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The Worshiping ArtistEquipping You and Your Ministry Team to Lead Others in Worship
By Rory Noland
ZondervanCopyright © 2007 Rory Noland
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGrowing as a Private Worshiper
This evening as my sunset becomes a sunrise for someone else, I repeat once again my day's mantra, "You, O Lord, are my lamp, my God who lights my darkness...." In the praying of these few lines I have found sufficient nourishment on this desert day. From A Tree Full of Angels by Macrina Wiederkehr
Troy slept through his alarm this morning . He finally woke up after his wife jabbed him in the side and asked, "Aren't you supposed to sing at church this morning?" At that, Troy flew out of bed, threw on some clothes, and was out the door. That's how his day started and it only got worse from there.
It's normally a half-hour drive from Troy's house to the church, but with no traffic and all green lights, the trip is cut to twenty minutes. That would put him arriving in the middle of sound check - not bad, considering the circumstances. However, Troy hit every red light. And maybe it was because he was in a hurry, but every red light seemed longer than usual. He was growing impatient. About halfway to church, he came upon a stop sign with no other cars in sight. He slowed down but then sped through the intersection withoutstopping. Just then a squad car pulled out from a side street with lights flashing. Troy promptly pulled over.
"Are you in a hurry?" the officer asked.
"Yes, I'm late for church," Troy confessed, hoping that speeding for a noble cause would get him off the hook.
"License and registration," the officer curtly demanded. "I'm going to cite you for running a stop sign. There are a lot of little kids in this neighborhood."
While the policeman wrote up the ticket, Troy tried to call the church on his cell phone, but he couldn't get through. He tried to call the music director, but all he got was voice mail. Troy had never been late for a sound check before. He managed a construction company and prided himself on being dependable and responsible, so he was very upset with himself for being tardy.
By the time he arrived, Troy had missed the entire sound check. He apologized profusely to his team leader, who promptly caught him up to speed on all the final instructions he had missed. Then before he had time to catch his breath, Troy was on the platform singing the first worship chorus.
However, he immediately discovered that he was not in good voice. He sounded like a cat with a hair ball. He tried to quietly clear his throat, but to no avail. Then he started coughing, so loud in fact that the guitar player came over and offered him a bottle of water. Troy soon recovered, but started the second song in the wrong place and forgot the tag at the end. The third song was even worse. The music director had assigned a solo to Troy, but Troy couldn't remember whether he was supposed to sing the first or second verse. He opted for the second verse; he guessed wrong. After the band intro, there was an awkward silence. The music director looked back anxiously, so Troy jumped in, mid sentence, stumbling over words and fumbling for the right pitch. He was embarrassed. The rest of the worship set went without incident, but the whole time Troy kept thinking about the solo he messed up.
After the service, Troy was walking to the parking lot with Susan and Buddy, a married couple on the team. Susan plays piano and Buddy plays drums. Just then, the pastor approached them with exciting news. "I just want you to know," he said, "that a man I've been praying for this past year accepted Christ this morning, and it was during the worship time that he sensed God speaking to him. I want to thank you all for the part you played this morning in my friend's coming to salvation. That was certainly one of the most anointed worship times our church has ever had."
As the pastor hustled happily to his car, Troy and his friends stood there in this strange mix of shock, disbelief, and joy. "Wow!" Troy finally spoke up. "I'm thrilled that someone found Christ, but that worship time felt anything but anointed. I don't know about you guys, but my head was not in the game this morning. It was all pretty much a blur to me."
"Me too," said Susan. "I'm still learning how to read chord charts, so I've got my head in the music stand the whole time. But I think that's the worst we've ever sounded."
"Well, it always feels like a whirlwind of activity to me," added Buddy. "I'm pretty much in my own little world behind those drum shields. I can barely hear the singers. Sometimes I have no idea where we are. All I'm thinking about is not messing up."
They all laughed, but Troy looked concerned. "Aren't we supposed to be thinking about the Lord during worship?"
"Of course we are," answered Buddy, "but how can we focus on the Lord when there's so much other stuff to think about? You know what I mean-tempos, transitions, solos, and, by the way, where are we in the chart?" They all laughed.
"You're right," Susan chimed in. "If we don't concentrate on what we're doing, we could have a train wreck up on the platform, and then no one would be able to worship."
Troy pushed further. "Is it okay then to be thinking about other things besides the Lord while we're leading worship?"
"I don't see any other way around it," Susan replied.
"Me neither," agreed Buddy.
Questions for Group Discussion
1. Why were the three artists in our story shocked that someone found Christ during worship that morning?
2. Why did worship feel like a "blur" to Troy and some of the others?
3. Is there anything Troy could have done differently to prepare his heart and mind for worship?
4. Have you ever left a worship experience feeling like you weren't able to connect with God, only to hear everyone else describe it as "deeply meaningful" or even "anointed"? If so, how do you account for that?
5. Has worship ever felt like a whirlwind of activity to you, devoid of God's presence? If so, what contributed to that?
6. What can be done to always make sure one's "head is in the game" while leading worship?
7. Is it possible to focus totally on the Lord while leading worship? Why or why not?
8. How does one stay focused on the Lord amidst all the necessary details demanded by the task of leading worship?
9. Is there anything you could do personally to simplify your role in leading worship?
10. Is there anything you could do personally to minimize distractions as you lead worship?
WHAT IS WORSHIP?
A pastor stopped me recently and asked, "What's the next big innovation on the horizon for worship?" He believes the "worship movement" is in a rut and needs "a shot in the arm." Not long after that, a couple colleagues called to ask, "Who's the next big, up-and-coming worship leader?" They both felt that the "worship scene" needed a new spark. Then a friend who is disillusioned with the worship at his church posed this question, "Do you know any churches in my area that are doing worship right?"
I can't help but notice that these well-meaning questions illustrate the fact that our concept of worship has become far too narrow. I'm a musician, I write worship music, but I would be the first one to admit that worship is much more than singing catchy little tunes in church. Simply put, worship is our response to the presence of God. Therefore, worship is more than merely an emotional "feel good" experience; it is more than a program at church or a concert by my favorite worship leader. Worship is participatory; it is not something done to me by a worship band. In fact, worship is not about me at all; worship is all about God. And, if we allow it, worship can transform us.
Created to Worship
According to 1 Peter 2:9, we were created to worship God: "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." In Isaiah, God refers to his people as those "I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise" (Isaiah 43:21).
Worship is part of our identity as Christians . In Acts 18:7, a man named Titius Justus is identified as a "worshiper of God," as is Lydia in Acts 16:14. In the same way, every Christian is a worshiper of God through Jesus Christ.
Excerpted from The Worshiping Artist by Rory Noland Copyright © 2007 by Rory Noland. Excerpted by permission.
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