3 Things Incredibly Effective Worship Leaders Do

One of my deepest desires as a worship leader is that others would find it easy, effortless even, to encounter God in the worship environments I create.  The following are 3 things worship leaders can do, by the grace of God, to help others more easily encounter God in worship.

1. AWAKEN HUNGER.

It was the thirsty Jesus invited to come and drink (John 7:37).  It is those who hunger and thirst for righteousness that will be filled (Matthew 5:6).  Hunger is essential if we want to encounter God.  However, it’s not just hunger that’s required, it’s conscious hunger.

Jesus’ grievance with the Laodicean church in Revelation 3 wasn’t that they weren’t hungry but that they weren’t conscious of their hunger.  They were starving to death but by binging on “worldly junk food” they had convinced themselves they were full!

We are all hungry for God’s presence but we aren’t always conscious of it.  Here are a couple ways we can awaken hunger in ourselves and in those we lead.

Pray for it.  Conscious spiritual hunger is a gift from God that we can ask for.  Pray for your spiritual community that the Father would awaken hunger.  Ask Him to show them (yourself included!) their true state.

How many times did you think you weren’t hungry until you saw someone else eating?  The mere sight and smell of food awakened your body to its true state.  Likewise, spiritual hunger can be awakened by the sight and aroma of true spiritual food.

Declaring the hunger-satisfying attributes of God in our prayers, declarations, and songs can awaken hearts to hunger in worship as we lead.

2. INCREASE FAITH.

Scripture makes it clear that, in general, faith is prerequisite to encountering God.  Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the case where Jesus returned to his hometown.  Mark 6:5 records that because of the corporate unbelief, “he could do no mighty work there.”

Conscious hunger is not enough.  We must have faith as well.  If the starving man is ignorant of the lavish banquet spread out for him in the other room, he will go on hungry.

One of our jobs as worship leaders is simply calling attention to the feast that’s been laid out for God’s hungry people.  Here are a few ways we can do this.

“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  According to Romans 10:17, God’s word is one of the primary instruments He uses to kindle faith in human hearts.  Therefore, it behooves us as worship leaders to fill our corporate worship times with the truth of His word.

Similar to the patriarch Jacob who said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it” (Gen. 28:17) we are susceptible to going unawares when His presence is at hand.  One of the most powerful things a worship leader can do is look others in the eye and declare that God is in the very room and He’s here to speak and engage with us.

For one, this declaration is always true anytime Jesus followers are gathered together in His name (Matt. 18:20).  Secondly, this declaration can increase faith in the room for what God wants to do, thus, positioning our hearts to receive.

3. RESTORE CONFIDENCE.

As essential as conscious hunger and faith are to meeting with God, sometimes these two are not enough.  If our starving friend from the earlier example is aware of both his hunger and the lavish banquet in the other room, his feelings of unworthiness could prevent him from approaching the table.

The author of Hebrews was cognizant of this and wrote, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16).

Often God’s people need to have their confidence restored before they can run into the throne room and climb into Daddy’s lap.  More often than not their lack of confidence is based on a lie.  After all, we have an accuser who does not relent 24/7 (Rev. 12:10).

As worship leaders, we often need to remind our fellow brothers and sisters that our confidence to enter the holy place is not based on how we did last week but on how Jesus did 2000 years ago when he shed His blood for us.  “We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19).

Awaken hunger, increase faith and restore confidence.  I encourage you to make a conscious effort to do one of these things the next time you are privileged to lead God’s people in worship.  And let me know how it goes!

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Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Satan’s Oldest Trick In the Book

Isn’t nature fascinating?  Along with millions of others, my wife and I love watching the Planet Earth series.  We feel so moved to worship by the display of God’s creativity, wisdom and power.

A particular phenomenon in nature that has always intrigued me is mimicry.  Simply put, this is when one organism mimics another in appearance or behavior in order to ensure it’s survival.

The classic example of an organism that depends on mimicry for survival is the walking stick.  Another example is the harmless milk snake that mimics the appearance of the venomous coral snake.   Whether the goal is to go unnoticed like the walking stick or appear dangerous like the milk snake, the end goal is protection and survival.  Mimicry is pretty effective.

