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Skill and Worship

As worshipers, we naturally desire to give God our best, both spiritually and skillfully. When we abandon ourselves and worship God with all of our being, it’s an unparalleled experience. God’s Spirit can accomplish more through something as small a line of a song than we could accomplish in our whole lives. We tell ourselves that we need to get in the “right frame of mind” so we can worship with all our heart. I believe that this is paramount. And while I believe that skill in worship plays second fiddle to spirituality in worship, skill cannot be overlooked. Remember the story of Cain and Abel? Both gave offerings to God. But only one gave the best he could give while one just gave some of what he had. Part of our offering to God is our skill. We play to Him, sing to Him, dance to Him and give our all to Him. We show up not only spiritually prepared to worship but skillfully prepared to worship Him as well. When I first began leading worship, I foolishly thought that if I rehearsed too much or thought too much about what I was going to say or play, I would leave no room for God’s Spirit to be in control. All it took was a few awkward moments in a couple of services to quickly oust that theory. Now I do my best to show up prepared, both spiritually and skillfully, and ready to yield to the Spirit’s prompting. Do I still make mistakes? Absolutely. More than I care to admit. But I know that I am doing all I can to give God my very best. While I will never impress God with my skill, I know that He is blessed when I present the best offering I have.


Keeping it Relevant

As worship leaders, we naturally want our congregation to be happy with the music we choose. This can be taken to a negative extreme of worrying too much about what the congregation or pastor may think. I am not referring to that type of situation here, so please recognize that disclaimer before reading any further.

I was recently given a book about hymns by several older women from a ladies Bible study that I had been leading worship for. They had requested “a hymn every now and then” and I had done my best to acknowledge their request without totally reverting back to hymnal days and losing the rest of the women. The group was comprised of women from their mid-twenties to upper seventies so I did my best to choose set lists that would include at least one song that each woman should know. While most of the ladies would worship to well-known contemporary worship songs, it was the older women who blew me away with their response to the hymns. They were so appreciative for songs that they had known and sung much of their lives and really worshiped. I had known that they enjoyed the hymns that I had thrown in the set lists every now and then, but I was really shocked and touched as I read all of their hand-written thank yous inside the front page of their sweet gift.

It would be nice if our congregants were composed of men and women who were all completely alike in age, stage and musical preference, but in reality that is usually never the case. As worship leaders, we need to do our best to find music that ministers to as much of our congregation as best we can. This usually means that we need to get to know our congregation and be accessible to them. We can’t know what will minister to them if we never see them away from the platform or we never have a moment to talk with them. Jesus himself modeled this, as he went from town to town talking, visiting and ministering to people one-on-one. He had large group ministry (think of the loaves and fishes crowd), but he also had personal ministry as well (think of the woman at the well). My boss Ray Jones has said, “People won’t remember you for the great song you sang or the cool guitar lick you played. It’s when you take the time to talk and pray with them that you make an impression.” Take time to listen and get to know those you are serving and then watch them worship with you.


Inspired to Inspire?

We live in a busy world. Actually, I take that back, we live in an extremely busy world. If most of you are like me (and I’m sure you are), we go go go all day long. Between family, work, school, church, our family member’s work and school, house work, exercising, eating, (fill in the blank) and trying to get a decent night’s sleep, most of us run full-throttle most days. And again, if you are like me, you are happy and content with your crazy, busy life. There remains a question though – are you inspired? We are called to be lights in the world and the salt of the earth. How can we inspire a lost world to find joy and salvation in Jesus if we ourselves are not inspired? Looking back in the gospels, it’s amazing how many times Jesus Himself would take time to get away and be with the Father. He knew that He needed that time of fellowship with the Father to be refreshed, refilled and to ultimately be effective in His ministry. You and I are no different, other than the fact that we are not Jesus. That may sound silly, but I ask you this: if even Jesus needed time away with the Father, how much more do you and I need that? The fact of the matter is that I can’t inspire my family, peers or even strangers to be more like Jesus unless I am inspired by Him. As a worship leader, I can’t lead people into worshiping Him unless I know how to worship Him myself. I can’t worship Him myself if I am not inspired to do so.

