Too Much Fashion, Too Little Passion

Leonard Ravenhill once said:

Poverty-stricken as the Church is today in many things, she is most stricken here in the place of prayer.  We have many organizers, but few agonisers; many players and payers, but few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers but few fighters.  Failing here, we fail everywhere.

I think that worship leaders have to be more than just leaders of song, they need to also be leaders in intermingling prayer with praise, worship with intercession.

Worship leading has to more than just a cool fashionable thing where singers and musicians wear the latest hipster gear under the dizzying hues of pretty lights. We must be amongst those who open up the windows of heaven with our praise and through prayer and worship enforce God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

Imagine the Unknown

Shimon Perez once said:

People prefer remembering to imagining. Memory deals with familiar things; imagination deals with the unknown. Imagination can be frightening – it requires risking a departure from the familiar.

We love the safety of the familiar; the tried and true. It’s safe because it’s predictable. But growth, innovation and transformation comes from taking risks; of walking into new frontiers of unfamiliar territory.

People often say this as a foundational principle of worship leadership: “You can’t lead people to where you haven’t been before”. I understand the motivation behind such a statement. But when you think about it, is it true?

We talk about this in the context of God’s presence. Now, I’m not trying to detract from the idea of wholehearted preparation and a worship leader’s private devotion unto God. These are noble things. But every now and then, doesn’t the leader find him or herself in a place that they’ve never been before (with congregation in tow?) Doesn’t God surprise us with His limitless and uncontainable presence when we least expect it?

By definition, I think true leadership does sometimes require us to lead our people into places we’ve never been before. Courage in the face of uncertainty is a hallmark of leadership.

I was talking to a friend of mine recently and he had the most radical thought about an inter-church worship gathering. Anointed and excellent musicians who serve hard often don’t get the chance to truly worship on a Sunday. So the idea was that we would gather musicians together in a circle and just worship together. We’d be proficient enough to “go with the flow”. But (for once), it won’t be about musical excellence and precision. It won’t matter if it doesn’t sound good. Because there won’t be a secondary audience next to God. We would just worship together and if anyone wanted to take up an instrument, they can just do it. By the same token, if you want to lay down your instrument, you can do that too. No fixed agenda – just a bunch of worshipping musicians and singers enjoying God’s presence.

I loved the idea. So we’re going to do it.

We haven’t gone there before. But we are going to try anyway. We want to do something different. Will it work? Who knows? I know my friend’s motivation is pure. If it falls in a heap, we will have learnt something anyway. So what is there to lose? And yet, there is so much to gain.

So watch this space!  We are aiming for a date in September!

Why We Need Young Musicians in Our Worship Teams

Here’s a quote which Ray Badham shared from Ric Charlesworth (a well-known hockey coach) during the last week at Arrows College as he taught on team building:

Young talented players simultaneously threaten, inspire and awaken those who are too comfortable. They bring innocence and excitement and often possess skills different from those of established team members. They can help individuals and the group rediscover their passion and enthusiasm for the game. They are at once free of expectations yet, while they may have doubts, they seem less burdened by them than many senior players with whom they are competing. It seems they feel they have less to lose.

What they lack in finesse and subtlety, they make up in vibrancy, desire and willingness to learn and improve. They often play an important role in the rediscovery of these qualities by others in the team, and they remind everyone that nothing is certain or lasts forever.

What profound thoughts! This is why we need young musicians to serve side by side with older musicians. This is why worship ministry must model a multigenerational approach to ministry in the church.

Put Your Hand into the Hand of God

During yesterday’s message by Faith Community Church’s Missions Coordinator, Bro Yew Beng, he shared an inspiring quote by King George VI from his 1939 annual Christmas address to the Commonwealth.

The context was that Britain was on the brink of world war. In the midst of the uncertainty, fear and expectation of gloom, King George exhorted his people as follows:

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’

What a statement of faith!

For those of us struggling with uncertainty and questions, let’s hold fast to that thought: When we put our hand into the hand of God, we can go out into the darkness and face uncertain times because being in His hand is better than light and safer than the known!

