Thanks to everyone who came out to our Worship Training day on Saturday 19 July. We had a really great time!
As promised, here are the resources from the sessions and workshops we held on the day.
Unfortunately, due to technical issues, none of the recordings we did in our Side Hall venue are available. Much of the same content was covered at one of our evening meetings a few weeks back and you can grab that recording here:
Download Recording (32 min / 23MB)
Frequency range awareness, song dynamics, live band arrangement demo & a little bit of Q&A:
Download Session Recording (53 min / 26MB)
Download Frequency Range Chart - Instruments in a typical band.
Song Dynamic Range Demonstration
Here’s the song we used: Cornerstone – Hillsong
Download Song Dynamic Chart for the song.
Live Song Arrangement Demonstration
This is the song we demoed: Closer
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In the final part of this series I’d like to suggest that leading worship should perhaps be a shepherding and a serving role before it is a prophetic or pioneering one.
As a musician serving in a local church it is important to be prophetic. That is, hearing what God is wanting to reveal about Himself and responding to where the Holy Spirit is leading and then leading the congregation’s response in that direction. However, you’ll have trouble seeing people respond to that direction if you’ve already lost most of them fifteen minutes earlier because you weren’t taking care to shepherd them.
Leading worship can sometimes seem quite glamourous in the contemporary church but, when the role is abused for the leader’s own glory, I believe we grieve God’s heart. He is a jealous God and won’t share His glory with others (Ex 20:5, Is 48:8) – least of all with those who are supposed to be helping His church to worship Him! Those who are able to lead a gathering of the church in a musical response of worship are those who God has appointed as a gift of service to the church. Use this gift in a way that helps people to worship and doesn’t hinder.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues… And I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:27-31 ESV
(I believe that leading worship also fulfils the prophetic and teaching roles mentioned in the passage above but more about that in another post.)
Paul then goes into the Great Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. This is the most excellent way.
Shepherding in Love
God’s heart is for His people! If we are to become people after God’s own heart we need to love Him and love what He loves (remember - 1 John 4:20-21 from part 4). Jesus, calling Himself the Good Shepherd, models this perfectly for us.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
John 10:11-15, ESV
Do you love serving as a musician in congregational worship? Do you love the credit and respect, the music, the moments or the ministry more than you love those you are serving? Ask God to grow a love for His people in your heart. That is what will make all the difference.
So, in the first post in this series I asked, “Why lead worship?”, or perhaps using more biblical language, “Why play music that helps facilitate a congregation’s worshipful response to the revealed glory of God?”
Some of us have been given a measure of musical ability. This is a gift that can help a church to see and worship God in unity. If we are worshippers of God and people with “a heart after God’s own heart” (shepherds who love God’s people), then we would naturally use whatever we’ve been given to encourage others to be worshippers of God too.
Love God and love His people with a shepherd’s heart. Do this and you have the solid framework for applying the heart and hands of Psalm 78 when you get the opportunity to lead any gathering of the local church to respond to our awesome God in worship.
We’ve established that the what of this part of Psalm 78 is shepherding, now let’s look at the how.
He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skilful hands he led them.
- Psalm 78:70-72 NIV
When it comes to the how of shepherding and leading, the psalmist points out two important areas: an integrous heart and skilful hands.
Someone preaching at our church once shared a story of answering the usual, “So, what do you do?” question with, “I look after someone else’s wife.” He then satisfied the questioner’s confusion by explaining that he was a pastor and that the church he led was the bride of Christ. Integrity comes with the understanding that you are looking after and leading someone else’s people. They are not yours – they belong to Christ.
When there is no integrity in the performance of your role, you just end up using the people you are leading for your own gain. Remember God’s attitude to the false shepherds in Ezekiel 34? Shepherding is definitely something that God takes seriously. Without integrity we end up using the congregation to satisfy our ego or need for approval. We’ll do only our favourite songs on our pet themes in our favourite styles without considering those we lead. We become a one-person show who can’t work together with the leaders of the church to shepherd the people. We can blaze ahead in our own personal expression, not caring if we leave the congregation behind. We can stop caring about prayerful preparation before a meeting and many other things. Also, we wouldn’t care about improving on our craft – which leads us to the next area…
Psalm 78 talks of David leading the people with skilful hands. If the aim of a worship leader is to help point people’s attention to God and help facilitate a worshipful response using music, then the skill component helps in minimising any potential distractions to that end. Put simply: are you making it easier for the people you are leading to stay focussed on God or are you making it more difficult by distracting people’s attention onto you and your team?
