In a previous post, “If Worship Is About Him, Why Does He Make It About Us?” we considered the heart behind God’s desire for our gatherings to build up His people. This understanding should have an impact on what we do as worship leaders.
Worship leaders, what builds up God’s people? Musical skill? Well crafted lyrics? Soaring melodies? “Phat” synth sounds? Winning personalities? Deep knowledge of Scripture? I’m not going to tell you these don’t matter because, honestly, I believe they do. However, there’s one “thing” that is more effective at building up God’s people than these things (and more) combined. I’m referring to the presence of God.
There is absolutely nothing that will or can build up God’s people like His presence. And I’m not referring to that awesome reality that we call His omnipresence (i.e. His “everywhere-ness”). I am referring to the “where two or three are gathered in my name-book of Acts-experienceable (yes that’s a word)” presence of God. I am talking about His discernible presence or as it’s commonly called, the “manifest” presence of God.
Every “tool” employed in worship leadership, including those “phat” synth sounds, is deemed precious or worthless by the answer to one question: “Does it help others encounter His presence?”
As true as this idea may sound or feel, if it’s not Scriptural we need to move on in our search of what’s most effective at building up His people. Does Scripture bear witness to this?
Yes, and it does so loudly! From cover to cover there are examples of the effect that God’s manifest presence has on us but since we’ve already settled nicely into 1 Corinthians in previous posts, we’ll stay here.
In 1 Corinthians 12-14 the apostle Paul writes about different spiritual gifts. He says these gifts are given to individuals “for the common good” (12:7) or, as he puts it later, “for building up” (14:26). These gifts are essential to building up the church.
What do spiritual gifts have to do with God’s presence? Everything. They have so much to do with God’s presence that in two places Paul equates them with it. He does so once in chapter 12, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit (i.e. spiritual gifts) for the common good” (v.7). The second is in chapter 14, “Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit (i.e. spiritual gifts), strive to excel in building up the church” (v. 12). Paul uses the phrase “the manifestation of the Spirit” as a synonym for “spiritual gifts.” A “manifestation of the Spirit” (i.e. the manifest presence of God) is anything that God does, often through a human, that brings His presence within the realm of human experience.
God’s manifest presence was His plan for building up His church in the first century and it still is today. God intends for His spiritual gifts (i.e. manifestations of the Spirit) to be active in our gatherings today. They are essential to our being built up.
As worship leaders, we must be aware of this and to the extent that we are able, make room for them in our worship. How it looks exactly will be different in every church and context.
Worship leaders, let us take to heart Paul’s admonition in chapter 14 verse 12, and strive for these manifestations of God’s presence so that His church might be built up.
The ability to create worship environments that are conducive to people encountering God’s presence, is the absolute single most important skill of a worship leader.