WORSHIP, WORSHIP LEADING, WORSHIP TEAMS
by Glenn Kaiser
As a brother in Christ, pastor, worship leader, songwriter and most of all worshipper of our Lord it seemed time to offer this very brief summary of the issue at hand. It only scratches the surface of some of my own seminar offerings, blog writings and notes on the subject, but hopefully it will stir a bit of thought, prayer and perhaps even the courage to grow beyond where you are in any given moment as you reflect on the points raised.
I am in no way an expert on anything, yet since 1971 have traveled North America and the world interacting with Father, Son, Spirit and worshippers of every possible variety. I’ve been blessed to lead and be led in worship in countless church streams and styles. Hopefully I’ve learned a little from our God and His people in the process.
What follows here are what I consider core concerns worth passing on to you.
In the faith, hope and love of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
A. W. Tozer calls worship “the missing jewel of the church” and I agree. Yet, in the past two decades there has been a revival of worship of sorts. Seminars, books, gatherings of people who normally worship via prayer, song, individual and group adoration. And it is in a sense simply adoring the Beloved Himself.
But one of the most incredible meanings of the Heb. words in many O.T. verses can be translated best “kiss toward”. To worship the Father in Spirit and truth means to biblically (in both heart-attitude and activity) “kiss toward”. Psalm 2 “kiss the Son”. Very interesting. And so I would first of all say that adoring the Father, Son and Spirit are paramount in anything resembling scriptural “worship”.
Yet I will add that the Church in the world has a far smaller view of worship than the Bible offers. Rom. 12 speaks of “offering up your body in sacrifice to Him as “reasonable worship”, thus surrendering of one’s self is certainly as much worship as is lifting hands, bowing, kneeling, singing praise and thanks, extolling His character in songs, etc.., and I think it is THAT side of worship that many continue to overlook. We need the whole to be whole. Jesus’ “Spirit and Truth” of course relates to the Holy Spirit’s help (“Helper, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Spirit of holiness”) to worship acceptably, as well as confession of sin so that we have as little blocking our way to the Throne as possible. “Worship Him in the beauty of holiness” and so on. Of course, how can one WITHOUT clean hands and a pure heart have the intimacy that He desires?
Again, it can be argued that worship does/adds far more to US than to Him, for He needs nothing to be complete- He is all-sufficient without us. We offer Him honor, glory, and bless Him by recalling that of His nature and Word that reveals Himself to us. Worship means integrity in every sphere. “Spirit AND TRUTH”. In such the Father seeks us to worship Him. So… there’s the crash-course. By the way, genuine worship is the complete opposite of performance. It is totally God-ward at the core, which is one reason it is the most edifying thing we can do, being focused on God and not self.
The first songs I wrote were “worship” songs, that is, after I became a Christian. After several, I began to share a witness sort of thing in songs, but before all else, I was worshipping God (without as well as with music) in private devotional time. I was asked by the leadership of the Milwaukee Jesus People and later, Chicago-based JPUSA Ev. Covenant Church/community early on to lead worship much for the same reasons I was asked to give Bible studies. I was doing both just between the Lord and myself anyhow. So when leaders in our church saw or found this out, and it had been consistent, they simply asked me to share some of this with the congregation. This is of course, part of a calling from God, His people, and very practical in terms of helping to link God’s will with people’s need: to take time to focus on Him.
THE WORSHIP MISSIONARY
In that there have been and are so very many worship conferences, books, dvds, webinars and other means of teaching what the Bible, church history (past and present) and assorted surveys, etc. can give us on worship as a topic, I am certain what I will now say has been said before.
One of the major frustrations of worship leaders is how to rightly and hopefully in a beneficial way, bring depth yet freshness to a local congregation without getting someone upset at them.
Some leaders and congregations love change, flux, the new thing, a fluid approach to worship- utilization of various art forms, music styles, liturgies and so on.
Some only love the long-held traditions and all that entails in their immediate sphere of congregational worship… and anything that seems to threaten their sense of the familiar is suspect.
Certainly all this also affects a worship pastor or leader’s spouse and kids as well as the local church they are -or were- part of.
As you might imagine, there is no “one size fits all” to be found.
We know Jesus says the Father’s desire is that we worship Him in spirit and in truth. We know how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. By now most believers have some understanding that worship is far more than music but encompasses the whole of life and must transcend style or form.
