|Publisher:||Gospel Light Publications|
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Read an Excerpt
the heart of worship files
By Matt Redman
RegalCopyright © 2003 Heart of Worship Ltd.
All right reserved.
Recently I've been considering worship through the windows of revelation and response. What kind of revelation do the songs we use bring to the people who sing them? Do they paint a big picture of God? Is there enough of His grace and splendor in our worship meetings to awaken even tired, discouraged hearts? And are we responding in a way that fits the revelation received? Worship is always a response to a revelation.
As I look at these two aspects of worship, I see I've paid more attention to one of them than the other. I often find myself approaching congregational worship much more mindful of the response element than of the revelation side of things. And I wonder if that isn't the case for many other lead worshippers, too.
In some church services, it's obvious that the worship leader is consumed, above all else, with getting a response from the people. Not much is implied about the integrity and heart of the offerings. Instead comes a barrage of forceful encouragements to shout, clap, dance or anything else you can think of. Instead of focusing on bringing a true and meaningful overflow of the heart, leaders have settled for some sort of spiritual disco competition with a prize for the wildest participant. Yes, it's easy to point the finger. But am I so very different when I lead worship? What's going on inside my head when I lead?
Haven't I led meetings during which my mind gets the clap-o-meter out at the end of every celebration song to check if we're on course? After all, if people clap at the end of each up-tempo song, that means we're in for a good night, doesn't it? Don't I sometimes find myself subconsciously scanning the congregational horizon for any sign of life? Some outstretched hands, perhaps-that definitely means its working! And as we move into intimate reverence, don't I sometimes squint through my half-closed eyes to see what other responses are happening, hoping to see at least one person on their knees or in tears?
I'm exaggerating to make a point, but I hope the point is clear: Too often when I lead worship I'm driven to get a good response out of the people. I want to see results.
Now, all of these things-dancing, lifting up holy hands, clapping and kneeling-are potentially good things. But rather than being so desperate to see these things happen (or God forbid, even trying to make them happen), I should be far more interested in what lies behind these responses (or the lack of them). It's a subtle distinction but an important one for the mind-set of any lead worshipper.
And that takes us right back to revelation. Before we become consumed with how people are responding, it's good to be mindful of what they're responding to. As worship leaders and songwriters, we need to pay more attention to the reasons for God's worth in our writing and leading. What aspects of His wonder and splendor are we presenting for people to get their hearts into? How are we reminding hearts, minds and souls of the merciful acts that God has done for them and the amazing grace that He has won for them?
Of course, this isn't just our responsibility-everyone involved in the service plays a part. But we must take our role seriously. Instead of trying to work people up (however subtly) to some sort of response, let's take a different approach. Let's bring songs so full of our glorious Jesus that they ignite a fresh fire and a heart-filled response from those who sing them.
William Temple once wrote:
To worship is to quicken the conscience by the
holiness of God, To feed the mind with the truth of God, To purge the imagination by the beauty of God, To open the heart to the love of God, To devote the will to the purpose of God.
Notice how much Temple's definition of worship is centered around revelation. Here's a man who knew that to get people caught up in the holiness, truth and beauty of God results in the devotion of their wills to the purpose of God. Our whole lives need to be poured out in worship. And in the end, that is the ultimate response of anyone who has truly recognized the all-consuming revelation of God.
If, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can help usher people into a fresh revelation of Jesus during our worship times, the response will take care of itself. We will not be able to stand in the way of a room of passionate, dancing, shouting, bowing, adoring lovers of God.
Pursue the biggest vision of Christ you can. My reference Bible records 101 different names and titles by which Jesus is revealed in the Bible, each one a key to knowing more of who we are worshipping and why. Worship is a response and will grow or shrink in direct proportion to our view of Him. We love to worship Christ as Savior and Friend, but how often do we worship Him as Judge or Author of Life or Desired of All Nations? Seek out; use; and if you are able, write truth-saturated songs that stretch the minds and hearts of the worshipping Church to grasp as much as we can of His incredible glories and cosmic purposes.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
When worship is the subject, little leaders are what we need. I don't necessarily mean small in stature but small in terms of self, for there is no other enemy of true worship besides self.
As a result of the Fall, we all have a deadly preoccupation with ourselves. We are self-aware, self-focused, self-conscious, self-made, self-protecting, self-promoting, self-centered and selfish. Conversion to Christ is nothing less than getting over ourselves. That's why there is more than a subtle change that happens at the foot of the Cross. A death takes place there. Christianity is not about self-help but rather self-death. New life begins when we each abandon "me" and fall on the mercy of a God who loves us in spite of ourselves and a Christ who gave Himself in our place. In that moment, we embrace freedom from the perpetual doom of the flesh and take up the cause of living solely for the One who freed us. Such is the way of the Savior, who calls any who would be a recipient of new life to "deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me" (see Matt. 16:24).
Yet from my experience, self does not go quietly. Instead, it stubbornly rears its head and demands its way, looking for any opportunity to stand in the limelight and receive the glory. If left unchecked, self will stand in the light of God and somehow try to take credit for it.
Recently, I was stunned by a photograph in USA Today of what astronomers say is the perfect spiral galaxy. Taken with the help of a new telescope on the Big Island of Hawaii, the photo shows a breathtaking shot of a galaxy named NGC 628-slightly smaller than our Milky Way (it contains only a paltry 100 billion stars) and, get this, 30 million light-years away. Funny, the whole point of the accompanying article was our great achievement of taking such a great photograph with our two-week-old telescope. Aren't we great? Hmmm. Seems like all the wrong pronouns! Granted, we have done well to photograph anything 30 million light-years away, but let's get the point straight: God's hand put every one of those stars in place. An appropriate caption for this photo would have been, "Can you believe God made this stuff with His own hands?"
