THE ART OF LEADING WORSHIP
The Four P's.
PRAYER, PREPARE, PRACTICE, PRAISE
~First, I want to share nuggets of truth from Gods Word that can revolutionize our worship leading if we actually do them!~
~At the end I'm going to share practical tips, simple things I have learned that have helped me through the years.~
1st "P" PRAYER (Our Lifeline):
In this first section I want to bring to your attention the utmost importance of what a prayer life can mean to some one that is in ministry and especially someone thats in a worship leading position in the local church. What constitutes the heart of a worship leader? As worship leaders we stand before people and encourage and exhort them to worship God. We lead by example, people watch what we do and mimic us. So our lives not only need to be passionate and overflowing in the things of the Lord on stage but just as importantly off stage as well. I believe if you are a passionate worshipper in front of the crowd, you should be just as passionate in the crowd or away from the crowd where your invisible life take place.
Lets take a lesson from our ultimate example Jesus and how He portrayed His life!
Jesus was a man of mission and purpose, his pursuit in life was to fulfill the call that God had placed on Him. Probably the most important thing that Jesus constantly did in His lifetime on the earth was his prayer life. Jesus was in such incredible close communication and contact with the Father at all times. Jesus didn't act on his own, he only acted according to the purpose of the Father. In fact as we all know, Jesus' ministry in its entirety began with a 40 day fasting and prayer period.
His prayer life was His Lifeline!
Matt 14:23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.
Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Luke 6:12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God
Luke 9:28-29 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning
Jesus understood the power that was available to Him through His prayer life!
Luke 5:16 NIV But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
But Jesus Himself constantly withdrew into the Desert and there prayed.
Clarkes Commentary on the Bible of Luke 5:16
And he withdrew himself into the wilderness - He made it a frequent custom to withdraw from the multitudes for a time, and pray. Teaching us hereby the ministers of the Gospel that they are to receive fresh supplies of light and power from God by prayer, that they may be the more successful in their work; and that they ought to seek frequent opportunities of being in private with God and their books. A man can give nothing unless he first receive it; and no man can be successful in the ministry who does not constantly depend upon God, for the excellence of the power is all from Him. Why is there so much preaching, and so little good done? Is it not because the preachers mix too much with the world, keep too long in the crowd, and are so seldom in private with God? Reader! Art thou a herald for the Lord of hosts? Make full proof of thy ministry! Let it never be said of thee, "He forsook all to follow Christ, and to preach his Gospel, but there was little or no fruit of his labor; for he ceased to be a man of prayer, and got into the spirit of the world."
Amidst the sometimes chaos of life and business of our North American ways we must take time to come before the Lord in private and be still before Him.
Psalm 46:10 says, Be still and know that I am GOD!
There are sooooooo many things that are vying for our time, what will we give our precious time to?
I love this quote…..
Its so easy to put work before worship, duty before devotion, the common before communion!
Psalm 46:10 says, Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
Is it in our quiet times that pure praise and worship begins in our hearts!
I want to encourage you to quiet yourself and be still before the Lord, take the time to shut yourself in with the Lord and seek His face.
In my own experience, some of the most precious times I've had with the Lord have flowed out of my personal devotional time with the Lord, not on the big stage in front of throngs of people but in private alone with the Lord!
It is through these times with the Lord that our cups are filled and the overflow will affect those around us, and if your a worship leader it will affect your worship leading.
Elijah sought the Lord in his time of trouble and this is how he explained hearing God's voice… in 1 Kings 19:11-13
How will we be able to hear that still small voice of God in our lives if its completely drowned out by all the busyness and cares of the affairs of this world.
We have to purpose to be still before the Lord!
If something is important to you, you make time for it!
Its the same with our passion for the Lord, if His presence in our lives is a priority its going to show by how much time we purpose to give to Him!