And so in most any believers gathering there is yet a rather wide range of tastes and desires… which to be blunt, Jesus as their worship leader would not Himself be able to satisfy!
I’ve lost track (and a great many have lost their job and/or position of service) of the number of worship leaders who have voiced the hurt and frustration of not being able to somehow find grace-based relationships with persons in a local setting due to these things.
Music and the arts/art making- which are commanded to be made by God all through the Bible- is core to unity and koinonia (fellowship). Conversely, they are also the stuff of pettiness, disunity and division all-too-often.
I highly recommend a great deal of prayer, God-seeking and especially fruit of the Spirit bearing, patience in particular if you are called to lead worship ANYwhere.
Too loud, too soft, too new, too old, too many musicians, not enough musicians, no drums, lots of drums and rhythm instruments, too long, not long enough… “I love/hate that style”… the list is endless and after a while there are those worship leaders who just give up. They quit trying. Often there is a bitterness that sets in, a root of which can truly bring an unhealthy separation from the body of Christ if we let it.
One over-reaching solution (or possible solution) is working hard at honest and open communication from the very start. Perhaps others aren’t great at it, but many musicians aren’t either!
Dealing with a fellowships expectation BEFORE taking the job is a huge part of the answer in avoiding later collisions.
Being flexible and willing to serve as opposed to demanding your own way, your own personal “worship sweet spot” in terms of songs and approaches YOU feel most comfortable with, this is also part of the solution to potential battles.
Again, no one size fits all.
So today my brain took me back to something I heard many years ago on this topic and I’ll simply say it like this: if you are a worship leader, consider yourself a missionary to the particular tribe you’re being called to serve.
Most every issue regarding wonderful and fruitful as well as horrid and crash-and-burn missionary work in church history also fits the life and ministry of a worship leader in any given congregation.
They are to be listened to and respected, not exploited and pushed into your own musical or even spiritual worship culture. Read that sentence again please. The ripples of this will bless or curse you as well as the congregation.
I must also mention that excellent talent and brilliant song selection do not overshadow lousy attitudes and lack of godly character in a worship leader’s life!
It’s a two-way street.
If God calls you to speak Chinese you likely aren’t called to Brazil… unless God is leading you to Chinese immigrants among the Brazilians of course.
What I mean is that too many worship leaders want the gig. You really only want to be where GOD calls you and among those where you and they are a “fit”. Hand-in-glove.
This rarely happens immediately so of course time is a factor in a maturing worship leader and maturing congregation’s life.
There are also times and seasons, both for us as individuals as well as for a particular congregation. Things change and people often do as well, so there is a sense of flux that we simply cannot wish away.
We must be faithful to God and to the best of our ability, to hear and in love, follow Jesus in our calling.
Lastly, colonization is nearly always considered a mistake regarding missions. Basically demanding the locals accept and assimilate your chosen culture and subculture is simply not part of living the Good News among a tribe you were not born into and raised by.
I am not saying leadership is easy anywhere, and I am indeed saying that asking a lot of questions, listening hard and also communicating who you are from day one and all along the path is likely the best and of course best way to establish integrity-based worship leading in any place and among any people.
God help us serve Him and our brothers and sisters, with and without music!
THREE MAJOR WORSHIP LYRIC ISSUES: Psalm 101.1
Quite a few years ago I found my head turning when I laid eyes on a particular verse in the Book of Psalms.
After long consideration it strikes me that this might be a good example of a rather direct text, that is, there is little “fudge room” or lack of clarity or difficulty in solid interpretation. Not so with application, but I will offer a few thoughts on that further down the page.
First, let’s unpack the scripture, but then let’s consider our expression in any lyricism and worship music (lyrics to be specific) in the local and larger church.
Psalm 101 verse 1 is one of those we might just blow through- you know, pass over quickly and move on into the “meat of the message” so to speak. Only I am convinced this is more than a passing verse which merely “sets the stage” for the rest of the lyric as this entire Book is composed of song lyrics.
You would do well to research other’s scholarly insights in commentaries as well as other English translations (both which I do regularly), but I will here quote the World English Bible:
I will sing of loving kindness and justice. To you, Yahweh, I will sing praises.
“Love, Justice, Praise”
Other translations render the Hebrew into various English words:
-lovingkindness, steadfast love, faithful love, gracious or loyal love
David says “I WILL SING -OF-…”, then “-TO- THE LORD I WILL SING”
Though the context would rightly be singing to the LORD Himself, there is a broader application in the practical if not fully intentional by David, that is, this Psalm among all the others in part of the hymnal of Israel, therefore sung in worship.