The psalmist writes:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (Ps. 8:3-4).
Notice all the pronouns. Your heavens. Your fingers. You set in place. Get it? God is far from small. In fact, it's safe to say our self-limitation has never fully allowed us to think of Him as He is. Given His incomprehensible immensity, the fact that He is mindful of us at all is amazing!
So if you want a quick glimpse into how small you are as a leader, take note of which pronouns consume you: "His," "He" and "Yours"; or "I," "me" and "mine." Little leaders use "He" a lot. The big ones use "me."
A stage is a dangerous place to be, because a stage, by definition, is a raised platform. Stages are built so that little people can be seen more easily by larger audiences. The lights are bright. The sound is big. Yet if we are not careful, those of us who lead worship can allow the stage to succeed, making more of us than we really are.
It's not that we are nobodies. We're created a little lower than angels and are crowned with glory and honor-made in His image (see Ps. 8:5). We get to rule over all He has made. But we've only to look up to be resized in an instant.
Rather than absorb the light that shines on leaders, we must continually reflect it back to God. One night my wife, Shelley, and I were flying home to Waco from Houston in a small twin-engine plane. Every time I looked out the window, I saw a massive searchlight moving rapidly across the ground below. At first I thought a police helicopter was tracking some criminals, but after an hour the light was still there. Finally I spoke up, wondering aloud what could be going on. The pilot, ever so confident, informed me that the moon (which was full at the time and pretty much right there, if I'd only looked up) was shining on the plane, reflecting a huge circle of light onto the ground.
I felt like an idiot! Embarrassed and a little humiliated, I went back to minding my own business. Then it hit me! Eager to get even, I remarked that actually the moon was not shining on the plane. Rather, the sun was shining on the moon (hah!), and the light of the sun was reflecting off the moon onto the plane. Thus the sunlight was making the huge searchlight on the ground. Brilliant!
Well, as far as lead worshippers go, we need more little moons. Shine a light on them if you will, but you'll only see a greater reflection of His glory in all those around them.
"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Ps. 8:1).
Here are the questions that have challenged me recently: How many songs do we sing that are just about God and do not bring us into the story? How often is God not only the object but also the center of our worship? I am sure we need to sing more songs that praise Him for who He is, irrespective of what He has done for us. The worship of heaven, as we see in Revelation 4 and 5, is amazing in its color, sound and participants. The 4 living creatures and the 24 elders seem to be having a great time as they take it in turns to sing their songs and fall down. A few million angels and then every creature join them. Great sight. Great noise. But incomplete. The centerpiece comes as the grand finale: the One who sits on the throne and the Lamb. The rest are incidental: the audience, the supporting cast.
How God-centered is my worship? Maybe I need to tell Him a little less about me-what I feel and what I am going to do-and focus a little more on Him.
Worship money, become a greedy person. Worship sex, become a lustful person. Worship power, become a corrupt person. Worship Jesus, become a Christlike person. We become like what we worship. But what does it mean to worship?
The verb "worship" in Hebrew means to surrender, to fall down in submission-the way we would humble ourselves before a mighty king (see Ps. 95:6). Paul says that worship is the offering of our bodies as a sacrifice (see Rom. 12:1). This worship goes on in all of our lives. While we may fail to understand it, worship is the spiritual part of our surrender, submission and attachment to many things. The worship of money or sex or power or people results in addictive and compulsive behaviors. The staggering truth is that we all are lured into worshipping something or someone other than the living God. This is idolatry-pure and simple. It steals our humanity and addicts us. So if we are really to be free from idolatry, we must understand addiction.
Addiction happens when we attach our desire to alcohol or street drugs or sex or gambling or money or a person who controls us or whatever else. As that attachment grows, it consumes us. Little by little, we become captive to the very thing that gives us pleasure and meaning. Dr. Gerald May says, "We are all addicts in every sense of the word." If this is true, then we also are idolaters in every sense of the word. You say, "Not me, Don." But remember, denial is the first symptom of addiction.
Psychologist John Bradshaw says that most of us come from dysfunctional families-families that don't work in an open, healthy way. Perhaps we were often abused as children, either sexually, physically or verbally. As a result, we live with a lot of repressed pain. Bradshaw calls this the hole in the soul. We will stuff anything into it in order to fill it up. It is a magnet for addictions. And it only grows larger-nothing satisfies.
If idolatry is the issue and addiction the result, how can we understand it? The three Cs provide a handle. Addiction starts with craving; this leads to control loss; and the result is continuing use. Let's say we build a dependency on nicotine. When we need a fix to relax or lift our mood, the craving sets in. The more we use, the more we want (and need). We are now out of control, on our way to chain-smoking. Once addicted, we are in the continual-use pattern. When this becomes an obsession, it becomes an idol.
What then is the root of addiction? It is spiritual; it is idolatry. Whatever the objects of our addictions are, they become idols in our lives. We become preoccupied with them, crave them and serve them. As we have seen, worshipping them is the spiritual side of addiction. The Bible teaches that we not only dishonor God with our idols, but we also lose our true humanity:
Excerpted from the heart of worship files by Matt Redman Copyright © 2003 by Heart of Worship Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.