I started writing this blog last week in the hope that this will help many to understand what worship leaders experience week in and week out in serving God and the people of God. I also started writing in order to encourage worship leaders and worship teams to not grow weary in what you’re doing. It is an honour to be entrusted with the responsibility of ushering people into the presence of God. What a privilege!!
Last week I started with highlighting three groups of people that worship leaders have direct interaction with. These are namely The Worship Team, The Congregation and The Church Leadership. All three groups of people are vitally important for worship leaders to engage with and all three groups of people have various needs, yet all three groups have one purpose; to glorify the Father!
The bible says in Matthew 18:19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” That word “agree” in Greek is “Sumpheneo” where we get the word “Symphony” from. So where there is Agreement or Symphony (like an orchestra, each section playing their parts in harmony), the impossible is possible and an atmosphere of breakthrough is released. I quickly realised that my role as a worship leader is to lead these groups of people into a place of ‘Unison” (One Sound) where the Glory of God can reside and make its dwelling place. This is really what happened in 2 Chronicles 5 v 2-14
I remember the first time I had to stand in front of a group of campers to lead worship. There were about 50 campers at that Scripture Union campsite and I was asked the night before to draw up a list of songs and for the first time I was no longer just the acoustic guitarist backing the worship leader but I was the one responsible to lead the songs. It was scary and yet exciting at the same time. I was 14 years old and I’ve been watching my worship leader leading for a few camps while I was just strumming the guitar quite happily in the background. I remember seeing the faces of the campers and thinking to myself, “Are they going to respond to me as they respond to Andy?” It was the longest 10mins of my life but it was the start of a journey.
It was about 10 years later that I found myself standing in front of a crowd of 3,500 leading them into an atmosphere of worship, every Sunday. In looking back I realise that no matter what the size the congregation, the principles of leading were still the same. The skill of leading 10-50 people and leading 3,500 – 5000+ people can be developed over time but what I want to share with you today are the principles that God taught me over the years which I believe would be the same no matter the size.
I can not be anyone else but me. This is something I believe that many struggle with particularly today where there are so many commercial products on worship. Hear my heart, I believe in recording the worship and distributing CDs and DVDs as it’s an amazing tool to get the atmosphere of worship into homes & other areas; however we as worship leaders need to be careful not to fall into a competitiveness of trying to be someone else. Authenticity is grounded in identity. Identity is grounded in knowing who God is and who we are in Him. When you know that God loves you deeply as a son/daughter and that you cannot earn His love or His approval, you begin to realise that there is no need to try and be anyone else but you.
Knowing this “truth” allows you to accept that you are not perfect but that you have been made righteous through Jesus; you are not faultless but that you have been made holy through Jesus. I began to notice that the more real I am as a worship leader, the more real God becomes to the people I’m leading.
Jesus said to the woman at the well that God is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. We cannot have the Spirit of God without Truth and we cannot have Truth without the Spirit of God. They are interlinked. So be yourself! Since God took you just as you are and you are His workmanship.
Eph 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
I used to think that preparation starts with a song list, but a mentor and friend once said to me, “Before you speak to the people about God, speak to God about the people”. What is God saying about the people you are leading? What is God doing in the lives of the people? Who best to ask than God himself. Once we know the heart of God, a song list is just a tool to reveal the heart of God to people and to help the people to respond to who He is and what he’s done/doing. Have you ever prepared a list where a particular song just stood out above the rest and when you got to that song, the atmosphere in the room shifted? I had many experiences where God would reveal or highlight a particular song and when we sang that song, we couldn’t go further because it was a “song in season”, a song that revealed the heart of God and got the people to respond to a revelation of Him. It is in that moment that the “symphony” is formed. An agreement between heaven and earth where there is a alignment of the atmosphere of heaven and the atmosphere in the room. (2 Chronicles 5 v 2-14)
Be a Worshipper that Leads, rather than a Leader that Worships
I know this sounds like a play on words but think of it this way. I am primarily a worshipper before I am a leader. Getting this priority right helps me to remember what is ultimately important. Leadership is a skill that can be sharpened through development but being a worshipper is the very essence of who I am. This can only be discovered in intimacy with the Father. I have been designed to be a worshipper of the Father!
I used to focus on the response of people when I was leading and it would bother me if I didn’t get the desired response. Then the Lord taught me that if I approach as a worshipper rather than a leader, my focus is to shift the atmosphere through worship rather than try and get people to follow. This was so liberating as the pressure of trying to get people to respond in a certain way, was completely lifted. I guess when we look at David sitting in the courts of King Saul and playing the harp, he was just releasing his worship as a worshipper and that caused Saul to have breakthrough in his body, soul and spirit. We are really just “Facilitators” of shifting an atmosphere in worship.
I pray that sharing a bit of my journey and experiences will help you as you journey with God in worship. Next week I will share a bit on my experience with co-leading with The Church Leadership and the importance of staying in unity.
I would love to hear from you so feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org