WHAT MAKES A GOOD WORSHIP LEADER ?

We live in a day of high profile worship leaders and song writers – but, amazingly, we actually know the names of some of the worship leaders from back in the reign of King David!

In 1 Chron’ 15 v 17 – 22 several key people are mentioned – all gifted and no doubt practised and skilled. All invested their talents to develop the corporate worship of the nation of Israel. I find their names fascinating… perhaps giving us some pointers as to the qualities we should develop as worship leaders or worshippers!

HEMAN (v17) means “one who is faithful”. To lead well requires a certain amount of endurance, determination and consistency on our part. Heman became that sort of leader. It would seem he had not had an easy life – in Psalm 88 we find him overwhelmed, feeling low, without strength or friends – and yet he faithfully and honestly cries out to God for salvation. God greatly values faithfulness! What matters is not whether we are overwhelmed or not, but where we go when we are!!

ETHAN (v17) is derived from the Hebrew words for “permanence and strength”. No one is strong in themselves, but how wonderful to be a person known for consistency, strength and a determination to worship. It is perhaps easy to be switched on for a big occasion, or, on the other hand, to be overwhelmed by our current feelings or circumstances. Our Father God is surely worthy of our taking up a more robust, determined, attitude of giving “permanent praise!”

KENANIAH (v22) is not a name found in baby name books today – but what a great meaning, “One established by Jehovah” If we serve in order to establish ourselves then we are, and always will be, insecure. Is our sense of being firmly established always dependent on what people say? or how the last event went? It is great to know that we are called by God to worship – there is no need to perform for HE already loves us unconditionally. He has established us. Our need for constant affirmation from others will grow weaker the more we bask in his love and enjoy serving without the need for applause.

ASAPH (v17) means “one who gathers together and removes reproach”.  As we gather to worship our congregation will always include folk wrestling with big issues, overwhelmed with sorrows, and with failures on their minds. Ethan drew people together to our God, who replaces those things with a sense of acceptance, faith, forgiveness and adoption. How wonderful to lead people into an awareness of the person, presence and love of God on a Sunday! Much as I appreciate the virtuoso worship, or musical, “performer”, truly gifted worship leading draws people together, reminds us whose we are, who He is,e is,HH and focuses us wonderfully on the object of our worship.

(Incidentally not only did Asaph write some psalms, he also grew in his gifting and developed, so that he is later described as a seer (2Chron 29v30) – A reminder that worship is intimately connected to the presence of God and the flow of his spirit and gifts …)

A last thought – A hundred and twenty-eight singing descendants of Asaph return from exile with Ezra the reformer (Ezra 2:41), and perform during the dedication of the new temple’s foundation (Ezra 3:10). I wonder what values we will pass on our children and grand -children?

WORSHIP IS POWERFUL!

I’ve just been reading 2 Chronicles 20 v 13 – 22. Responding to prophetic direction, from Jahaziel, the King organises a battle formation with a big difference – it has a worship band at the front!

Those he appoints then advance toward the enemy praising God for “the splendour of his holiness” and giving thanks to Him. As they advance “The LORD set ambushes for the enemy” – I’ve no idea what that looked like!! – But they defeated the enemy, and have gone down in history!

When in trouble we often do anything but worship, and turn to anyone but God! – Here, then , is an alternative response and also a great example of the power of corporate worship.

We can, one day, ask Paul and Silas for a similar New Testament testimony of the in-breaking of God’s power as they praised God. (See Acts 16 v 16… esp’ v 25ff)

Paul says “the weapons we fight with are not weapons of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (1Cor10v4) I believe truth filled worship, in the Holy Spirit, is a powerful weapon.

Worshipping in spirit and truth has God’s power to break down strongholds of wrong thinking, which the enemy uses to hold individuals back.

The truth about God – who he is and what he has done is a great weapon to set people free, remind them they are adopted, beloved sons of a heavenly Father. This brings new life and engenders faith.

The name of Jesus and his wonderful character has power since God has given him “the name above every name” – every knee must bow! The blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sin, guilt and shame, and as we sing about it we are enabled to resist accusation and know we are righteous by his grace.

Knowing the wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit, as we enter into adoration and experience the wonder of him actually being with us, strengthens us for life and defeats an enemy who wants us to believe we are on our own…..

The content of our songs is important since worshipping in truth powerfully reminds us of who He is and who we are.

Leaders, like Jehosaphat, can set the example of being those who first “bow down and worship before the Lord” (v18) It is a wonderful relationship, not a method or a formality!

God loves to then come – to save, to heal, to set free, to set ambushes, to break folk out of prison … Honouring and enjoying the person and presence of God is the destination of worshippers. Worship is powerful, because God is!

Worship – Our highest calling

“Desiring God” is a great title for a book! – In that book John Piper argues that to be preoccupied with anything less than God is to rob ourselves of our greatest joy and privilege. God tells us to praise him above all else because He knows that’s the place of our highest fulfilment and satisfaction. We are made for Him – to worship Him is our destiny! To not worship Him is to miss out on what we are on earth for.

Let’s focus on aspects of corporate worship …

THANKSGIVING

To “enter His gates with thanksgiving ” is much more than “let’s wake everyone up with a fast one”! The first step away from God is that we don’t thank Him (See Rom 1v21) In the midst of all sorts of life distractions, therefore, it is so good to simply thank God and remind ourselves of his mercy, his kindness and wonderful nature. Such appreciation is our “gateway” into God’s presence.

PRAISE

An illustration – When we first married my wife was unmoved by the delights of, say, tennis,  (along with most others sports!), however watching together, learning about scoring, tactics, angles and spins has gradually led to appreciation and even outburst of “WOW that was fantastic!” Praise grows with understanding! – (I have also learned, from her, to appreciate our rich history and legacy of historic buildings)

We praise what impresses us – and the more we learn of who God is and what He has done the more we will be impressed with that understanding and praise him. That’s why songs full of truth about Who God is and What He has done are so helpful!

IT’S PERSONAL

We are not just praising a God but our God and Saviour. Our praise engages our emotions, as well as our minds, when we realise that We have a personal interest since “the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2 v 20)

IT’S HAS TO BE EXPRESSED!

Thinking warm thoughts toward my wife is not enough – Praise has to be expressed to really be praise. In all sorts of worldly settings praise is expressed through clapping, shouting, dancing, drumming, dancing … Wholehearted enthusiasm; maybe not very traditionally British but very Biblical. Watching Olympic fervour, or F.A. cup craziness could maybe help us learn to better express our praise to the One who is, above all else, amazing and genuinely wonderful!

ADORATION

We enter into worship to honour him but also to encounter Him. “Knowing you Jesus – there is no greater thing”! (Graham Kendrick) We are pursuing moments of love and adoration, encountering God’s presence and delighting in Him. “How lovely is your  dwelling place, … my soul yearns, even faints … my heart and flesh cry out for the living God”. “Better is one day in your courts than a a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84)

“In the end the heart longs not for any of God’s good gifts but for God Himself. To see Him and be in His presence is the soul’s final feast”. (J Piper)