Confidence To Enter The Holy Place
In my twenties I served as a worship leader in my local church and beyond. It was a wonderful season. There was favor on my life, and people regularly said kind things to me like: "We love the way you bring the presence of God." "You are anointed. Etc." It felt good. I felt useful.
In this time period, during a cursory read-through of the book of Hebrews, I stumbled on the phrase, "we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus", and I was stopped in my tracks. These words alerted me to the fact that it was the blood of Jesus that made the presence of God accessible to human beings - not worship leaders. However, in my mind, in my theology, and in my experience, I, the worship leader, functioned as the conduit for the encounter.
In this moment, I realized that my understanding of my role in ministry was not in alignment with the truth. There was no way that worship leading could or should play the same role as the blood of Jesus. For years I had joyfully embraced the task of "helping people come into the presence of God". It was clear that I needed to rethink this idea, and get a more accurate understanding of the role I played.
I believed in incarnational ministry and was totally comfortable with the idea of God working through fragile human beings. But this verse devastatingly reminded me that it was the blood of Jesus that brought people into the holy presence of God, not my giftedness, or the way the band played, or the songs that we chose, etc. Anything to the contrary would be idolatrous. It was sobering.
However, I knew that I brought something to the table, and I was determined to get panorama.
Shortly thereafter, I was reading through the qualifications for leadership listed in Timothy and Titus. Pretty much everything on the list was about character. Only two spiritual gifts were mentioned: (1) hospitality, and (2) encouraging others with sound doctrine. And it clicked. That's what I did!! Those were two key gifts that needed to be resident in leadership to ensure effective ministry.
Rather than my priestly function being the "bringer of the presence", I realized that I needed to self-identify as a "host" who offered hospitality and encouragement. It was not within my skill set to imbibe the spiritual experience, but I sure could welcome people warmly and encourage them with solid truth. I could help them make themselves at home, and remind them that their sullied hands were clean because of the work of Jesus, and could be lifted before God with confidence.
In this quest to see the priesthood of believers restored as the ecosystem for God's people, we do well to remember the unique and transcendent role of the "high priest" who made it possible for us to be recruited into his "kingdom of priests". This keeps everything in perspective, and ensures goodness, and healthiness, and humility, and beauty, and the diffusion of the fragrance of Christ.