Be a Worship Leader

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By Nate Champneys

There are a lot of “Christianese” words that get thrown around within the Church. Some of these words are very frustrating because the true meanings and the normal definitions of these words are two different things or are, at minimum, incomplete. Take the word “worship” for example. We use this word a lot in the context of group singing during our services, and so the word “worship” has almost become synonymous with “corporate singing.” We know, however, that worship is a blanket term referring to “declaring worth” of something or someone, and we use it in the context of declaring worth to God. We also know that this is more than singing on a Sunday morning; it includes every aspect of our lives.

A word that has become commonplace in our church culture is the term, “Worship Leader.” We generally use this term to refer to the person on stage on Sunday morning who is in charge. The longer I have been a staff worship leader though, the more this term makes me uneasy. I lead week after week after week, but I have come to realize that I don’t have nearly as much power to lead people as someone sitting in the front row of the seats (or the back row for that matter). What I mean is that I think people are more influenced by other people in the congregation than they are by the people on the platform. This has led me to ask the question, “Who is actually leading?” Many Sundays I’ve watched from the platform as we as the “leaders” are very expressive in our praise while people in the seats are not. I have also watched a single person in the congregation who stands and raises their hands be the first of a wave moving through the congregation.

I have come to realize that everyone is a leader and a follower at the same time. As human beings it is our nature to look around at what everyone else is doing and follow suit, while at the same time everyone is looking at you as well. I once was leading morning worship (there’s that term again), and watched a woman who was new to the congregation sitting a few rows back with her eyes closed, and her hands raised. Throughout the whole song set, she was very expressive. This was in a church that was from the Dutch Reformed background and was typically not very “open” in expression of worship. This Sunday, however, was different. I watched as many people through the service seemed to become more expressive. I went up to her afterword and said, “Thank you for leading worship this morning.” I told her that I knew she hadn’t been doing it for a thank you, but for the praise and glory of God. Yet when people in the congregation express praise to God, it is contagious.

What you do affects others. Period. I want to give you a charge: be a worship leader. You don’t have to be up on the platform to lead people. Do you want to bring God glory? Do you want to point people to Him? It’s really simple. Recognize that people are following you. I’m not talking about putting on a show for others. I am talking about authentic worship with the understanding that people are going to follow you either way. Are you going to lead them closer to Jesus, or farther away?

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Disneyland Radio

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By Nate Champneys

Think about the most difficult thing you have ever had to endure: A divorce, the death of a loved one, a season of unemployment, or worse. Did you feel you could talk to God about it? When you came to church, did you feel connected to God by the worship? Or did you feel disconnected and alone?

The reason I ask these questions is that something has been bothering me for awhile. Last year I used many Psalms as the basis for worship themes, and one thing I noticed is the large number of laments in the Psalms. Literally 70 percent of the Psalms contain lamenting (or mourning) language. I decided I wanted to do a service on lamenting, and I was very surprised to find that there are very, very few worship songs that are laments.

This brought me to take a closer look at the Church in general in this area. As I listened to Christian radio, I couldn’t help but feel a disconnect. Over and over I heard the words, “positive and uplifting” or “uplifting and kid-safe.” I felt like I was listening to Disneyland Radio because it was “happy all the time.” As I tried to think of regularly used worship songs in the church that are laments, I only needed one hand to count. I thought about my own planning of services and the lack of laments.

But if 70 percent of the Psalms are laments, that should tell us something about life and how hard it is. David, the one man in history who is referred to as “a man after God’s own heart” said to God, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13). And it’s not just Psalm 13 which speaks like this — it’s literally 70 percent of the Psalms!

This should tell us something: It is okay to be weak. It is okay to not have it all put together. It is okay to cry out to God. It is okay to be so upset that you feel like you can’t even pray. In Psalm 77, David talks about being so upset he cannot speak. Have you ever been there? I know I have.