When considering Paul writing both the Ephesians and Colossians (Eph. 5.19,20; Col. 3.15-17) one finds both “vertical” and “horizontal” language. We sing TO God, but also TO one another ABOUT Him, His attributes, and from His Word and authentic experience sing/speak/teach one another regarding His views on any matter you’d care to name, regardless. Note the key points David is emphasizing in this particular text-
LOVE -utterly true/genuine love: God’s love
MERCY -goodness, kindness, faithfulness -which God is the ultimate Source of, therefore, God’s mercy
JUDGMENT judgment, justice -perfect and absolute justice/judgment, therefore God’s Own judgment
SING PRAISES- Heb.- sing, sing praise, make music, make music on a musical instrument -THIS we are both commanded and encouraged to bring to Him and for Him directly. And yet people also directly benefit as we do so in any public setting.
But how might people be served via our lyrics?
Relating to the Ephesian and Colossian verses, I often remind people that we are not called upon to either teach nor admonish God Himself… rather one another. We make music and sing lyrics TO God but also TO one another.
Thinking this through my own questions are formed.
***WHAT or HOW do my/your/our current lyrics (vertical OR horizontal) reflect regarding these three key points in Ps. 101.1?
***WHY or why not?
***WHAT is the need in our personal life, the lives of our fellow believers especially local congregation, and in the larger church as well as world?
Lastly, put bluntly, love songs are cake. I’m not saying there is no need for them, rather they are at times a cop-out for a writer or performer or even worship leader.
JUSTICE?! Write and sing about justice (particularly in a worship lyric) and some people begin to judge (I mean in a negative way) especially if the issue is mercy extended to someone/s they strongly dislike! God has a way of being gracious to those we would rather see him smack, no?
PRAISES?! They get “up the nose” of pre/un-believers and at times, even Christians who would rather focus on self and humanity than truly giving honor/glory/thanks/PRAISE to the Only One truly Worthy of continual praise. For the larger world it is a foreign, almost offensive thing due to human arrogance and insecurity (both)… they, we, are NOT God but want to be. He does not -share- His glory (note… HIS glory) with another nor is anyone else worthy of praise in the sense the Bible calls for it. Worship? This is about God, not us. So this is often offensive both to unbelievers as well as rebelling Christians. Yep. Deal with it. And repent where you need to!
You and at times I may not FEEL LIKE singing or writing or playing such songs regardless of the setting… or shall I say more regarding my/our personal issue/s at the moment. So what?! Growing up benefits both us and our audience/congregation. Immaturity and wallowing in it corrupts both of us.
David says he WILL sing with reflection in all three general categories. Do we? Are we? Should we?
I believe these are things worth considering!
“MUSIC, MUSICIANS AND MINISTRY” NOTES-
For Worship Leaders and Team Members
1.Attitude- a servant’s heart- be certain Jesus gets top billing
2.A worshiper in the truest sense is not a performer
3.To Hear the Holy Spirit, not simply listen to the music
4.To give attention to the text- the lyrics and their meaning as you sing and or play
5.To be in an attitude of prayer
6.To be sensitive to the context of the music ministry in that specific situation (expressing joy, God’s holiness, compassion, justice, judgement, whatever)
7.To have rehearsed enough that you are able to forget the music and truly focus on the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit
8.Being wise enough to “lay out” or quit singing or playing if your part is detracting or distracting! (when in doubt-lay out)
Leadership in Worship:
1.All of the above and especially to Work with the speaker(s) if there is one. What is their text or message? Plan the song list accordingly.
2.To encourage, admonish in love, support in prayer your fellow-musicians
3.To interceed for/be attentive to the speaker if he or she follows your musical presentation (Unless you absolutely must, don’t leave the room immediately after you do your part)
4.To pray for and consider the specific needs, prejudices, etc. of the congregation you are serving at a given service, prayer-meeting or whatever.
Practicalities For All:
1.Show up at rehearsals
4.Tune up! Check your gear
5.Disappear (it really IS about Jesus, not you or me!)
