Satan: The Disputed Worship Leader

You might have heard this narrative taught before: Satan was an exceptional angelic being who once was only second to God himself. Even more, in his angelic role, he was the great worship leader of heaven. Unfortunately, due to a swelling of pride, he desired to rise up and be exalted over all, even organizing an attempt at usurping the throne of God. Thus, he lost his place in heaven, along with a third of the other angels who joined his side, with them all being hurled from heaven to earth.

That’s the general framework of the story we’re taught.

But is this the best storyline for Satan? And was he actually the great heavenly worship leader so many imagine? Continue reading

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An Open Letter to Praise Bands

worship_community_copy_260181416I’ve mentioned a few times my appreciation of philosopher-theologian, James K.A. Smith (or Jamie Smith). His book on understanding the positives (yes, the positives!) of postmodernism, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism, was my introduction to his books. And I’m currently reading his work, Desiring the Kingdom.

I was recently reminded of an article of Smith’s posted 15 months ago entitled, An Open Letter to Praise Bands. This approach – An Open Letter to… – is not uncommon in the blogging world for those wanting to address a particular concern. And, so, Smith offered some reminders to worship teams, praise bands and musicians that might be worth considering as we, the corporate local church, gather together for worship. Continue reading

Four Questions For Worship Leaders

As a musician and worship leader myself, I regularly look to give input into our music team and worship leaders at Cornerstone. Recently, I have been emphasising these four questions with our worship leaders as very important to ask as we lead both the music team and the congregation.

1) How is your intimacy in your own worship?

One thing I am very convinced of is that one cannot lead others where they have not been themselves. Of course, God is sovereign and can do as He so pleases. But it is much more difficult to lead people where we have yet been.

And so, we need to be intimately relating with our Lover, for we are His beloved. This is not so much about programmed quiet times or reading a certain amount of Scripture and praying a certain amount of time, though those things are not bad. But can you imagine a husband and wife always approaching one another in a programmed way? It would not work very well. The two typically want to simply be with one another, listen, talk, laugh, etc. And it usually is very spontaneous instead of programmed. Yes, study the Word. Yes, have specific prayer focus. But also be spontaneously and freely intimate with Him.

One way to grow in this as musicians and worship leaders is with our own instruments and voices. We are told in 1 Samuel 16:16 that David was ‘a man who is skillful in playing the lyre’. The word for skillful in the original Hebrew is yada, which refers to being knowledgeable and acquainted with. David knew his instrument with intimacy. Hence, why this man was able to intimately worship Yahweh.

We are called to worship God as intimate lovers. It is our great privilege. And our intimacy can be expressed through music and voice, whether on the guitar, with the piano, with a snare drum, with the voice, or with a CD on in the background.

2) Are you leading the team and the people?

As leaders, we have a responsibility to lead. It sounds simple, but we have to lead. Of course we need to guard against acting as Levitical priests completely responsible for administering the presence of God to people. Some churches lean too far that way. We are all called to maturity. But, in our worship leading, we are called to serve both our musicians and the congregation by leading them. Leading is an opportunity to serve.

So, practically, we can lead with hand signals and with specific statements into the microphone for all to hear. Sheep like to be led, and so we have a great opportunity to lead. All the while, we are challenged to know the leading of God’s Spirit and to remain humble, especially steering clear of any manipulation in our worship gatherings.

3) How are the transitions between songs?

For some inexperienced teams, there might be a lack of wisdom of how to transition between songs, both musically and from a Spirit-led perspective. Hence, there might be a lot of complete stops with no smooth flow from one song into another. Of course, there is no legalism here. But solid flow between songs, however that might look in varying situations, can help maintain a corporate focus of worship.

Remember, leading worship is an opportunity to serve the body. And what might seem like a small thing as transition between songs can go a long way in serving the body. Can you imagine how helpful it would be if the congregation is in a deep place of worship and the music team transfers nice and smoothly from one song to the next? Now imagine the opposite? Though a smooth transition might go unnoticed by many who are not musicians, it will definitely be a blessing and help to the corporate gathering, even if that blessings lies in the background.

Of course, there will be times when it is appropriate to completely stop at the end of a song. Such scenarios might be: 1) a big ending to a song of celebration, 2) a needed time of stillness and silence to hear God or 3) a possible key change that does not flow well between one song to the next and so we end the song before beginning the next one. But this, too, is all part of considering smooth and helpful transitions between songs. A small practical aspect that can make a big difference.

4) What is God currently stirring and speaking to the church?

This is very paramount as leaders, whether one is involved in preaching-teaching the Word, leading worship, inviting the congregation to take of the bread and wine, to whatever aspect of leading within the corporate gathering. We definitely need to be aware of what God is currently saying and stirring.

So, for worship leaders, as songs are chosen, our great goal is not to choose our favourite songs or the newest song, though maybe such will connect into what God is already doing. But we need to learn to hear God. We must guard against being over-burdened with this responsibility. We serve a wise and sovereign God. Nevertheless, as leaders, we need to be regularly asking what God is currently stirring and saying.

What a blessing the simple choosing of songs can be as it links directly in to what God is particularly stirring within the larger context of the body.

Here we have an awesome opportunity – the love-worship relationship with our Father. And what a sobering responsibility – learning to lead the people of God in our corporate gatherings. I am grateful that our God is the initiator of the worship relationship. And I am grateful that God Himself is very interested in helping us grow as leaders in the corporate worship setting.