So how do we get inspired? The answer is really quite simple: we get into His presence. One of my favorite lyrics, by Jason Upton, is “In Your presence all fear is gone, in Your presence is where I belong.” We have got to have time alone with God. How you do that is up to you. It could be in the car while driving to work, while having your morning jog or coffee, on your lunch break or wherever! It can be at different times, in different places depending on what day it is. It just has to be a priority. Just like we all manage to fit in eating and breathing everyday, we need to make it an essential priority to have time with Him as well. It’s in His presence that we are renewed and refreshed. We get to know Him more and more as we learn to recognize His voice. We gain peace and understanding. The Holy Spirit fills us and empowers us to do His will. When we get in His presence it’s an awesome, amazing thing. We come out of that time recharged and more in love with who He is. We come out inspired to live for Him and bring Him joy. When we are inspired, then we are able to inspire others. We can’t help it, it just spills out of us in what we do.

Are you inspired? If yes, then great! You know exactly what I’m talking about. I exhort and challenge you to go deeper with God. Seek Him with all of your heart, soul, mind and being. I don’t think we can ever get enough of Him on this earth. If the answer is no or if you’re not sure, I challenge you to start spending time alone with God, every day. Even though you might feel too busy, take the time. You won’t be disappointed!! Let Him share Himself with you. He loves you and wants to spend time with you. It’s an investment of your time that will never return void. Get inspired by Him first and then go inspire others.


Make a Joyful Noise

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.” -Psalm 100:1

Working in the music department at CBC, I often hear lines like, “you wouldn’t want me to join the choir, I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket!” or “when I start to sing, paint comes off the walls!” While it is true that God has blessed some with more musical talent and ability than others, He has called us all to worship Him. I have always been intrigued by the command in Psalm 100, “make a joyful noise.” Just what exactly is a joyful noise? Thanks to my online concordance, I not only found the answer to that question, but some encouraging insight as well.
First let’s look at the word “joyful.” My dictionary defined it as “having a glad or delighted heart.” This is more than just being happy, which is simply experiencing an emotion. This is contentment and security deep down that doesn’t slip away or switch like emotions do. It’s a peace that is firmly rooted. It can’t be shaken. The definition of “noise” threw me for a loop at first, I have to admit. My concordance defined it as “a non-harmonious or discordant group of sounds, loud, confused, senseless clamor, splitting to the ear.” Surely, I thought, this can’t be right, this can’t be the kind of worship that God wants! How could senseless, confused clamor possibly please Him??
Puzzled, I pressed on and kept searching. It wasn’t until I read the phrase “all the earth” that suddenly light was shed on what the first half of this verse was communicating. “All the earth” is every person, place and thing at large on the earth. This is the whole earth, as opposed to just a part (i.e. you and me). This is all of creation worshipping God as the sovereign Jehovah, or “The Existing One.” This verse tells us that God is pleased when all of His creation worships Him – all together! Sure, the birds of the air and the beasts of the field will “sound” different as they worship him than we do. I’m sure that the sound of a rock crying out (whatever that may be) does not sound much like my praise, but it all starts to make sense. Throughout the Bible, there is mention of creation groaning, crying out and worshipping God. He is Lord of ALL and is glorified when ALL worship Him. We know that there will come a day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Every valley will be lifted up and every mountain will be brought low. All of creation, including you and I, will acknowledge Him as Lord. He longs for that praise and glory. It may sound a little strange when all of creation is worshipping Him together, but it is brilliant music to God’s ears.
So next time you or someone around you starts thinking that their praise is senseless clamoring and could not possibly bring a smile to God’s face, remember Psalm 100:1. When heartfelt worship comes forth from our lips, we join a much larger chorus of mountains bowing down, seas roaring and all sorts of creatures (check out Psalm 148!) already worshipping Him. God hears our hearts but He also hears our joyful noise!