Worship: Treasuring God Above All Else

Here is a great definition of worship I recently came across whilst reading John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad.  Piper says (at 231):

Worship is not a gathering.  It is not essentially a song service or sitting under preaching.  Worship is not essentially any form of outward act.  Worship is essentially an inner stirring of the heart to treasure God above all the treasures of the world –

a valuing of God above all else that is valuable

a loving of God above all else that is lovely

a savouring of God above all else that is sweet

an admiring of God above all else that is admirable

a fearing of God above all else that is fearful

a respecting of God above all else that is respectable

a prizing of God above all else that is precious.

In other words, worship is right affections in the heart toward God, rooted in right thoughts in the head about God, becoming visible in right actions of the body reflecting God.

Wow, no wonder Paul says in Romans 11:36 that “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things!”

God Works Great Miracles When Things Seem the Most Hopeless

I don’t think God’s ever had a day when He thought “well, I never saw that one coming”.

Even though we may have.

Even though things seem messy. And uncertain. And hopeless.

Andy Stanley writes:

If we asked Jesus’ disciples months after he was crucified what their darkest moment had been following Jesus and when they had the least hope, I believe they would have answered, “It was when we realised things weren’t going to get better, when he promised us things would get worse, when he predicted that one of us would betray him and that all of us would fall away. It was when he was tried and convicted and we saw him die. It was when we thought we had wasted our time and that God wasn’t there.

If we asked them, When do you think God was doing his greatest work? Was it healing the lame guy, healing the blind, or seeing Lazarus step out of his tomb? I believe they would answer, “Actually, it was during those hours when it seemed he was doing the least. In those darkest moments, when it seemed God was inactive, he was actually the most active.” Those hours were the epicentre of the salvation of humankind. Those hours were the ones that, for thousands of years, people all over the world have looked back to, rejoicing in God’s goodness and grace….

God’s most amazing work often begins in the biggest messes, in times of brokenness.”

(Andy Stanley “God is Certain” in Craig Groeschel (ed) What God is Really Like pp 51-52)

Around two thousand years ago today, one of the greatest tragedies unfolded. Little did they know then that this was the seed of one of the greatest victories in history, setting into motion an outpouring of grace that would bring great spiritual blessings for generations to come.

In the most uncertain of times, in the midst of great hopelessness, God is performing the greatest of miracles.

Worship/Idolatory

St Augustine:

Idolatry is worshipping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshipped.

As worship ministers, this is something which we are especially prone to – worshipping the music and the musicianship rather than using the music to worship God. It’s a fine line which is easily crossed if we are not too careful.

Jack Hayford once said this, which has stuck with me ever since: “Lucifer was the closest to the throne of God.”

Worship leaders are often seen to be the closest to God (which by the way is a myth worthy of being busted!) but this does not mean that they are immune from revelling in the worship; as if the worship was for us rather than for God.

The second part of St Augustine’s quote is about using God for our own purposes: our self-worship. How many times do we treat God like He is a divine vending machine, ready to dispense blessings at our whim and fancy?

It’s a fine balance and any time it tips one way or the other, we are at risk of idolatory.

Heavenly Commission

David Livingstone said:

If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honour, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?

That’s a profound thought, isn’t it? Sometimes, we serve God as if our sacrifice can somehow be held to the same light as His. Juanita Bynum once said something like this: “even if God were to stop blessing us today, it would take us 1000 years for our praise to catch up to Him.”

How can our sacrifice ever compare to His? That He would sacrifice His most precious, so that we wouldn’t get what we deserve, but instead, so that we get what we don’t deserve. That’s His grace! And yet, when asked to serve Him, it’s as if God still owes us something. So we say we sacrifice for His sake, and the sake of His kingdom.

Think about this: God doesn’t need our sacrifice! He can do everything by Himself. If we don’t do it, someone else will rise up. Remember what Mordecai said to Esther in Esther 4:14:

“… For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

If we don’t serve, someone else will arise to take our place. But what if we have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

We must see our service to the King as a privilege. Yes, it does involve personal sacrifice on our part to some extent, but God didn’t need us, and yet, he called us to such a great honour. Will we accept the call?