When you look at the life of David, it is clear that very few men have had such a close relationship with God. What characterizes David’s relationship with God? Brutal honesty. David tells God exactly how he feels. He tells God when he feels alone. He tells God when he feels like God has turned His back on him.

But there is one other thing that characterizes David’s relationship with God. While being brutally honest with God in how he felt, he always moved on to remembering the faithfulness of God. Psalm 77 is a perfect example of this. David spends the first half of the chapter crying out to God in his distress, but in verse 10 the whole chapter shifts. He then says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles long ago.” David continues on to list off the amazing things God had done in the history of His people.

This life can be brutal and it’s okay to be weak. It’s okay to weep. It’s okay to be upset, and it’s okay to tell God exactly how you feel. That is exactly what He wants from us. It’s okay for a time, as long as that is not where we stay. We also need to remember. We need to do what David did over and over in the Psalms: Lament, weep, and cry out to God, but then take time to remember His faithfulness.

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Time alone with God

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by Brian Waple

“Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12, NRSV) One of the things that really strikes me about Jesus is that it was crucial for him to spend time alone with his Father. I think he did this for a couple of reasons. With all the time spent giving to others, he needed space to withdraw and be refreshed. And, he needed that one on one time with his source of renewal and inspiration. “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19, NRSV)

As we learn to grow in more intimate relationship with God, we find that we long for those times of solitude where we can be inspired and renewed by what the Father is doing. Like Jesus, we must take time to withdraw from the demands of our busy lives and focus our attention on being attentive to God’s presence. It is only when we can remove ourselves from the distractions of life that we are able to present ourselves fully to God. And as we make ourselves more and more available to Him, we bring Him glory.

So, if you can, set aside some time during your day to spend alone with the Father. Maybe it means taking a short walk during lunch, or turning off the car radio on your way home. If you’re home during the day, perhaps you have a special place where you can sit quietly for a few minutes. Whatever you can do, offer that precious time up to the Father. And cherish it as your own time of renewal and inspiration.

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Beauty

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by Jeff Foerster

Reading in the book of Exodus I came upon preparations for the tabernacle: tools and implements, rings and curtains, tables and altars. Intricate instruction and specific detail laid out by the Lord, to Moses, for its construction and operation. In the midst of this I found, “You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.”

I was caught by the latter half. I read on, but it wasn’t finished with me. By the end of chapter 28 there it was again: “…for glory and for beauty.” Like the knockout punch in a bare-knuckle brawl, I couldn’t shake off its effect. Beauty. Huh? In my ignorant mind most of the description read more like a manual than something befitting of that word. Why “beauty” amongst all the many details written in the book of Exodus?

True, God is concerned with glorifying Himself, and rightly so. I get this. Glory is due our great God. Mighty in power. Absolute in purity. Wholly righteous and just. Perfect in every way. But … what is this “beauty” thing? What does it do? How does it work with justification, propitiation, and expiation? How does it promote, enable, or further sanctification?

Beauty.

I sat with this for a time.

In all the grind and grit of life beauty can get lost. But beauty is as much a part of who God is as His power, His purity, His perfection. I think Moses understood this when he petitioned God: “… show me Your glory!” Moses wanted more of God. He wanted to bask in the presence of the Almighty. Moses wanted to be surrounded with God’s beauty.

I myself see God’s beauty in Revelation 3 and 4. The Lord of Heaven and Earth promises me (and you too, Christian) that I will not only be in His presence, but that I will be granted the right to sit upon the throne with Jesus! Wow!! If you don’t have in mind what this means, read Revelation 4:1-11.

Some of you see beauty through Jesus’ sacrifice in spite of the horror and shame of the cross. Look. Look deeply. Delve into the word and seek out the beauty of God.

All the bits and pieces of beauty we have around us in this life are a sampling, a precursor, a mere aroma of the glorious beauty we have in our Savior Jesus Christ. I think the Westminster Catechism gets it right when identifying the chief end of man: to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever. This, is the essence of beauty.

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