Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lessons in Worship Leading

In the last few weeks, God has really transformed my take on Praise and Worship.

Leading worship is one of those things that I'm not sure if it will continue to be just another thing I do and eventually stop, or if I will continue to really pour myself into it. I have so many different interests that I can see it falling away. Not that I don't enjoy it or feel called to it, because I do, but God has given me so many different passions that I'm not sure which ones He will have me focus on in the future. For the time being, though, I'm learning so much.

Powerful time of worship in Myanmar!
A little background... for the last several years I've learned the guitar. I never had much musical talent, so I've had to work exceptionally hard to get where I am. Also, I've never taken lessons. What I know I've picked up from close observation of those that I look up to. Fortunately in college, all of my best friends were incredible at guitar. This really spring-boarded me to where I am today (thanks guys!). But its always been for the purpose of worship. I don't desire to make it in the music industry, or even get recognized.

I just do it for the purpose of worship.

Sure, I'd love to lead, I've had some people prophecy that over me, and I've even done a little bit of leading. But for now, I'm content with learning what God wants to show me.

In recent years, though, I've been consumed with improving my musical ability. This has been good, and bad. At church services or similar venues, I would closely watch the leader to see what he does to make it so good, to usher in the presence of God for everyone to experience. And then I'd practice it. Except, times that I've tried to mimic those things (because they worked when So-and-so did it, it should work for me right?), yet God wouldn't seem to show up. haha So naive!

Then a few weeks ago I went on a mission trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma). While joining a Bible college for a revival service I realized how much grace is involved in worship. As we entered the dingy room I noticed a keyboard player and three worship leaders. That's it, along with a roomful of believers.

And then it happened...

The keyboardist kicked on a drum beat that had been pre-recorded, and then played simple chords on top of it. And then the leaders began leading us in worship, and it was the most extravagant, passion-filled worship service I'd ever experienced! And to be honest, it didn't even sound that good! But God's presence showed up sooo thick! I know it wasn't a fluke, because we had several services at this Bible college and every one was the exact same experience. Simple worship, terrible sound, yet God's presence was so evident.

This was just the beginning of what God wanted to show me.

As far as music goes, its pretty obvious that there are songs that tug on the heart, and those that don't. There are some songs that seem to really carry an anointing, and others that do not. Or so I thought...

In my mind I would almost rate worship bands according to which ones I thought were more anointed, or good at inviting in the presence of God (Jesus Culture, Hillsong, etc.). And I would focus on learning from them and mimicking them. And even while practicing for church (playing electric) I would try and do something close or even identical to these major worship bands.

I mean, they sound really good and God's blessed their ministry with an incredible anointing... right? So it only makes sense to pick up on their tricks and habits.

Except I've been misguided.

After witnessing truly anointed worship leaders, I'm realizing that it has so much more to do with the grace of God than it does professionalism, or technicality, or even song selection. I've seen anointed worship leaders lead old songs, seriously, old songs... yet God's presence just shows up! I've seen anointed worship leaders make mistakes, glaring mistakes... yet God's presence shows up even greater! I've seen anointed worship leaders do brand new songs (not by Jesus Culture or Hillsong)... yet God's presence continues to show up!

What's the deal? And why doesn't it seem like this works for me?

For too long I've focused on 'sounding good' and doing the 'right things,' and have missed the most important aspect of leading worship. I've focused more on what songs to choose, or how to transition into the next key, instead of realizing... that it doesn't matter!

It doesn't matter, if your sound equipment is sub-par, or even if you have any for that matter...

It doesn't matter, if you lead/play new or old songs...

It doesn't matter, if you dim the lights, build during the bridge, or have an awesome instrumental...

It doesn't matter, if you do everything right, musically...

What does matter is realizing that God is in control. What does matter is setting aside everything you think makes for a good worship service, and focus rather on the presence of God. Because without this, its all in vain.

God's presence revealed at another service in Myanmar.
As a worship leader - I feel that God is revealing to me that if I want to lead people into His presence - I need to focus and trust less in the anointing of a certain song (or the artist/band that wrote the song in the first place) and focus entirely on cultivating worship in my own heart and growing in my own anointing as a worship leader.

(Yet I feel the key to growing in my own anointing is by worshiping in spirit and truth and NOT merely because I want to be more anointed. - Does that make sense?)

Then when I lead worship I can make mistakes, hit wrong chords, choose old songs that have been way overplayed...

yet God will show up. He will move people's hearts. He will give them a new revelation of His love.

This is such an exciting journey to be on! Its a win-win situation. If God calls me to focus elsewhere and I don't lead worship anymore, it doesn't matter because I've cultivated worship in my own heart for the sake of Him, not because I want to use it to lead others. And if God calls me to continue in leading worship, than the anointing to reveal His presence to others will only grow.


EDIT - I do want to mention that seeking professionalism, technicality, and better musicianship are valuable and shouldn't be abandoned. However, if this becomes the focus than it does more damage than good.

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