Thursday, November 01, 2007
Lead From the Shadows
My friend James wrote a blog a couple weeks ago and as I woke up this morning I found myself thinking about the subject of worship all over again. As an Elder, musician and worship leader, he has the right to comment on this, and insight as well. In his blog he noted the seeming famine of worship songs being written that are singable in the worshiping community. (http://tpcworship.blogspot.com/2007/10/modern-worship.html) We enjoy some very creative music these days and there’s no question that much of it leads me to a place of personal worship. James seemed to imply that there is a critical need for worship leaders who use their gifts to create music that is less about their personal journey, and more about our corporate journey as God's people. Agreed. We need more music written with God in focus and the congregation in mind. We need a revival of the joy of the journey as God’s people, in the style that makes worship easily intelligible to non-musicians - if I understood his point.
My partial response to him at the time was that “worship is a language and if it's not intelligible in the congregation, then it might be just a concert. We need more worship leaders with this desire. Leaders are to lead someone for crying out loud. The criteria can no longer be 'well is feels good to me.' If that's the case, with St. Paul I say, 'you're edifying yourself all right, but the body doesn't understand, and gifts of the Spirit are for the body.' Please, more worship, less concerts!!”
Though that may sound somewhat critical of certain worship leaders out there these days, my point, though not to be critical, was hortatory. Seventeen years ago I entered pastoral ministry “from the choir loft.” I grew up as a musician and vocal leader and learned by doing it wrong in many cases. I did learn that as a worship leader my job is NOT to show my finer vocal points, or gain a following for myself in subtle ways. That is to rob God of His rightful attention. My job before God was and is to lead His people to focus on Him; to love him and respond to His grace, mercy and provision in the language of worship - in community. Not that I’ve got this down whatsoever(!) but John the Immerser sure had it right: “I must decrease and He must increase.” This is to be the vision and high calling of every worship leader.
We’ve got to reclaim the importance of corporate worship in our individualistic society. Biblical Christianity is to be a "team sport." God is the only true Superstar. Therefore, we need to recapture the awesome responsibility as leaders – though we may be actually in the front – to lead from the shadows and take others with us in concert of praise when we gather.