Okay, I may not name my first kid Heman. It’s not a particularly popular name and I’m worried he might get bullied in school. Or maybe his peers might place incredibly high expectations on him to produce feats of supernatural strength.
I did want to name my kid Ethan though, until my good friend’s sister stole the name and bestowed it upon her progeny.
Think about it: almost every Ethan you know, famous or otherwise, is good-looking (if you have proof to the contrary, I don’t really want to know about it!). This is a bonus. The cool thing actually is that it is a name of one of the worship leaders in the Bible. So is Heman.
When I started reading more about worship leading, it worried me a little that the term “worship leader” or any other permutation of it like “lead worshipper”, “worship facilitator” or “song leader” isn’t mentioned in the Bible. I started thinking: is what we are doing as worship leaders a construct of the modern church-growth movement, or does it have biblical precedent?
Thankfully, I came across this passage in 1 Chron 15:16ff:
David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instrumetns: lyres, harps and cymbals.
So the Levites appointed Heman, son of Joel; from his brothers, Asaph, son of Berekiah; and from his brothers the Merarites, Ethan son of Kushaiah…. The musicians Heman, Asaph and than were to sound the bronze cymbals… Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.
The context of this passage was that David had just brought the ark up to Jerusalem. The ark was never meant to be in Jerusalem; it belonged (according to established institutions) at Mt Gibeon, in the Tabernacle of Moses – in the Holy of Holies. Yet David longed to have God’s presence near him in his capital city, so he pitched an ad hoc tent for the ark. And then he instituted a new form of worship, one not based on sacrifices and protocol, but one in which music and singing became the “housing” for God’s presence.
And so, amongst others, four leaders were appointed. Their names are interesting:
- Asaph means “one who gathers and removes reproach.”
- Heman means “one who is faithful.”
- Ethan means “consistent and permanent praise.”
- Kenaniah means “established by Jehovah”.
The names together give us a powerful picture of the role of the modern worship leader as follows:
- Worship leading is about gathering people to focus them on God. This means an ability to bring unity, break down walls between generations and cultures, drawing people from all walks of life, pointing them away from their own circumstances and differences and towards praising God and His greatness. I might add that often, and ironically, we see worship as something that divides us down denominational lines and along age and cultural preferences. I long for the day when we can put aside our preferences and unite around God’s presence, irrespective of style and expressions!
- Worship leading is about allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to people was they draw near to him; removing their reproach, sins, hurts, pain, sickness, brokenheartedness and bondage. We don’t cleanse ourselves in order to worship, but as we worship and enter into God’s presence, we are transformed! This means that every time we gather together, we should expect a divine transaction to take place in our hearts.
- Worship leading is about being faithful to the house of God; pastoring our people and supporting our church’s vision. We aren’t rogue soldiers who do our own thing, but we learn to submit to leadership. We are faithful to God’s call on our lives, not striving to become more popular and famous, but realising that we please God by fulfilling our call wherever we are planted, whether we lead a small group of 10 or a large congregation of 1000.
- We are established by God. We don’t struggle to gain recognition and approval from people, but we know that our approval comes from God; our anointing and qualification comes from Him alone!
- Worship leading is an outflow of consistently and permanently praising God, not only when we lead a gathering, but wherever we are, in the trenches of life, in the good times and hard times and bringing the worship to God that is forged out of those experiences.
On second thought, I might name my first kid Kenaniah. It’s got quite a nice ring to it.