The story is told of a traveller in the Middle Ages, who visited a city where many stonecutters were working. Approaching some of the men, he asked them all the same question: “What are you doing?”
The first stonecutter he met replied, “I’m cutting stone. I have to do it, my master told me so.”
A second stonecutter responded, “I’m the best stone cutter in the land. Look at the smoothness of this stone, the exactness of the measurements, how perfect the edges are.”
A third pointed to a foundation several yards away, and excitement and passion shone from his eyes, as he proclaimed, “I’m helping to build a cathedral for the glory of God!”
I wonder which of these best illustrates our attitude towards worship?
The first stonecutter completed his task out of duty. I wonder if sometimes you and I feel like that about worship – well, I just have to worship God. Its what we do in church. Its what is expected. It is what God commands.
Or maybe you relate to the second stonecutter. He focused on the forms he was creating, the way it was done. Some of us may love the sounds and beauty of a certain style of worship, and of itself that is not a bad thing. We may want to bring our best with our singing, our playing of instruments, the words of our prayers, our creativity, and again that may not be wrong. But if we are not careful, we can focus on the presentation of our offering, the outward ways and means by which we worship, and miss its wider purpose.
The third stonecutter saw the big picture. He wasn’t cutting stone primarily because he had to, and the majority of his focus wasn’t on the way he cut the stone. He knew that the part he played was included in a much bigger and more important project – he was building a cathedral for the glory of God!
The Apostle Paul talks about Kingdom ministry on earth using the metaphor of building (1 Cor 3:10-17). He warns that we ought to be building with the right materials and motives, because will be a time when the work is tested, and that which is not ‘of value’ will not stand. How can we know that what we are ‘building’ as we develop worship in our churches is built of the right stuff, with the right attitudes and applications?
There is another ‘master builder’ described in the Old Testament – a guy called Bezalel, who was chosen by God to head up the team constructing the tabernacle; that beautiful, symbolic and holy place were God was going to dwell with his people and allow them to come and worship him. To me, this passage is brimming with insights about how we might come and build our own ‘cathedral of praise’ – not physical temples or buildings, but as we plan and lead worship in our churches and our lives:
30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers. (Ex 35:30-35)
Bezalel was filled with the Spirit – To some people Bezalel’s tasks might be seen as quite ‘practical’. Often in church the worship team will pray whilst the techies get on with their tasks. We’ll often ask for anointing on the preacher and the worship leader, but why not the person doing the visuals? Whatever our role in worship, we need to make time for the Spirit to refresh us and inspire our ministries.
Bezalel was filled with wisdom, understanding and knowledge – This guy didn’t leave his brain at the church door! Planning services, choosing songs, writing prayers, working with technology, creating art… all of these require both Spirit inspiration and engaging our intellects. We’re seeking to equip people for worship with theological depth, practical wisdom and pastoral skill.
Bezalel had all kinds of skills – when you consider the small range of artistic gifts that most churches honour, compared with the range of skills used by Bezalel and his team (count them in the passage), it should inspire us to be using a wider selection of gifts in worship. Who do you have in your community, with creative gifts just waiting to be tapped into? What other artforms could be released for God’s praise?
Bezalel was had the ability to teach others – There is no room in Kingdom creativity for lone rangers; worship team leaders, techies or artists who think that only they can ‘get it right’ and so never train and release others. We seek to train people who can then go and multiply themselves by instructing and mentoring yet more people.
As you seek to build your church worship team, plant a new fresh expression of corporate worship, or push the boundaries of Kingdom creativity; our prayer is that you do so with the heart of the third stone cutter, the balanced approach of Bezalel, and the wisdom of Paul who:
‘laid the foundation like an expert builder… for no one can lay any other foundation than the one we already have – Jesus Christ.’ (1 Cor 3:10-11)
And we hope that our ministry, resources and training might help you to do that. Get building!
About the author: Sam co-leads engageworship.org with his wife Sara. He teaches at London School of Theology on the Theology, Music and Worship degree. He also co-leads RESOUNDworship.org, the free worship song website, and has led musical and creative worship at events like Spring Harvest, New Wine North and the Baptist Assembly alternative stream. Their book ‘How would Jesus lead worship’ was published by BRF in 2009.