6.Be honest, be open to other musical and worship styles and approaches
WORSHIP GUILD: GLENN’S NOTES
1. RELATIONSHIP TO JESUS CHRIST
2. RELATIONSHIP TO FAMILY (WIFE, HUSBAND, KIDS)
3. RELATIONSHIP TO PASTOR
A. WHAT HAS GOD BEEN DOING IN THIS CHURCH?
B. WHAT IS THE NEED AMONG THIS PEOPLE?
C. WHAT IS THE MESSAGE BEING PREACHED?
1-. PRAYER, SONG SELECTION, REHEARSAL
2. WORSHIP LEADER NOT WORSHIP MASTER
3. KNOW YOUR MATERIAL SO WELL YOU DISAPPEAR
4. SPONTANEITY- SPIRIT-LED, NOT PROGRAM-DRIVEN
5. WORSHIP MEANS “TO HONOR… KISS TOWARD”, NOT “PERFORM”!
A. WORSHIP IS CENTERED IN GOD, NOT THE CHURCH
B. EPH.5.19, COL.3.16 “TEACHING AND ADMONISHING”
C. 380 VS. IN THE BIBLE SPEAK TO MUSIC -GET TO KNOW THEM
D. LEARN CHURCH HISTORY REGARDING MUSIC AND WORSHIP
E. HAROLD BEST SAYS Perhaps the best witness is “observed worship”
E. WHEN IN DOUBT, LAY OUT
F. THINK BIBLICAL CONTENT, BROAD STYLISTICALLY & CREATIVELY
G. WORSHIP IS NOT ONLY ABOUT MUSIC…
H. PACING A WORSHIP EXPERIENCE…
I. IN OTHER CHURCHES… ASK QUESTIONS, PRAY, SERVE !
J. TRY WRITING WORSHIP SONGS, ALONE OR WITH OTHERS
VARIOUS SCRIPTURAL POINTS REGARDING WORSHIP
The word is best defined “Kiss Toward”, “Honor”
Worship in Spirit and Truth- Jn. 4.24
In the beauty of Holiness- 1Chr. 16.29 & Ps. 29.2 & Ps. 96.9
In Humility- James 4.10
Reverently- Ps. 5.7
In Love- Mt. 22.37,38
Listening- Ecc. 5.1
Praising and Thanking- Ps. 35.18
In all things- Rm. 12.1,2
Many physical positions listed in the Bible
Many ways (forms, liturgies or not) in Scripture also
*All* of life for the Christian, in a sense, is worship
WORSHIP: Two 500 Pound Gorillas!
In my view there are two 500 pound gorillas in worship, one and perhaps both are mentioned on occasion but all-too-often left out of the discussion regarding true, full, vibrant and yes, even “God pleasing” worship.
First a foundation overview and then on to my two main points.
We -need- to worship God far more than He NEEDS us to worship Him.
His perfect, holy, loving nature and character won’t diminish one iota whether we do or don’t honor, bow, kiss-toward, raise hands, clap, dance, attain intimate worship with Him. Not on Sunday nor any other day of the week. Not this month, this year or this millennium. He is utterly perfect and unchanging, complete with or without us. That may be a travesty of thought for some, but I think it holds true in scripture.
At the same time, He DESIRES us to worship Him for Who He is and I dare say, for all the amazing grace He actively stirs into our lives.
Our -need- to worship Him is near limitless from my perspective.
Our need OF God- Father, Son, Spirit
Our personal relationship WITH Him
Salvation, forgiveness of sins, gifts of faith, hope and love, humility FROM Him
A deep sense of dependency UPON Him.
All are good and we are needful of these and more via engaging Him in the many facets of worship.
Worshiping Him in “spirit and in truth” (as Jesus said “the Father SEEKS people” who do so on earth) is His desire, command (“you shall worship the Lord your God”) and our privilege.
Yet I say again, it is our need while it is His desire to have a deepening intimacy with us, yet it is not something He will cease to be God without.
I will say bluntly, I believe we largely cease to be His people and fully human if we do not (or cease to) worship Him.
This said, point One:
WE -AND NOT GOD- DEFINE WHAT TRUE, MEANINGFUL WORSHIP IS.
Too often this seems the honest case, no? Not good. Not good at all. God first… or me first? On what, better still, “whom” is our focus?
After years of study of both Testaments including Old Testament temple worship, the Psalms, words of Jesus, Book of Acts and letters of the New Testament, etc., I find very little ABSOLUTE template for a practical form of -how- the faithful followers of Jesus Christ MUST (by His declaration) worship. If anything, what leaps from scripture is a vast array of varied physical, locational and other sorts of worship styles rather than any particular one. In fact the core issue as I understand it is literally the one I have already quoted in the two texts above.