In John 10:27 Jesus says, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Its been my hearts cry throughout my life and ministry to hear the authentic true voice of God. Its a constant prayer for me that the Lord would shut out all other voices so I can concentrate on His.
So how do we hear the voice of God speaking to us? He has given us His Holy Spirit.
Jesus says, When He the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
1 John 2:27 says, But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you. The New Living translation says it like this, But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you.
The referral of Holy Spirit and the Anointing in this text are interchangeable, they mean the same thing.
So going back to how do we put ourselves in a place to be able to hear the authentic true voice of God?
First of all we need to…. Quiet our souls…. be still and know that I am God! Get out your Bible and shut yourself in your prayer closet.
Secondly…. take confidence that His Spirit abides within us and He will speak into our hearts as we seek the Lord. He has anointed us with an unction from the Holy Spirit!
Gills Exposition of the Bible explains the anointing like this…. But the anointing which ye have received of him,.... The Spirit, and the grace of the Spirit, which they had received out of the fulness of grace which is in Christ; and is compared to oil or ointment, for Christ, the anointed, is the fountain of it all, and it is had from him in a way of giving and receiving. the fountain of the oil of unction, this abideth in you.
When John says the anointing you have received from God abides in you, He is referring to the Spirit of God abiding in you. The Spirit of God is the oil in the vessel of the heart!
What does oil do? It is the substance that makes mechanics operate smoothly! Without the oil, a vehicle will not run smoothly and will eventually seize up!
Oil is the substance that makes a recipe moist! Without the oil, our recipe will easily go stale and dry out!
In the Old Testament the anointing of oil qualified Kings!
1 John 2:27 says, But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you.
Oil may seem like an insignificant ingredient or component, but just try going without it and see how lacking everything will become! Likewise, spiritually if we are not tapping into the freshness of the flow of anointing that is available to us by the Spirit of God dwelling within us, our worship leading will seem dry and stagnant.
Have you ever come away from a worship service and said "that was so…. Dry! Haha… well, now you know why.
When we spend time in communion with the Father and reading His Word, that is when he fills the reservoir of our hearts to overflowing and in turn our lives can overflow to others through ministry.
Purpose to spend time in Prayer and communion with the Father, being still before the Lord, quieting our souls, take confidence that His Spirit abides within us and has anointed us as His ministers.
Jesus knew that His prayer life was His life-line to the Father.
So to Cap off the first P: Spend time in prayer, Be still before the Lord, and take confidence that His Spirit has anointed us
2nd "P" PRACTICE (Practicing the Presence of God):
I want us to think outside the box for a few minutes and think about a different kind of practice. What would you think about practicing the presence of God?
Practicing the Presence of God on a personal level.
Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. then they said to Moses, You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said to the people, do not fear, for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin. So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.
Can you imagine living in Moses day when God himself is actually coming down and desiring to speak with His people! I cannot imagine being one of those that would not want to hear His voice, they wanted to hear the message that God had for them, but they didn't want to receive the delivery themselves! They were scared! They said MOSES!! YOU DO IT!! And so the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near to where God was!
James 4:8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.
Another version says, Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
We need to apply this verse to our lives on a daily basis! You have the responsibility of taking the first step. When you begin to draw near to God, He will automatically draw near to you.
Cleanse your hands; and purify your hearts: single up your mind. Start to seek the Lord. Come out from the world, separating yourself from the things of the world, and fixing your heart and mind on things above.
As worship leaders we may not struggle with the "BIG" sins, but face it, we live in a world that is constantly throwing is cultural garbage our way!
Much is to be said for drawing near to God.
Remember, we will never be able to take the people where we ourselves have never been.
Jesus's ministry reflected who he was as a person and the time He spent with the Father. Likewise, our ministries will reflect who we really are and our spiritual condition.
