The Praise and Worship Pathway
Man was created to live and breathe in an atmosphere of praise-filled worship to his Creator. But sin came in and severed this bond of blessing through obedience, and introduced self-centredness and self-pity and complaint. But now has come salvation through Christ, and upon receiving him as Saviour we are called to a daily living of prayer and the word, for fellowship and wisdom in living. But our daily approach to God in communion is to be paved with praise.
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise” (Ps 100:4).
“With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6).
Such a walk of praise-filled openness to him will cultivate deep devotion, faithful obedience, and constant joy, as well as giving a life-delivering power to each believer.
- Praise is the pathway to God’s presence – Ps 22:3+4
- Praise brings victory to our lives – 2 Chron 20:15-22
- Praise in unity brings power – 2 Chron 5:13+14
- Praise springs open prison doors – Acts 16:25+26
The individual or church that lives in an atmosphere of praise and worship sees God at work in a new dynamic way. It is necessary for us all to realize that to lead communal worship or to take part in worship we ourselves must be living a life of praise. Real worship is not just singing choruses on a Sunday at church to God. It goes far beyond that …
‘God is trying to call us back to that for which He has created us, to worship Him and to enjoy Him forever’ (A W Tozer).
‘Let us beware of the danger of attempting to renew our forms of worship when our daily lives are evidence that our bodies are not offered up on the altar as a living sacrifice’ (Graham Kendrick).
The words ‘real worship’ implicitly suggest that there is such a thing as unreal worship. For most of us they evoke a series of impressions drawn from our personal experiences of individual and corporate worship, from our own private devotions to large charismatic celebrations. Chris Bowater lists four points which encapsulate the dangers inherent in the church’s current renewal of forms of worship.
Four Dangers in Charismatic Worship
- Worship that is merely a response to atmosphere:
‘Worship that depends on the externals for existence is not real worship at all; true worship is what you have left when the externals are taken away’ (Graham Kendrick).
- ‘Play Church Mentality’: an attitude of programme filling where there is plenty of form but little power.
- Worshipping Worship: into the latest songs, but not taken up with God.
- Unreality: a failure to take off the masks and be real. Worship involves the burning up of pretense.
Vital and creative music and singing has become a defining feature of charismatic worship. Yet beneath the new stream of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, beneath the fads and fashions, there is a scriptural foundation for worship that transcends superficiality, habit and mere external form.
‘Singing slow songs is not worship, although some song-leaders seem to feel that the difference between praise and worship is the tempo used in singing …. Failure to recognize this leads congregations into confusion. If we say that music is worship, we will devastate those who are not ‘musical’; we will rule out the great portions of our congregations who have little musical skill and will direct them to seek to worship by identification with those who can exhibit musical abilities. But worship by identification is an impossibility. Worship demands participation. Sitting in the pew listening to the music is not a worship experience. Worship requires an involvement of persons with their God’. (Judson Cornwall)
Worship is for God
God has a desire to meet and talk with us. Worship satisfies His heart – this is part of the mystery of God.
- It is His WORTH – Rev 4:11
- It is His DESIRE – Ps 45:10-11; Eph 3:11-12
- It is His PLAN – 2 Kings 17:35-36; Ps 8:2
The Universe Worships
The whole world is filled with things that glorify God.
Angels worship Him in heaven (Rev 5:11-12).
All creation worships Him (Psalm 19:1).
God seeks our worship today, just as He called out for Adam and Eve’s fellowship.
Psalm 8 reminds us of what we are, and what God has made us. He has crowned us with glory and honour.
So, we need to worship God. We were made for that purpose and are happiest when we respond to that need.
Definition: Worship – WORTH – SHIP (Old English word origin).
Worship is for Us
‘As the deer pants for the water
So my soul longs after you;
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship you’.
The Psalmist uses the image of thirst to describe the human need and desire to fellowship with God. Jesus spoke to the woman in John 4 of His ‘living water’ which would fully satisfy. Both illustrate that without Him the basic needs of man’s heart cannot be met.
Let us see what guidelines scripture gives concerning the heart of worship –
‘Worship starts with ownership of the body’ (Graham Kendrick).
The definition of real worship:
“offer your bodies”
“a living sacrifice”
“holy and pleasing to God”.
Passages such as these and the following passage from John suggest that there is a cost involved in worship.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth”. (Jn 4:23-24)
In response to the Samaritan woman’s disputation as to the place and style of ‘true’ worship, Jesus sets the Father’s standard –
“worship the Father”
Firstly, true worshippers have a real, personal relationship with God as Father. They are sons and respond to His love accordingly.
‘Worship will be great or feeble according to our view of God’ (Jo King)
The real dynamic of our personal life and our corporate meetings is to be the Holy Spirit. His presence is to direct our gathering together. We are to flow in the spirit, not run on empty.
1 Cor 6:19 Body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Under the new covenant, we are to be a place of worship.
The dynamic between the believer’s own spirit (which can praise, proclaim and edify) and the Holy Spirit (which overwhelms and lifts us up). Hence Paul and Silas could praise and sing in prison (Acts 16:25).
Dependent on the truths of relationship – not changing, fluctuating feelings, circumstances or external components.
