love each other more? That is the Biblical precedent! When the love of the father overflows into people’s lives, that love will in turn flow towards each other. It’s a simple and beautiful reality that when we are filled with Christ’s love, we overflow in love towards each other.
When it comes to determining whether these three things are happening and if your service was a “home run”, just ask yourself; is Christ being proclaimed? Do we have evidence of people’s hope being encouraged? How’s our love walk? The three exhortations Hebrews gives us are goals to strive towards, and signs that our worship is directed in the right place.