I remember the first time I really felt a connect with God's presence in my life as an adult. I had grown up in a traveling family music ministry, and you could say like most PK's kids that your riding your parents coat tails for the most part. As an adult I remember just crying out to God in my prayer closet that I just wanted God to confirm to me that all this stuff that I accepted from my parents belief system as a child was truly real, that God was real, that all He supposedly had for me was real! I needed to experience and know in my heart of hearts for myself! I cried out to God any chance I could for months! God took me seriously in my persistence and revealed Himself to me so beautifully.
The scripture says in Luke 11:9 So I say to you, Ask and [b]keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and [c]keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and [d]keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks and [e]keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and [f]keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and [g]keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for [h]a loaf of bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts [gifts [i]that are to their advantage] to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and [j]continue to ask Him!
I have learned since from experience that we don't have to strive for the presence of God in our lives,
Heb 10:22 Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies having been washed with pure water.
Let us go right into the presence of God! We don't have to strive for Gods presence in our lives. King James says, Let us draw near with a true heart!
Psalms 73:28 says, But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.
So this is what I mean by practicing the Presence of God! Draw near to Him, Seek His Face, and call upon the name of the Lord.
I like to imagine what our churches would be like if our worship leaders and teams were in one accord when it comes to this personal devotion of closeness to the very heartbeat and presence of God in our lives. To be completely enveloped and consume by desire to know the presence of God in our lives. I feel I have just a small taste or glimpse of what He wants to pour into my life concerning knowing and understanding His presence in my life.
Have you ever gotten a little taste of something in your mouth and it tasted so good that you wanted more… and you got a little bit more and then your taste buds are just going crazy and you gotta have more!!!
Have you ever heard of the expression, this will whet your appetite? If something Whets your appetite, it interests you and you want more of it!
How much more when you have tasted of the Lord and seen that He is so good, we will desire more and more.
So, to cap off the 2nd "P", let us practice the presence of God in our lives on a personal level and the overflow of practicing His presence, I believe will directly affect your ministries in your local churches!
3rd "P" PRAISE (Worshiping the Father in Spirit and in Truth):
If you have done your homework so to speak, if you have done your first 2 P's well, Prayer and Practicing the Presence of God, I believe the praise and the worship will come forth with power and anointing and you will be led by the Spirit of the Lord.
All that said, the enemy may still try to come in and try to bring distraction or use whatever he can to bring you into your flesh.
How many would admit to the fact of mind wandering during worship? After all the hard work and effort put into the time of worship that we so diligently prepare for, don't you hate it when suddenly you feel your mind drifting into Lu Lu Land??
Matthew 15:8-9 says, these people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. and in vain they worship Me.
Psalm 141:8 says, But my eyes are fixed on you oh Sovereign Lord
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you.
The King James Translators translate the mind as: thought, or imagination, so the Lord will keep him in perfect peace who's mind or thought or imagination is stayed on the Lord.
Barnes notes on the bible conclude in this verse, that the mind is actually supported by God
When we are leading worship, we need to let the cares of the world fade away from us and fix our eyes upon the most high.
Has anyone other than me ever wondered what worshipping the Father in Spirit and in truth could possibly mean when Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman?
John 4:23, 24 says But the time is coming--indeed it's here now--when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.
So what could this mean to worship the Father in Spirit and in truth?
I believe worshiping the Father in Spirit and in truth simply means to be operating out of a completely surrendered heart!
Again, Jesus is our perfect and most excellent model of the completely surrendered heart! Jesus truly worshipped the Father in Spirit and in truth in everything that He did! He did this all throughout His ministry, every act of kindness and miracle He performed, every truth that He spoke from His mouth, every action of our Lord was done out of obedience to the Father, and through His acts of obedience flowed pure worship to the Father!
The highest act of obedience that Jesus surrendered to, was when He said, not my will but Your will be done!
Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
When we give our passions and desire's over for obedience to the Father, we set ourselves up for completely "surrendered" hearts!
That is how we Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth!
