It has been an amazing start to the weekend, first with Cindy Ratcliff’s ministry to the worship teams from different Perth churches on Thursday night, and then with the Just Worship event last night at Metrochurch, during which Cindy led worship.
My wife and I were really thrilled because at the end of the evening, we got to take a photo with Cindy and her husband Marcus. Our good friend and worship leader, Joanna, also got into the photo!
What really blew my mind was the fact that Cindy, her husband and their team didn’t have to come to Perth. But not only did they come, they did so at their own cost. Why? Simply for the purpose of, as Marcus Ratcliff puts it, “to leave a deposit”. I wasn’t exactly sure what they meant by the “deposit” and in what form exactly it took, but here are some thoughts and principles which I felt were deposited in me as I reflected on the last two evenings:
1. A Call for Worship Ministers to Prayerfully Plan the Journey of Worship
As I mentioned in my previous post, when I first heard the We Speak to Nations album (Lakewood’s first live release), there was a real sense of capturing the atmosphere of worship rather than a showcasing of new songs.
During last night’s worship, even though Cindy did do a few new songs, there was a planned focus, flow and progression in her worship set which, in my view, is missing in many churches today. I could be wrong on this, but in my experience, a lot of worship leaders are still putting songs together which don’t necessarily mesh thematically or flow in tempo and feel.
We need to recover the sense of worship as journey.
2. The True Mark of Leadership is Humility and Servanthood
Because I’ve been making all this fuss about Cindy Ratcliff in the last couple of days, some people were remarking that maybe I had put her on a pedestal. Perhaps… But I think we have a lot to learn from her about leadership.
Cindy leads a worship team of 1000 people, some of whom are recording artists and world-class musicians, yet she comes across as level, easy-going, normal and above all, humble. There was never any hint of her coming across with a sense of entitlement.
It reminds me of Philippians 2:5-11:
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever…
Behind every leader that God elevates is the spirit of servanthood.
3. It Happens to the Best of Them
I often get annoyed when little technical things go wrong. But last night, about 30 seconds into the first song, the projection of the words failed.
I have seen worship leaders react in a number of ways when things like that happen, but Cindy’s approach was completely seasoned by humility. After the first song, she welcomed the crowd and very seamlessly made the point that the technicians were doing their best to get the words up, but she encouraged us that even if the words don’t come up, we should try our best to sing along and she will prompt us with the lyrics where appropriate – because after all, we were there to worship God together.
When things like this happen, they often reveal the attitude of our hearts. Do we get frustrated and annoyed? Or can we let go and do our best in the situation before us?
4. Excellence, Heart and Faithful Ministry
I’ve been pressing this point of late, but I believe that excellence in ministry is not an afterthought or a secondary requirement. I see excellence and the heart of worship as two sides of the same coin.
And when the two combine, a powerful synergy is created.
I have worked with bands where because the music isn’t tight, everyone has had to work extra hard to carry each other (this is a difficult concept to articulate, but if you’ve been part of a band, you’ll know what I mean). I’ve also been in bands where the musicians are technically excellent, able to support and cover each other, and where musicians are humble enough to let others soar at opportune moments. In those times, a worship leader doesn’t have to do much, but you begin to realise that everyone on stage is, in effect, leading worship together. It’s the difference between my coming out of a worship set feeling exhausted, and coming out of it feeling light and invigorated.
The musicianship was of a such a calibre last night. Even though there were only 3 musos and a bass track, the music just enveloped you and made it easy for you to engage with God.
5. Worship Meets Justice
I love “Just Worship” events because as far as worship is concerned, it’s where the rubber hits the road. It’s about worship which pleases the Lord, not just singing him nice songs in an electrified atmosphere to make ourselves feel good, but where worship and justice intersect.
Micah 6:6-8 says this:
How can I stand up before God
and show proper respect to the high God?
Should I bring an armload of offerings
topped off with yearling calves?
Would God be impressed with thousands of rams,
with buckets and barrels of olive oil?…
But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.
The Contemporary English Version says that God demands that “we see that justice is done”. Justice completes our act of worship. In worship, we bless God so that He blesses us, so that we, in turn, might be a blessing. This is the cycle of worship.
So, I am glad to say that in an atmosphere of powerful worship and encounter last night, those who gathered raised $20,000, every single cent of which will go to Telethon to help children with medical needs in our community.
I am grateful to God for sending Cindy Ratcliff and her team to deposit something into my heart, and into our city, which I’m sure has left us all transformed.