It's a hard time to lead sung worship in church right now. Congregational singing - the heart of our ministry - has been stripped away, and we're left with what feels like an empty shell. The tangible, audible signs that God's word is in fact dwelling in people richly have vanished. Like many around me, I've been fighting to not lose heart.
However, in ways we can't always see, the Lord is still at work, bearing eternal fruit. And He wants to encourage us in this difficult season through the words of the apostle Paul: do not lose heart.
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul is contrasting ministry under the old covenant law with "the ministry of the Spirit" in the new covenant. Moses' ministry was glorious. When he met with God, his face shone so radiantly that the Israelites couldn't even look at him. But the glory faded away, so he put a veil over his face "to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away" (v13). Paul uses this image of a veil to describe how, through the law, the Israelites were blind to God's glory.
But now, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, "the veil is taken away" (v14, 16); with unveiled faces we behold God's glory "in the face of Jesus Christ" (4:6). And this glory isn't fading away like Moses' did. This glory is "ever-increasing" as the Holy Spirit transforms us into the likeness of Christ.
Here is the promise for us, as we share in this new covenant ministry through song:
as we behold God's glory in Christ through biblically-faithful, Christ-exalting songs, the Spirit of God is powerfully at work, making us more like Jesus. That's a promise.Maybe we can't see it happening, but this is the Spirit's work as we lead others to behold Christ in song.
Just think about the significance of this for a second. Think ahead to when we're in heaven, beholding Christ face to face. Imagine a brother or sister coming up to you to thank you for leading the sung worship during this time. (You may not even know them because they only engaged online.) They tell you how they were ready to give up on Jesus, but reluctantly came to church or tuned in one Sunday morning. They tell you that, because of the way you led them to behold Christ in song, the Spirit transformed their heart and kept them going. And now you're around the throne, worshipping Jesus together, forever. Do not lose heart! Who knows what the Lord might be doing.
And this is why - despite his weakness, even though he's a "jar of clay" (4:7), though he's "outwardly...wasting away" (4:16) - Paul does not lose heart. You may not even be able to see those you are leading to behold Christ because they're down the other end of a camera. Or if you can see them, they can't sing back, and the sea of masks and empty silence makes it all feel pretty pointless. No, no it's not. God is still working things of eternal significance in the lives of His people. Do not lose heart. Fix your eyes "not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (4:18).
As you behold Christ in song, and lead others to do the same, the Spirit is transforming people's lives in Jesus' likeness. "Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart."
This article was originally published in Evangelicals Now in February 2021.