Worship also in the light of revealed truth – what God is saying to us.
Reality v Ritual
‘I sincerely believe that the transforming experience Paul wrote about (in Romans 12 and 2 Cor 3:18) is the result of the right kind of personal and corporate worship. We have tried everything else. Now is the time that we returned to God’s way and tried worship’. (Warren Wiersbe)
To worship in the light of truth we must recognize:-
(1) The truth about God
- His nature – Creator, Father, Provider, King, Deliverer
- Become ‘God-conscious’ not self-conscious
- Beware a God that is ‘too small’
(2) The truth about myself
- I have access (Romans 5)
- I am accepted
- I am delightful to God
(3) The truth about God’s purposes
- God acts
- God has plans and advances them
In coming to church we gather together for:
- Encouragement and edification
- Witness and testimony
- To hear the Word – teaching and preaching
The more we come together, prepared to fulfil our biblical purpose in corporate worship, the more God will infuse our congregational worship with His presence and power.
‘As a leader, you can take the people only where you have already been. Your ability to ‘lead worship’ will be proportionate to the reality of your own worship life. If you find it impossible to ‘press in’ on God, really to draw close to Him, how can you expect to encourage those who are looking to you for leadership?’ (Chris Bowater)
In many ways, the concept of a worship leader is a contemporary one. The term has gained much prominence within churches associated with the Charismatic Renewal. Prominent and able musicians, raised by God into positions of national and international leadership, have redirected our attention to biblical principles concerning worship and church life.
One of these leaders, himself now a pastor, describes leading worship as follows:-
‘The first thing I had to learn about leading worship was that the worship leader is not there to perform and draw attention to himself, but like a good conductor he will seek to give a lead as unobtrusively as possible. The ministry of the worship leader is not mentioned in any of the lists of ministries in the New Testament, but it is possible that Paul had this ministry in mind, among others, when he says in Romans 12:8 that he who leads should do so with diligence. The Greek word for ‘leads’ here is pro-istamenos which means ‘to stand before’. The role of the worship leader is to stand before the meeting to help and guide the worship’. (Dave Fellingham – Worship Restored)
The suggestion here is that the worship leader has a distinctive role. He or she is not just accidentally, by default or habit, the one leading singing or the whole meeting, but one appointed to ‘point people God-ward’; with the people to enter into the presence of God.
The Qualities of a Worship Leader
‘The most effective way to lead worship is to be a worshipper’ (Dave Fellingham)
‘When God speaks through someone it is because He is working in them’ (Jo King)
Be a Worshipper (Rom 12:1)
Preparation for a Worship / Praise Meeting
We often waste so much time using the opening of a meeting/gathering to ‘get right with God’, to ‘tune in’. Worshippers should come ready to worship, prepared. Full not empty.
- Come with clean hands and a pure heart. In repentance. (Ps 24:4)
- Subject the heart, mind and will – concentrate on Him (Matt 22:37-40)
‘Worship isn’t just a Spectator Sport’.
We come together to share in worship. To celebrate ‘a new social order’ (Graham Kendrick) and to affirm and celebrate communality (Col 3:11-17).
To build each other up (1 Cor 14:26).
Come prepared to give and to contribute (1 Cor 14).
Prayer (Eph 6:18)
- Seek direction from God first.
- Pray together with musicians, singers, other leaders.
- Pray ‘on all occasions’ – during the meeting ‘keep the lines open’.
- Consult with pastor/elder/preacher to learn the theme of the sermon and/or general themes God has laid on their hearts.
- Be responsive to the plans other leaders have for the meeting.
- Develop a programme/list of songs for yourself and other participants.
- Prepare scripture readings which can complement the songs.
- Provide necessary equipment: OHP, acetates, copies of music, words for singers and musicians.
- Remember poor preparation results from too little practice and too little prayer.
- Determine an appropriate amount of practice for your group.
- Meet regularly.
- Set clear goals for each practice (eg one new song, all songs for Sunday).
- Stress commitment and shared responsibility.
Practice ways of playing/leading/singing relevant to the actual form and content of the meetings. You will need to practice such things as:
- Keys and key changes
- Order and variety of instruments playing (who plays when)
- Improvisation and spontaneity
- Use of amplification – electronic instruments, microphones for leader and singers
- Using multiple/various songbooks
It is important to practice in ways which most clearly reproduce what actually happens in the meetings.
In the Meeting
Having prepared both spiritually and practically, the worship leader begins the meeting, setting sail on the course to which God has directed him. However, it is essential that he remain sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Do not be afraid to abandon your planned route, your next song, reading or exhortation as the Holy Spirit directs and flows in fresh and unexpected ways.
There must be a willing surrender of your plans to the spontaneous working of the Holy Spirit. This is not abandoning responsibility, but allowing the Holy Spirit to confirm and direct you in accordance with the particular needs of the situation.
At this stage, the Holy Spirit multiplies and shapes what has been prayerfully prepared.
It helps here if the worship leader keeps in mind the following aims:-
- To minister to God
- To motivate the people to praise
- To help the people hear from God
- To allow time for people to share what God is doing/saying
- To help the people respond to what God is saying
- To minister to each other
- To instruct and correct
- To prepare people for the preaching