There is a whole boatload of stuff that could be added in both of these areas but suffice it to say that skill here isn’t only about having great musical ability – it’s often about being tasteful and appropriate for what you are playing or singing. Musicians can distract by being bad or under-prepared and also by being “too good”. Make too many mistakes and people can be distracted. Showing off how good you are by over-playing and over-singing can also distract people’s attention from God and onto you. A skilful worship musician is good at disappearing from view and allowing people to commune with God.
Heart and Hands
We can’t be “all heart” or “all skill” only. We need both to be evident in our leading. If you love Jesus and His people with all your heart but play the wrong chords, sing seriously out of tune or miss a beat every 2 bars, it’ll be difficult for people to sing with you. If you have some serious musical skill but don’t have a heart for Jesus and His people it’ll just be a show and you won’t be able to lead people as they worship God! If either of these areas is lacking then we must put some prayer and effort into that area for the sake of those we lead.
This last Sunday I was commissioned to lead the music and singing for South Side and I arrived somewhat early – which was all fair and well for me as it gave me some time to reflect and enjoy the wonderful Autumn morning. I sat by a tree (pictured above) and enjoyed its yellow-orange leaves shower over me, while the sun warmed me up and the chirping of the many birds all around were my soundtrack.
This is the kind of guy I am. I love nature. Creation. Sunrises and falling leaves and blossoms and mysterious, starlit evenings. It’s moments like this when my heart lights up in gratitude and worship. When my restless body finally gets what it needs to settle down – beautiful views, sounds and smells. When my voice shuts up and a greater voice speaks.
I thought to myself, “Now, if only I could bring this creation – all this beauty – into our morning worship.”
Then it hit me. Well, music is also a part of God’s own creation! I’m doing just that!
It seems to me that I’m often distracted by the sheer business of music. Most of my music ‘career’ has been about cool bands and cool hair. Thankfully I grew out of that several years ago. But even still, getting the music right for a Sunday morning; choosing the right songs; working on the dynamics of those songs; keeping up with trends; making sure I get all the cues right… all this business of music makes me forget the beauty of music in itself, its very nature, the fact that God created this stuff. I didn’t invent this. Playing music is, indeed, God-glorifying – it works toward this end just like all of creation works toward this end.
As the heavens tell of the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) so music tells of the glory of God. That’s if we’d let it. If we would get the business of it out of the way – the preferences of style, taste, and skill.
I do believe that sometimes we rely too much on music in church to make ‘things happen’ (whatever that may mean). I do believe that the lyrical content of much of our modern church music is pretty lame and sometimes even damaging to people’s relationship with God. But I have to admit, when sounds and notes go together, the very nature of that… the very nature of music… tells the glory of God. And that makes music joyful for me again, because when eternity comes, we’re really not going to care at all about the business of music. And that’s why we fill our church meeting places with these notes and the sounds of voices that echo the many facets and many stories of a relationship with the same person, Jesus Christ.
I argued in my previous post that a particular trait David exhibited which was ‘after’ God’s own heart was that he was first and foremost a shepherd. He was commended because he dealt well with God’s most loved possession – His people.
If His people are God’s prized possession then the shepherding and leading of His people is naturally an important thing to God. This is why He places such an emphasis on the care with which the role must be handled. In fact, scripture says that those who would lead His people will be held to account for those they lead (Heb 13:17, Eze 34:10). It is also why scripture doesn’t pull any punches in its harsh treatment of false shepherds. Ezekiel 34 gives us a good picture of a God who sets Himself against false shepherds who would use the flock to their own benefit, requiring a reckoning for their abuse. It also shows us how He will rescue His sheep from these false shepherds. A shepherding role is not something to be taken lightly but when we are motivated by love in obedience to God we are taking on His own heart! We love what He loves.
I believe that this is an important part of what made David a worshipper that pleased God. He loved God and proved it by how he loved and led God’s people.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
- 1 John 4:20-21 ESV
So what does all this have to do with “leading worship”? Well, quite frankly, I believe it points to the role that must be adopted by anyone who would step up to lead a gathering of the local church in any of the things that we gather to do – including worshipping God in song.
We must first take on the role of a shepherd.
In my last post in this series I asked what it was exactly about David that was ‘after’ or ‘according to’ God’s heart. In answering this question we obviously need to look at both God and David and look for some similarities in their character. I believe a clue to at least a portion of the question is tucked away in the use of this phrase elsewhere in the Old Testament.