Yet individuals, couples, families, the young, the old, this and that group of believers bring a set of practical forms, personal desires, openness or hard and closed definitions of what REAL worship “looks, sounds, feels like” and what it produces in THEM… or they just may not believe they’ve had an encounter with the Lord in a given moment of time, private or corporate.
When WE define worship (like most other matters) without a clear biblical definition… and when we have decided our own favorite cultural, comfort, whatever-you-like experience isn’t to our satisfaction we often feel like… what… leaving this congregation for another, starting a new one, blowing off meeting together because “I am not experiencing AUTHENTIC, REAL WORSHIP”.
As the old Covenanters (Ev. Cov.Church of which I am a member) asked, “Where is it written?”
Truth be told, sometimes we don’t really care.
We define what we need and not getting it, do whatever (or not) to “get” it. Funny how worship of God turns into a personal fulfillment quest… which is self-focus, not God-focus. Myopic. ME. Ahhh… not so good methinks.
HEART, SOUL, MIND, STRENGTH… AND YOUR NEIGHBOR?
We often must repent of showing up to get the good stuff of fellowship with God and His people, food, fun, blessings (all GOOD STUFF, I love it too!!!) while not engaging with our hearts. “They worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from me” as Jesus quotes from the Old Book.
How can you or I rightly judge our neighbor (or a non-Christian neighbor or other believers or another congregation for that matter) about their worship when we often fully know we show up on Sunday morning and ignore the needs of those in our church, block, co-workers at our day job, are ourselves only prepared to “get the good stuff” and rarely if ever lift a finger to help “the least of these” all around us when we walk out of the meeting?
What? “The PROfessionals get paid to do this! The government will deal with them. This is why we pay taxes!! It’s not MY calling, not MY job, hey, that’s why we have a staff in our local church [or denomination]!”
When we divorce focused worship of our God from loving our neighbor among whom God has placed us we’re right back to the Book of Amos where He blasts Israel for the “noise of your songs” for lack of “justice and righteousness” specifically with regard to widows, orphans, foreigners and the poor overall. Look it up. I DARE you to look up in the very Word of God the issues I raise here.
I repent regularly for my own selfishness. Without the mercy of Jesus and kindness of the Father I have no eternity but hell as I’ve never earned any other nor can I.
It is GRACE by which we are able to ever worship in spirit and truth- and do not think that it’s a great idea to experience deep, hot (or however you wish to label it) worship of God while essentially living self-centered lives when it comes to those in need around you.
It’s a both/and sort of thing.
True worship comforts and also convicts us to love God and our neighbor more, yes, even sacrificially.
I fail regularly at both, but I cannot claim ignorance nor any sort of practical holiness
when I don’t engage from deep in my heart with Him REGARDLESS OF THE ELEMENTS OF WORSHIP as well as loving my neighbor REGARDLESS OF MY LAME EXCUSES FOR DISENGAGING.
“These people worship me with their lips but they worship in vain for their hearts are far from me” indeed comes to mind. Pair that with “As you’ve done it to the least of these my brethren you’ve done it to me”. Ouch.
Finally, I’m well aware God has not called everyone to do everything for every needful person they ever lay eyes upon, read or hear about! I get that, it’s quite obvious we all have limits. The problem is so few care and actively share the love of Jesus beyond their own personal life, family or immediate small group of friends.
True worship moves us beyond ourselves.
We move closer to the true God as well as our neighbor due to His love and His call.
May we experience a genuine worship revival. New songs or experiences are great… but they are not near enough.
Things to consider.
In conclusion- neither I nor you dear reader, -are- God the Holy Spirit. I state this to simply say not everything you and I believe is holy writ… and certainly we all have our blind spots and as I’ve already mentioned, personal preferences. What is HIS preference? That’s the core issue.
May God help us prayerfully and humbly seek Him and His will as well as growth re. Galatians chapter five “fruit of the Spirit” attitudes as we worship Him individually and alongside our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
God BLESS you in that ongoing quest as a worshipper, pastor, worship leader, and/or part of a team whose heart is to honor our Lord Jesus Christ with and without music!
His, yours, -Glenn Kaiser [firstname.lastname@example.org]