The Oak Stump

In my previous post (The Worship Leadership Masterclass – Day 2 Roundup), I shared about how as I was teaching my class, I felt led to release a word to one of the students who was preparing for missions work in Japan. This is James Benjamin’s post from his blog Crossing the Boundary in which he shares how that word impacted him. Thanks James for letting me post this here!

The Fisherman's Horizon

So little yet so much has been happening in the last couple of weeks.

The beginning of this is a couple of weeks ago when I was getting swamped with pressure to do my thesis research and I got rather overwhelmed, and I decided to take a mini-sabbatical, taking a few days off to just relax and not think about it. I spent my time (not watching anime or movies, or playing games because I’m still on the 40 day fast, which ends in one day!!) reading books I had just recently obtained from Overseas Missionary Fellowship. The book of particular interest is “In Japan the crickets cry”. A story about Steve Metcalf, who grew up in a village in China, called to serve in Japan, and faithfully walked into unknown territory serving and preaching God to the people in Japan. After reading this book, I started to ask God…

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The Worship Leadership Masterclass: Day 2 Roundup

It’s been a pretty exhausting day. For some reason this week, it just took that much longer to get all the material ready for this morning’s sessions and I didn’t feel like I slept properly last night. Perhaps it was nerves.

But I’m glad I pushed through! We had a great time this morning during the Worship Leadership Masterclass, going through more building blocks of a worship set, namely the exhortation/call to worship, Scripture reading, spontaneous singing, worship and intercession and releasing the prophetic word. Then we went through some practical tips on how to work with musicians, hand signals, vocal cues and using your worship space properly.

For me, today’s sessions were important ones because they reflected an element of worship practice closest to my heart: how worship and intercession fuse together to release God’s will for the nations on the earth – the missional aspect of worship.

We then talked about emerging trends in the worship landscape, including a rediscovery of radical grace, worship in a flattened structure and a redefining of sacred space.

A highlight for me was as I was sharing about a short term mission trip I led some years ago to Japan to conduct a worship seminar, I felt prompted to release a word to one of the student who was preparing to become a missionary to Japan. I felt a little silly actually interrupting the session to release the word, and I wasn’t even sure if it was relevant, but the student has since shared about the encouragement and impact that the word had on him. I will share more about that in a later post.

We then finished the session by teaching on how to cultivate the gifts. Remember that we need to remain teachable and humble, and to champion the calling of others in our circle of influence. My prayer is that through these classes, God will awaken the calling on the lives of some of the students in worship ministry and that they will go even further than I have ever been. My only request was that when they become world-famous worship leaders, they would still let me do backing vocals for them!

Hope you guys enjoyed the sessions as much I enjoyed teaching them!

Why I’m Going to Name My Kid Heman (or She-ra if She’s a Girl)

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.

The Worship Leadership Masterclass: Day 1 Roundup

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It’s been about four years since I taught my last Christian education class. In my previous church, I was very active in teaching classes and organising syllabi. After moving to FCC, I’ve been concentrating more on worship ministry so it was refreshing to be back into teaching today. And moreso because I was teaching my favourite subject – worship leadership.

Over 60 people turned up, mostly from FCC but thanks to FCC’s generosity, we also had people from Lynwood Christian Centre, Better Life Church, PCLC, Kingsway and Anchor Church in attendance.

We began with a sweeping look at the definition of worship, a survey of worship in the Bible, it’s historical development, the role and function of the worship leader and the power of music.

I encouraged the students that you don’t have to be very proficient at music to lead worship – as long as you have appreciation for music, some fundamentals and you are friends with great musicians!

In the second session, we looked at how to plan a worship set, the shape of a worship set and the importance of flow. If there is one thing to get out of today, it is that we need to make sure that the worship set flows in terms of musical feel and unity of theme. A worship leader should visualise the flow from start to finish before they even come to rehearsal.

We ended the session with a look at how to choose songs which is really half the work of worship leading. The students all put together a set list and some volunteered their examples. I felt a bit like the set list doctor, diagnosing ways to make the set list better. But I was glad to see many students coming up with impressive set lists which I’ll probably need to pilfer for when I next lead worship!

I really enjoyed myself today. Sorry we couldn’t put up the recordings due to technical problems. We will try to get sessions 3 and 4 up!

I’m looking forward to next week’s sessions as I pray that God will use these teachings to raise the watermark of worship in our congregations!