I have had the privilege of leading worship as a volunteer and a church staff member for close to 12 years now. I love and am so grateful for these opportunities, but like all things in life we have days or even seasons where we get stuck in the mundane and question if what we’re doing is right and the best way to accomplish a goal.
Let me first say this - worship is so much more but no less than songs on a Sunday. But for this blog post we’re working under the banner of a Sunday worship gathering.
I recently just left a season were I went four months without leading worship with a guitar or keys in my hand. This was really good for me as it reminded me that my identity is not found in what I do or create (We need this reminder constantly). During this time I began to pray and ask God to refocus my view and understanding of what worship is and how it plays into the life of the church.
He brought me back to a couple pivotal moments in my development and understanding of worship that I believe are of the utmost important for us to comprehend before we ever step foot on a stage.
One Tuesday morning I was spending time praying and thinking through the set list and preparing the different elements for our upcoming Sunday worship gathering. That particular week had been really hard for me as I was painfully aware of and confronted with the brokenness and hurt of the world. In my community alone people were fighting through depression, suicidal thoughts, broken marriages, cancer and financial problems. I had the thought, are we wasting our time on Sunday mornings? Do we really need another Sunday gathering or would it be of greater value for us to go and tangibly be the church on Sunday morning?
God is perfect in his plan and timing for our lives and as I opened my bible God answered my questions.
You see music and song have always played a significant role in the life of the Church. Singing in response to God’s character and work is nothing new to the modern Church. All throughout scripture we see people praising God through song. We also see in scripture God's people singing songs to remind and point their hearts to what is true of God and in turn, what is true of them as the people of God.
Pastor John Piper once said, "Worship is the goal and fuel of missions: missions exist because worship doesn't." I remember reading this statement for the first time and processing what this means for us as the church. At the time, I was reading through Mark 14 and Matthew 26. I believe God taught me something so foundational to my faith while reading that day.
For the first time, I began to see the great significance and connection between worship and mission. Let me set the stage for you. We have Jesus with his disciples sharing their last moments together before he (Jesus) begins to embark on the hardest and most important mission the world will ever know (taking the sins of the world upon his shoulders on the cross).
And what do they do? They worship. He gathers with his community (his disciples) to spend time in prayer/thanksgiving, take communion, to teach and then they sing a hymn together. If the God/man, Savior of the world, saw it most appropriate to spend his last moments (before his journey to the cross) fueled by worship, how much more do we as fallible, broken and fickle humans need corporate worship? Worship is so much more than singing but it is no less.
Worship music is portable and sung theology. As we gather corporately to worship through song, we are declaring the marvelous works and character of our great King. The songs that we sing are fuel and reminders for us as we seek to live in obedience and on mission to make disciples of all nations. Each time that I lead worship through song in a corporate setting, not only do I have the privilege of pointing people to Jesus by reminding those around me of Gospel truths, but also the opportunity to remind my forgetful heart of who God is and who I am in Christ.
I will end with a quick story that I think gives legs to the incredible and weighty purpose of worship music in the life of a believer. Pastor John Piper, whom I quoted earlier, has had a very significant impact on my life and ministry. I once heard him speak at a missions conference in which he briefly told the story of a brother of two of the 21 Egyptian Christians, who were beheaded in Libya (2015), thank ISIS for leaving the audio of their final breaths in the video. (Conference Video Here) When I first heard him say that, I thought, “How morbid. Why would he ever want to hear that?” But then I realized that he was able to hear them praying and singing in worship to God until their final breath.
How powerful and encouraging is that? You see these men were fueled by worship to declare the marvelous and saving power of our great King Jesus unto their final breath. Worship leader, your role is of the utmost importance! You have the opportunity and privilege to put the truths of the gospel through song, scripture and prayer on the mouths of the people of God. Our prayer should be that these truths would penetrate our hearts and move us to give our lives daily to the mission and work of God to save the world by the power of the Gospel.