I referred earlier to Jesus starting out His ministry with a period of 40 days of fasting and prayer… do you know what Jesus was doing? Has anyone here ever fasted before? Some of you know how difficult it is on our flesh to fast! Jesus was overcoming His flesh in the very earliest stages of His ministry! He was telling the carnality of his being a human, that He was not going to serve His flesh, but He was going to serve His Father's will in Heaven above all else!
The Father is looking for such obedience from us, and abandonment to the drawing and pulling of fleshly and worldly things that so easily tug and pull at us.
Worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth is going to look very much the opposite of serving the flesh.
Romans 8:5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
As we fix our eyes on the Lord and shut everything else out as we lead, may we not operate from our flesh which signifies (us holding onto the reigns), but may we operate by the spirit, out of completely surrendered hearts, giving the reigns over completely to the Father!
I don't want to just be getting by with the mediocre… saying phew, one more service down! and High five the team on the way out!
I want to operate from the power that is available to me, to us, from God.
As worship leaders I pray that we can take up our cross and follow Jesus example.
Lastly, I want to encourage you, as we lead people into worship, we are just a small piece to the huge puzzle. Remember there is a great and mighty host already in Heaven that surrounds the throne of God and continuous worship is going on up there already! We are just joining in on whats already taking place!
Rev 4:8 says that Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty--the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.
Lets review the 3 "P"s we've been looking at.
PRAYER (Our Lifeline): Jesus is our ultimate model and prayer was His lifeline, prayer should be our lifeline as well!
PRACTICE (Practicing the presence of God): Be still and know that He is God, practice the presence of God in your personal life and the overflow will greatly affect your ministry.
PRAISE (Worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth): Fix our eyes on the Lord and worship the Father in Spirit & in truth, through obedience to the Father with completely surrendered hearts.
4th and final "P" PREPARE: Practical tips, simple things I have learned that have helped me through the years.
Never short change yourself to be prepared for the worship task ahead. Remember! A soldier will never be sent into battle without first being prepared and equipped for the task he is assigned to. Look at your worship leading as your assignment from God, and you are going to do your best to be equipped and prepared for the challenge.
I have some simple tips that may make the process a little smoother in your preparation process.
Get Organized with your music:
Binders with plastic insert holders
Separate Hymns, 80's, 90's, 2000 - Current (now) binder
Songselection, How to pick out your songs:
Communication with the speaker -
Get their main scripture & points (to be forewarned is to be forearmed)
Ask him if he has a particular song he may suggest that will go with his theme?
Pick out your songs accordingly-
Using Speakers suggestion
What songs has been ringing in your heart all week
Songs of the "Season"
Theme songs for series
Go through music books
Ultimately let the Spirit lead you in your song selection
Your setlist should be like a journey from beginning to end, taking you and the congregation to where you feel the Lord would have your final destination. Be purposeful. Start out with faster songs (praise) about God, who He is, etc… and can be more celebratory. Use a medium beat song to transition into the slower more worshipful songs, allowing people to connect in their worship and adoration towards most Holy God. Keeping in mind sensitivity to the Holy Spirits leading and guidance. Throughout your set list you should have prepared a few moments in support of your song-selection to read scriptures, share thoughts of inspiration or stories to help draw your audience in, engaging them with the message in the songs. Ultimately ones goal should be to take the congregation to a deeper place of worship than they have experienced before.
Before you meet with your team:
Take time yourself to go through the songs, figure out keys, make sure your songs transition well together and you have a sense of flow. I never go to the next level of rehearsal with the team until I have done this first on my own. When you do this, you may find a song sticks out like a sore thumb, or the key to a song isn't quite right from the last time you did it… whatever the case may be your going to go into your rehearsal with your team that much more prepared!
Have a mid-week Rehearsal with your Worship Team:
I know this may sound like a no brainer, but it happens all the time in churches. With a midweek rehearsal your level of excellence will skyrocket and Sunday mornings will no longer be the mad rush to get the worship practice done before people begin to arrive for Sunday morning service. Sunday morning rehearsal then becomes a touch up for any struggling areas from your midweek rehearsal, you and your team will have more confidence that you did your part to be ready as a team!