Broken at the Feet of Jesus

Most of us have read the story in Luke 7 about a woman who comes to Jesus to wash His feet with her tears, dry them with her hair and anoint them with precious perfume from an alabaster box. I think that this woman teaches us much about worship and what it means to be truly broken at the feet of Jesus.
First, this woman does what she needs to do to get to Jesus. We don’t know if she already knew Him, had met or seen Him some other time, or if she had merely heard about Him from others. Regardless of the depth of her relationship with Him, she knew she had to get to Him. She entered a room filled with religious men, where not only was she uninvited, she was also unwelcome. We are told in Luke 7:37 that she was an “immoral woman” and in verse 39 “a sinner.” She defied social and religious customs steeped with heavy consequences and did what she needed to do to get to the feet of Jesus. We too are sinners, unclean, and in need of a Savior. Whether we have been walking with Him for most of our lives or are just coming to know Him, we need to be at His feet. And we cannot allow religion, social standing, or any barrier of man to keep us from getting there.
The second remarkable attribute of this woman is her humility. She washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed and anointed them with perfume. She provided an act of service (that His hosts failed to provide-read verses 44-46) with the best and all that she had, offering her very self, to give Jesus the honor that He was due. Broken and weeping at His feet, she worshiped Him with gratitude and humility. We need to strive to give Him everything we have in all that we do. That is true worship. He is more than worthy of the honor. When we humble ourselves we allow Him to be lifted up and not vice versa.
In verse 47, Jesus tells those in the room that He is dining with, “She has shown me much love.” The last attribute that we can take from this woman is to show and profess our love for God. Psalm 146 says “Let all that I am praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath.” How amazing would it be to stand before Jesus in heaven and have it be said of each of us “He/she has shown me much love?” We know that God loves us, but how wonderful would it be for Him to know that we love Him back? I can think of no higher calling than to glorify my God and King and to let Him know how amazing, wonderful, and special He is to me. The idea of being able to bless Him with my praise and adoration for all He is and has done for me makes me want to praise Him all the more.
Let us be challenged and encouraged to rush to the feet of our Savior to love and serve Him with all that we have. Let us “boast in our weakness” since that is where His power is perfected and made strong. Make it your utmost priority to show and bless God with all that you have and all that you are.


the big picture

Today’s Guest Blogger is Amy Chandler. She is on staff with CBC working for Josh & Misty and is also a wonderful (and busy!) worship leader herself. Enjoy!

Leading worship for smaller crowds has its advantages and unique challenges. Through my experiences as a worship leader for weekly Bible studies and support groups, retreats and most recently, a multi-site church, I have learned a few things that will hopefully encourage those worship leaders playing to smaller crowds.

First of all, having a smaller crowd can create a very intimate atmosphere. It may take people a little longer to open up, but once they do they often enter into very sincere worship. A smaller crowd enables the worship leader to try to engage each and every individual, which can sometimes be difficult in a large setting. Simple, heartfelt songs can be very powerful and really open the door for the Spirit to come minister to people.

Next, leading worship for a small group allows you to connect more with the people. You have a chance to get to know them and they get to know you as well. Being a worship leader doesn’t stop as soon as you step down from the platform. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in all that we do. We serve God both on and off the stage. Ministering to and getting to know the people that you serve each week draws them to worship with you, which is a good thing!

Finally, you have to drop the “smaller is less important” mentality. The Bible tells us that where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name, He is there. What a wonderful promise! God is not impressed by the magnitude of the service or the number of people on the stage or in the audience. He is impressed by our heartfelt worship. When we worship Him with all of our heart and being, He is glorified and that is our purpose. When the Spirit of God is ushered in, He is more than enough.

While the goal of every church is to grow and flourish, take advantage of whatever stage and size your venue may be. Be faithful with what He has entrusted to you, focus on Him and let Him take care of the rest. Be blessed.

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