Heart of Worship

As worship leaders, we are called, passionate about sharing the love of Christ through music. It is our tool, gifted by God to us to express His deep love for us and to move us to abide fully and wholeheartedly in His perfect presence. How do we develop a heart of worship? I believe it comes with time and practice. Here’s a few points on my view of what it takes to develop a heart of worship.

Die to self-

Parable of the Good Samaritan Luke 10:29-37

When I consider what comes first before I decide what song to sing in coordination with the message being spoken, recognizing the purpose for what I am doing points 100% to Christ----it is simple. Die to self. Become selfless. It starts with a focus free from all distractions, the biggest distraction of them all is ME. One of the greatest acts of selflessness we find in the Bible is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Here on this road, a man lies wounded, beaten down and probably close to death because of a crime committed against him. As time goes by, several people pass by him on the road. But one person stopped, had compassion on him and helped him. The Samaritan chose to do precisely what God calls us to as a Christ follower.

Love your neighbor as yourself…..(Mark 12:31)

How is what I am planning to bring to the worship experience a reflection of God’s compassion and love for others? The world is a harsh place, and it’s getting worse as time passes. The worship experience should set us apart from that environment as we enter into the Presence of our God. It’s all about Him, not about anything we bring.

Rise to excellence

I know a number of perfectionists who are musicians. I happen to be one of them and well, I’m also married to one. And we both just happen to be first born in our families. I know my children would tell you there are moments when Ryan and I butt heads as much or perhaps more often than when the birds are singing sweetly in our house. We love what we have been called to, and it is an amazing process to go through as we come together to plan a song list for any particular event. I have to give my husband credit though in this area because he has a natural and keenly sensitive approach to coordinating music. You know how an artist prepares to paint, to dive into a work of art, and so often they are in this depth of thought and process that is hard to understand? I see that in Ryan. I watch as he pulls a group of songs together, orchestrates a balance to a set that marries well with the purpose of a gathering whether it is a worship service, a community event, or even a wedding. I often find myself wishing I could somehow pop his head open like a soda can and see how his mind is working in these moments! This is the point in the process of developing a heart of worship, we recognize the drive, the striving toward becoming excellent in Christ. We truly desire for what comes out of our mouths to be a reflection of Christ and His deep love for us.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things……(Philippians 6:3)

For some musicians it is a natural part of this passion to enjoy the limelight, the stage, the opportunity to show off the talents we’ve been given and developed over time. The difference for a worship leader with the heart of worship, is that is contrary to why we do what we do. As we consider the role we have been given to lead worship, that it is all about God and not about us, as distraction dies and our focus on Christ intensifies, we find the process of preparation moving effortlessly into the necessity for excellence. As we begin to put the songs into order, rehearse and adopt the songs into our minds and hearts, the practice is precisely what worship is intended to be: a steady, daily delivery of praise and glory to our God! If what I am doing on the platform is different from what I am doing every single day of my life, then I’ve missed the point completely. There is no excellence there. We can’t afford to miss this, or what we are doing is only what we are doing, and we have completely missed step one of the entire process.

Excellence comes throughout the process, beginning, middle and even after a set list is complete. I’ve had occasions in many worship gatherings where songs were changed out at the last moment or cut completely because of the direction the Holy Spirit directed. The process of rising to excellence is a cyclical one. It never really ends, it continues as we are willing to be shaped in the Father’s hands and guided by the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Lead with humility

Pride. It is a difficult thing to manage as human beings isn’t it? Pride is not easily tamed for the majority of us. Humility is difficult to attain, but vital as worship leaders. When we are rocked to our core by something God has spoken into our spirit, we are moved to do something that gives no credit whatsoever to ourselves, something that points directly to our great big God….that’s when we find humility at last. To lead with humility, is to leave ourselves at the door, find our way to the floor, and direct our passions toward the furthering of God’s kingdom. I’m reminded of a Susan Ashton song, “Hunger and Thirst” in which she sings these words:

I hunger and thirst for mercy
I hunger and thirst for your name
If I hunger and thirst for anything but You
I hunger and thirst in vain…

Scripture in Matthew 5:6 tells us: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness-they will be filled.

The center of what we are doing is to be humbled, found precisely and deeply in the realization that we need God. I am no good to the purpose of worship leadership if I have any other agenda but God’s before I step on that platform. Humility does not come easily or naturally, and so we must find our way to relinquishing ourselves wholeheartedly to the Father’s care every single day. As we grow in the loving and purposeful knowledge of Christ, we decrease and He increases in us. When we recognize our need for Him and let our own vulnerability shine through the worship experience, then God is able to work through us as worship leaders more effectively. If we come into the worship preparation process without humility, we miss the very thing Jesus modeled for us.

Live intentionally

Worship is a daily habit for all of us, or at least it should be. Worship of the Father in all that we do, living our walk with Christ purposefully and intentionally is the best witness we can have. Our words are powerful but our actions often have an effect on those around we do not realize until long after. I like to make lists, do you? I like to get things done in a certain order, check it off the list and all is right with my world when I can see what all I have accomplished on any given day and breathe a sigh of relief. What can happen though when we get so caught up in what we decide we have to accomplish and set our minds on this “bulldozer” mentality, we can so easily miss a spontaneous, blessed surprise in our lives that God intends for our betterment. This is that moment in the worship preparation process, when we are set, the list is good, we’ve found a flow to the service for a particular Sunday, prayed and know deeply that the Father has taken hold of this so we can follow Him into it……then the Holy Spirit speaks and moves us in a new direction without warning. Are you ready to embrace it? Are you ready to make a split second change because of how the Lord is moving in that particular moment of the entire worship experience? It is moments like this as worship leaders we are reminded we are not in control, and God can speak through us far more effectively. There is purpose in all that we do as worship leaders, and often God sprinkles our pathway with spontaneous opportunity to improve upon what we have planned. His abundance flows more freely when we relinquish our grip on what we think needs to be completed, and simply live in those spontaneous moments as intentionally as the ones we have on our check list. As we live intentionally, we are perfected in Christ and He is able to receive the honor and glory He deserves from us.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13

There is a burden upon our hearts as worship leaders to bring the truth, love and light of Christ to the hearts of others through music, and it is often one that brings us to our knees. I hope something in this blog entry has inspired you to consider how you can improve upon your approach to your next opportunity to lead worship. The education, experience and passion we each bring to the process is so diverse, extraordinary and amazing. I am inspired by the new music, the authentic and powerful direction that artists have taken to bring a wider range of song styles to the worship experience. I believe it is an incredible way to connect others with Christ and it is so important we don’t decide at any point the way we are doing it is the best way or the only way. We need to encourage and empower each other in our endeavors to keep doing what we are doing with deep conviction and deep love for the Father. The heart of worship, it is an ever evolving thing, because after all we are not there yet and will not be fully perfected until the day we stand before our great God and participate in the most incredible worship experience ever! Can you imagine what that is going to be like?! What a gift we’ve been given! Let’s make the most of it for HIS glory!
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