The French refer to it as the raison d'etre. In English, we might call it ‘discovering our purpose.' The New Testament uses the Greek verb eimi (eimi), which is the verb of ordinary existence, ‘to be.' Each of these things refers to what we, in our more lucid moments, seek to discover. What is the purpose of my life? Why do I exist? What is the big picture of life? Where do I fit in?
Ephesians 1:11-12, quoted above, makes it clear that, among other things we might mention, praising God's glory is intricately entwined in our very purpose for existing. "That we might be for the praise of His glory" is a pregnant clause - it encompasses magnifying His great name, reciting his amazing deeds, glorifying His perfect character, singing of His wondrous attributes, shouting aloud of his glory and his generosity, and a hundred other things. God is by definition "Holy," a term that in Hebrew means "transcendent." He is beyond our understanding, and yet we are called to strive to understand Him. And an essential key to knowing God is in learning to praise, honor and glorify him intimately.
Even so, most would not consider our congregational times of praise and worship among our strengths in past years. The song services at many of our Sunday and midweek gatherings suffered from a lack of deep thought - they were at times planned on the fly, often changed in the pre-service huddle, and generally were not carefully conceived to usher the worshippers into the presence of God, one of the great benefits of praise. Songs became ‘fillers' in between what we deemed to be the ‘more important' activities of the service - the sermon, the communion, and the contribution. Our joy, our impact, and our intimacy with our transcendent Father have suffered from a dearth of focused praise.
To grow in this area, our congregational Vision calls for a deeper and richer ministry of praise and worship. We want to take our great strengths - our a cappella heritage, our mellifluous four-part harmonies, and our energetic participation - and apply them in a contemporary, cross-cultural, multi-generational approach to praise which will help us all to walk more closely with the Lord on a daily basis. To accomplish this in each of our ministry centers, we have put together teams of gifted people - worship leaders, singers, songwriters, instrumentalists, technical teams, dance teams and others - who will focus their talents in helping us to go to new places in our worship and praise of the Almighty.
In 2008, we held a congregational worship concert, comprised of a collection of vertical worship tunes of various styles that will appeal to every disciple, regardless of age, ethnicity, or musical preference. From this concert and others that will follow, we have produced a CD of powerful praise that we can take back to our homes, listen to in our cars, and download onto our i-Pods, helping us to "continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise" (Hebrews 13:5).
In all of this, we are confident that the results will enrich our lives, help us to walk more closely with the Lord, draw more of our lost friends into our fellowship, and help us all to embrace this vital purpose in our lives. The scriptures teach us that praise unlocks God's mysteries. Praise has the power to annihilate depression, activate our faith, appease our souls, admit us to Heaven's courts, and awaken us to God's immanent presence. To the degree that we neglect praise, we deny ourselves these blessings and neglect our very reason for being. And to the degree that we practice praise, we prepare ourselves to join the unnumbered thousands of heavenly beings who even now surround the throne of the Almighty, lost in eternal adoration of the One who is worthy of all glory.
Over the years, I have often quoted Ephesians 3:20-21:
In the last few years, I've had to ask myself: In my ministries, has God really gotten the glory? Has he really been exalted and given the honor his perfect character deserves? Have we made every effort to ‘make His praise glorious' (Psalm 66:2)? As we grow in this powerful ministry of praise, we will ensure that, in our personal lives and in each ministry center, God is given the lavish glory that is His due, now and throughout all generations. And to that we can all shout ‘Amen'!