Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Not a Worship Leader

Dear Friends,

I sometimes wish I were a worship leader. I’ve really tried. I’ve read the books. I’ve even been to pastor’s conferences and attended the worship leader sessions. Here’s what  I’ve read and heard: If the budget will allow, hire professional musicians and worship leaders. People are accustomed to an incredibly high degree of professionalism in all entertainment venues. Church must be just as professional if it expects to successfully compete with the world. Prepare, practice and rehearse. Consider musical dynamics. Carefully modulate your crescendos and interludes. Never allow yourself to be “caught up” in the worship. You need to always have your full awareness directed toward the congregation to monitor their response to your leading. And always remember that worship is not “God-orientated” – it’s about using the dynamic of music to prepare people to hear the word of God preached.

As one worship seminar leader put it, “We worship to ‘plow’ up the ‘soil’ of the heart to receive the ‘seed’ of the Word.” Really? The purpose of worship is to just get us in the right mood for the sermon?

According to the way it’s supposed to be done, I’ll never really be a worship leader. And maybe that’s okay. Most of you have already heard me say that I’m not a worship leader – I’m a worshiper. And on Sunday, I just worship the Lord and invite you to join me. And yes, like last Sunday, sometimes I get so caught up in worship that I have to give myself a time-out before I can continue. At that moment, the only thing I could say was, “Thank you Lord for the weight of Your presence.”

Worship is not a musical interlude in the Sunday service performance. It’s not a prelude to the sermon. It’s not a concert of Christian music to make us happy and fill us with a sense of well-being. Our worship ushers in the Presence of God. Our worship invites the dominion of His Kingdom to descend and we feel the weight of His presence upon us. Psalm 22:3 says that God is literally “enthroned” in our praises.

When we direct our worship toward God, we take our day-to-day troubles, fears, cares and anxieties off the throne of our life and enthrone the Triune God in His rightful place. We welcome the King of kings with His power and authority into the very midst of our daily life. When we surrender ourselves to the full expression of worship, the Holy Spirit descends and meets us individually at our point of greatest need.

There are church traditions that look with disdain upon any involvement of emotions during worship. I remember being in a mainline church on Easter and the congregation was stoically singing Christ The Lord Is Risen Today as if it were a funeral dirge. This was a day of joy to celebrate the risen Christ and it appeared that no one in their church was very happy about it.

And while God loves those of us who do not unreservedly enter into worship of Him, the biblical patterns of worship involve normal and natural physical and emotional expressions of worship. In the brochure About Our Worship, I wrote: “At New Hope Family Church, our participatory style of worship mirrors the way in which people worshiped their Lord in biblical times and we believe this worship continues to honor God today. This is not a fanatical excursion into a false or contrived enthusiasm but a thoughtful return to a genuine, heart-felt expression of love for our Creator.”

One of the things I love about New Hope Family Church is that we are a church of worshipers. And, when we enthrone God in our praises, He reaches down and enfolds us in His arms.  Amen?