Incentive for commitment to midweek rehearsal:
If a mid-week rehearsal is new for your team you may want to hold off on this next point till your team is used to taking the time from their schedules for this. But for churches that are currently doing a mid-week rehearsal and your having difficulty getting people to commit, the best way to get them to commit is to have a rule that if you don't show up for midweek practice your not allowed to play or sing that Sunday morning. I've been involved with churches that had this rule and it was very effective on reigning in the loose ends of the worship teams and ultimately gave us a tighter more committed group to work with. Now I understand this may be tougher for smaller churches that depend on a certain few musicians, so you may want to instead change your rehearsal night to fit accordingly but always try your best to get that mid-week rehearsal in if at all possible.
My official musical pet peeve is an instrument that is not tuned properly! To me it is as annoying to have an untuned instrument as it is to have someone singing that is is flat or sharp with their vocal... It throws everything off. You can hope that people won't notice, but people that know nothing about music will be able to tell you when music sounds good or when it sounds bad! They may not be able to pin point what instrument was out of tune or what singer was out of key but they will be able to tell you something went wrong and it didn't sound good!
Continue learning and improving:
Never let yourself feel like you've finally arrived! Always make room for improving your skills and getting better at your craft. Learn a new instrument, get vocal lessons, try writing your own music. Don't allow yourself to get stagnant. (my producer pushed in artistry, songwriting, recording, can always be better)
Open your eyes and connect with the people! Quoting Vicky Beeching: I was trained to lead music in Church with my eyes clamped shut and without saying a single word to the congregation. Allegedly this was to make the music leader ‘invisible’ so I wouldn’t ‘get in the way’ of them connecting with God. Nowadays I think this is simply crazy! God has always used people. The Bible clearly shows this. Paul said “follow me as I follow Christ”. God has always used living people, with faces, names and personalities to lead. I think it’s important when you lead music in Church that you look out at the congregation at least at the start of a song, so that people sense a connection between you and them. Lots of people involved in contemporary Church music like to sing with their eyes shut, often saying it’s because they are personally connecting with God while they sing. But who wants to follow someone they don’t connect with or resonate with? No one. Having your eyes open at the start shows that you are aware of what’s happening in the room, rather than just diving into your own little world with God. Worship leaders need to be pastors and care that everyone in the room is doing ok. You can’t do that unless you are looking. Also, don’t be afraid to smile at people as you start to play.
Don't get in the way of God's leading: Quoting "David Lindner of Headline Worship Leading" In the midst of being ourselves and being the leader the congregation needs us to be, we need to make sure that we don’t get in the way of what God wants to be doing. It’s easy. You practice, you think through the things you would like to say, do and sing differently, and before you know it, the worship set is over and God was merely the music in the restaurant. You knew it was there, but didn’t really pay any attention to it. Listen to the promptings of the Spirit when you’re leading worship. If you feel led to raise your hands, but you don’t normally do that, do it. If you feel led to sing the chorus again, even though you didn’t practice it that way, do it. If you feel led to ask the congregation to close their eyes, or to kneel, or to pray silently, do it. God wants to use you to do amazing things. But, just like He has a vision for you and your life, He has a vision for His church. While you are an important part of that, God is still the reason everyone is gathered there. People have come to connect with an eternal God. Make sure you don’t do anything to keep that from happening.
There are many tools to help make worship leading so much easier, just make sure the site is a reputable website.
Paul Baloche www.leadworship.com
Kari Jobe Worship Teaching http://youtu.be/Fn775PDljhg
Book, The Heart of Worship Files compiled by Matt Redman
Final review on the last "P" PREPARE: A soldier never goes into battle without first being equipped and prepared for his task!