Dear Worship Leader,
I have a confession to make. It's hard to type these words but here it goes...I've vastly underestimated the power and importance of what you do.
There have been times I wanted to give you the hurry up and land the plane signal from the congregation as it seemed to me that you were relentlessly singing that same 7-11 song (seven words sung eleven times) seven weeks in a row (or was it eleven?)
Too often I'm bothered by your far-too-long-in-between-songs-explanation of the song we just sang or are about to sing. I've nitpicked about trivial matters (your arm tattoos inked in Hebrew, your skinny jeans that I could never fit into, your distracting yet well-trimmed beard, etc.)
At times I've been so distracted by these trivial issues that I've missed the point of your worship leading...to lead us to worship our great God and King. And now I realize that the problem has been mine, not yours, all along.
To be honest I think I've subconsciously viewed worship as second fiddle to the lead guitars of prayer and Bible study, both in church services and in my personal quiet times with God. I've often complained about worship leaders who couldn't sing or strum their way out of a paper bag Biblically and the lame or light theology prevalent in much of the most popular worship music today. These kinds of perceptions have comprised my lame excuses for not being more engaged on a worship level personally and publicly.
But, as I think about it, I think these external excuses have just been a smokescreen for my real internal issue...a bad theology of worship. For far too long, I've vastly underestimated the centrality of praise to a Christian's life and a church's services.
But over the last few years, the importance of worship, like a brilliant sunrise, has begun to dawn on me. Here's what I'm beginning to realize:
1. Worship calibrates our hearts toward Christ.
Revelation 5 paints a beautiful picture of the worship going on in heaven while all hell is breaking loose on the earth during the end times. In verse 6 John tells us:
"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders." Verses 11-13 continue, "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
The throne of Jesus must be heaven's bull's eye because that's where all of heaven relentlessly aims its worship. What's true of heaven should be true on earth, true of our personal times with God and true of our church services.
I'm learning that worship takes my internally-focused, naturally-narcissistic gaze and turns it upward toward heaven. The praise process calibrates my heart toward Christ and allows me to join the rest of heaven in unfettered, unfiltered worship. This ferocious focus on Jesus allows me to live victoriously over sin and releases God's Spirit to flow full strength through me.
2. Worship creates an attitude of gratitude.
"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:18-20
I love how this passage ties drinking, being filled with the Spirit, praise songs and thankfulness together all in one shot (of worship not whiskey!) Instead of being controlled by alcohol we should be controlled by the Spirit. How can we do that? By consistently singing to the Lord from the depths of our soul out of a thankful heart!
It's impossible to worship God and complain at the same time. It's impossible to simultaneously worship God and to be ungrateful. True Spirit-fueled worship drives out every ounce of ungratefulness and transforms us into a thankful people.
Your worship leading helps us remember this simple truth on a weekly basis. God is using you to replace the bitterness and cyncism so deeply ingrained in our hearts with gratefulness and thankfulness.
3. Worship catalyzes a passion for evangelism.
"Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples." Psalm 96:2,3
The best worship leaders are pied pipers that lead us to worship Jesus then lead us out into the highways and byways to proclaim his Name to the lost. They focus us upwardly on God, inwardly on our need for him and then outwardly on the mission to tell others about him.
David, the ultimate worship warrior in the Old Testament, was ready to wage war with Goliath on the battlefield because he had already been doing business with God (in praise and prayer) in the shepherd's field. The key to his victory over the undefeated Goliath was not his sling shot but his song book. He was so enamored by God's bigness that he was relatively unimpressed by Goliath's 9'6" frame. This theological reality in this classic Bible story has so impacted me so deeply that it will be a huge part of our Unshakeable Tour next year as we train teenagers to, like David, be worship warriors!
And David's final charge speech to Goliath gives us a glimpse into the ultimate end of his worship session and ultimate motive for killing Goliath, "David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands” 1 Samuel 17:45-47.
The final chorus of David's worship song on the battlefield that day was a full on sprint toward the Philistine so that the world would know "there is a God in Israel." Young David knew that everyone everywhere would be chatting up the God of Israel as a result of his worship fueled attack that day. In the same way, when we worship God from the depths of our hearts we are ready to attack the giants we face in our own lives so that everyone everywhere will catch a glimpse of Christ in us and through us.
So thank you for what you do Worship Leader. It is important.
Pull up those skinny jeans, trim up that beard, pick up your guitar and keep leading us in worship. Then, together, lets charge the battlefield and let everyone everywhere know about Jesus!