In the first 11 verses of Jeremiah 3, Israel and Judah are accused of spiritual adultery and prostituting themselves to other gods… then God calls and commissions Jeremiah:
“Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:
“Return, faithless Israel…
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
and I will bring you to Zion.
And I will give you shepherds after my own heart,
who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
- Jeremiah 3:12-15 ESV.
There is actually quite a lot more in the Old Testament that talks about God as a Shepherd of His people – the most famous probably being Psalm 23.
Over in the New Testament Jesus calls himself “The Good Shepherd” and dedicates a good chunk of John 10 to this teaching about himself. Jesus uses more shepherding language as he approaches Jerusalem in Luke 13:34 saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
Now, when we look at David, we know he was a shepherd as a young boy but there’s actually a lot more to it than just that. When it comes to the Bible’s teaching on worship and David’s leadership a commonly used portion of scripture is this one from Psalm 78:
“He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skilful hand.”
- Psalm 78:70-72 ESV
I’ve often heard and, in turn, used this portion of scripture to introduce the concept of two aspects to leadership and service in a local church: the heart and the hands of service. These are important concepts for us to understand (and we’ll come back to these in a later post) but we often get caught up on those points and miss out on something that is actually the main key to this scripture. I believe that this key is also vital to understanding the Biblical heart of “leading worship” and, in fact, to the heart of any kind of leadership and service in the church.
David is saying that from when he was a young boy right through to being the king of Israel his job description didn’t change, just who he was looking after. He went from shepherding sheep to shepherding people.
We always teach about the importance of an upright or integrous heart and skilful hands in service but miss the actual point of this verse. The integrity and skill are the ‘hows’. The ‘what’ of the scripture is shepherding!
So what makes David a man after God’s heart? I don’t believe scripture honours David with this acclaim because he was a great leader or because he was a very talented writer, poet and musician. I don’t even think it was because he had some amazing measure of desire for God. I’d like to argue that it is for this reason: from the hills and sheep pens of his childhood right through to the height of David’s illustrious political career, at heart he was a shepherd. And God likes that because that what He has in His own heart.
It’s nearly seven months later and here finally is the long overdue second part of my “Why Lead Worship?” series of posts (read part one here).
As a brief aside, my previous post was followed by some good discussion around the use of the phrase “leading worship”. I’ll continue to use the phrase for now but with this caveat: For various reasons, it’s actually not my favourite common use phrase for what musicians do while serving the church in the area of the musical expression of worship. I would actually like to cover this point properly at some point – but that will be in a different post.
Getting back on-topic, I think it’s fairly obvious that I was referring to David at the end of my previous post. David is a good character to look at with this topic for a couple of reasons, one of which is simply because there’s just so much to see in scripture about this guy. We can learn a lot about and from him in 1 and 2 Samuel, Chronicles and in other parts of the Bible.
Not only can we see his heart as displayed through the story of his life, we can also see it in great detail in the things that he wrote. The Psalms are a big collection of songs and poems that essentially made up Israel’s “worship song file” and David wrote many of them.
What’s also interesting is how scripture doesn’t rose-tint the story of David’s life and yet speaks very highly of him. The Biblical narrative shows a man who was a polygamist, adulterer and ultimately a scheming murderer who ruled over a nation and yet left his own family in a complete mess. Yet despite all this, David is used by the Apostles and New Testament writers Peter, in Acts 2, and Paul, in Acts 13, as a prophetic picture or type of Jesus Christ Himself. The Messiah is often referred to in the Old Testament prophetic books and in the gospels as “the Son of David”.
And then there’s this big one, especially within the scope of this series of posts: In his sermon in Antioch recorded in Acts 13, Paul talks about David as a person whom God calls “a man after my heart” (v22).
Until fairly recently I had always interpreted this phrase to mean a person who is in pursuit of God’s heart – a worshiper. While this kind of statement may be true of David, it isn’t what this text is actually saying. The word translated “after” is the Greek word kata which means “in the likeness of” and not “in pursuit of”. So, it uses “after” as in, “a son takes after his father” and not, “grown men chasing after a ball.” I had always understood the phrase incorrectly as “David… a man who pursues God’s heart” whereas the correct understanding would actually be, “David… a man who has the same characteristics or qualities as God’s heart.”
Coming to understand this, I have to say that this must be one of scripture’s highest commendations of any man – God saying that this man, David, had some of the same characteristics as Himself. As far as I know, David is the only person in the Bible that God directly describes this way. Surely this is something we would love be true about us and so it is this statement that we must investigate further.
Why does scripture make such high commendations of a person who’s life story would make a serious R-rated movie? You could argue that there must be better characters in the Bible to choose for this honour.
This contrast beautifully illustrates the triumph of God’s grace over sinful human messiness in the achievement of His sovereign will. But even with this in mind, we still have to ask what it was that David had or did that caused God to call him a man after His heart in both the Old (through Samuel in 1 Sam 13:14) and New Testaments (through Paul in Acts 13:22)?
To answer this we have to examine what it was about David that was after or “according to” God’s heart. More on that in part 3 which hopefully won’t take another seven months to post.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts? What kind of similarities between David and the heart of God can you see?
It’s been pretty cold lately – particularly early in the morning – and it’s got me thinking. Church musicians, why do you do what you do? Why practice an ever-changing bunch of songs to play and sing with people in your Life Group, your Youth Group, your church meeting or wherever you do it? Why do you rehearse on a Saturday when friends and family are relaxing? Why do you get up at 6:00am on a Sunday morning in the middle of winter and try to warm up your fingers and voices to a point where they work to some semblance of fluidity before standing in front of a crowd of people to sing and play music. It’s fun? Yeah, I guess it is, but if it’s for some sort of gratification, whether the recognition of people or your own entertainment, it’ll be short-lived – especially when your delicate musician hands are so cold.
We have to be worshippers of God first before we are musicians. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. Now, I’m not entirely convinced that that’s our purpose in it’s entirety during this life but I do believe that it is, at the very least, a very big part of it. God has created us for relationship with Him and our most natural way of relating to Him is in worship.
Ok.. So, if we are to be worshippers and if we try as far as possible to take our lead from the bible then I’d like to look at a biblical character that models a worshipper and attempt to learn a few things from this person. No prizes for guessing who I’m about to look at. Ok, so maybe a small prize: a chocolate to the first person who names the character. I’ll even double the stakes if the answer comes with a good explanation. Ok, go!
As you may or may not know we are running a course on worship for one of this term’s Bible School subjects. We are now into our fifth week of the course and I’ve just been struck with what is really such a basic truth; God is big! He’s huge!
I know you may be thinking, “Ok, we already knew that.” but sometimes an old, familiar truth gets a fresh spark of life thrown at it and suddenly you really believe it all over again. Exploring the subject of worship is like trying to fully explore God Himself. It can be a daunting thing, simply for the sheer volume of it and yet, it is an incredibly rewarding thing to do.
To study the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ of worship is to discover the “Who” of worship. Without knowing the object of our worship all we do is make a noise. All our clever musical arrangements, all our catchy songs and refrains, our dancing, clapping and general carryings on come to nothing if they are an end in themselves. But to truly know the One for whom the “carrying on” is for – that is worship. Let me qualify that further; God does not require our worship as if He were somehow in need of constant affirmation from us. He is the eternal one, the Alpha and the Omega. He is wholly self-sustained. For “who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” (Rom 11:35).
Actually, when we worship Him it is for our own good. When, according to John 4:23, we worship in Spirit (because God is Spirit) and truth, as Wikus reminded us last week, we worship in the truth of who God is. The “truth” part of that scripture is the truth of God’s eternal nature and not our own, often grossly inconsistent truth. When we gather together to worship, or indeed when we worship on our own, we are not meant to try to “stay true to ourselves”. We don’t just honour Him when we feel we are being sincere about it. Our hearts are so deceptive and will readily lead us down a path of introspection at the expense of fixing our attention on Jesus where it belongs. Our worship would therefore be as inconsistent as we are prone to be. Thank God that He is consistently awesome and always worthy of praise! When David was feeling melancholic he would often speak to his own heart as if it were something apart from him, sometimes questioning it, “why are you downcast?” and encouraging himself to, “put your hope in God…” and he would urge himself to “yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God.” (Ps 42)
God is always worthy to be worshipped and He is seeking worshippers who will worship Him in Spirit and in the truth of who He is. We cannot attempt to look more deeply into the subject of worship without looking deeply into the nature of God Himself as He has revealed to us by His Spirit and His word. And we certainly cannot do that without responding in true worship.
To reiterate; to truly know the One for whom the “carrying on” is for – that is worship.