It’s interesting to me that the phenomenon of mimicry is not isolated to the animal kingdom but can be seen in the “spiritual kingdom” as well.  Matter of fact, you could say that mimicry is Satan’s oldest trick in the book.  Literally.

Satan is first introduced in the human narrative in Genesis 3.  How did he first appear to Eve?  As a force of darkness (Eph. 6:12)?  A devouring lion (1 Pet. 5:8)?  Certainly not.  He appeared to Eve as a concerned citizen.  He disguised himself as one of God creatures and seemed to be truly concerned for Eve’s wellbeing.  Like a contemporary Life Coach, he appeared to really want to help Eve reach her full potential and fulfillment.

Similar to the many animals that depend on mimicry for survival, Satan depended on his ability to appear as something other than he was in order to protect and propagate his agenda of death and destruction.  Unfortunately for the human race, he was successful.

Someone once said that instead of telling Adam and Eve not to eat the apple, God should have told them not to eat the snake.  Think about it.

Not only was mimicry Satan’s strategy that day in the garden, but it seems to be his modus operandi to this day.  In Paul’s attempt to expose the agents of Satan who had infiltrated the Corinthian community by disguising themselves as apostles, he reminds them that Satan often mimics an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

This should concern anyone who is serious about following Jesus.  The most dangerous enemy is the one we can’t see.  Like Paul, we want to be fully aware of our enemies schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11).  There is far too much at stake.

Here is a short list of ways I’ve observed in my own life the enemy’s mimicry:

There is a fear that takes on the appearance of sound wisdom, a denial that takes the form of faith, a tolerance of sin that disguises as love and acceptance, an insecurity that disguises as a defender of truth, a self-righteousness that disguises as holiness, a fear of rejection that takes the form of open-mindedness among others who don’t share our beliefs…

The danger is that we will staunchly defend these demons in our lives.

Lest this post incites a navel-gazing “witch hunt” within any of its readers, I leave you with this:  Jesus is more committed to exposing Satan’s mimicry in our lives than we are.  He is super good at it.  Like Paul (1 Corinthians 4:3-5), I’ve realized how horrible I am at judging myself and have decided to leave it up to Jesus.  However, let’s ask him to expose every demonically inspired belief or practice that has disguised itself in us.

Worship Is Only As Powerful As It Is True

I love corporate worship.  There’s nothing like it.  It’s where the hearts of God and His beloved converge.  Where Creator and created meet, Wholeness and brokenness collide, thirst and Everlasting Fulfillment come together and so on.

It’s so much more than a nice time of singing.  Don’t you long for the day when worship on earth better resembles the worship in heaven:  lightning, thunder, brilliant lights, fire, awe-mingled intimacy, unreserved abandon (Revelation 4)…?  I know I do.

There are many reasons why corporate worship is so powerful.  One of the prominent reasons is the Holy Spirit’s love of and commitment to truth.  A number of times Jesus referred to Him as the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17).  The New Testament’s description of the Holy Spirit’s ministry and activity could be summarized in these words: revealing and confirming truth with power.

John 14-16 undoubtedly contains more teaching on the Holy Spirit’s ministry than any other part of Scripture.  In this section we find statements like, “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (14:26),” “He will bear witness about me (15:26),” “He will convict the world (16:8),” “He will guide you into all truth (16:13),” “He will take what is mine and declare it to you (16:14).”

Aren’t you thankful for Him?  I love the Holy Spirit so much.  The only reason the Church has lasted thousands of years after Jesus’ ascension is that He didn’t leave us as orphans, but came to us through the person of the Spirit (John 14:18).

Not only does the Holy Spirit reveal and confirm the truth, but He does so with power.  He does this in two ways: internally and externally.

When He reveals and confirms truth internally, i.e. in our “hearts,” we often refer to it as “revelation” (Eph 1:17) or “conviction” (John 16:8) etc…  A good example of this is when the gathered multitude was “cut to the heart” in response to Peter’s prophetic preaching in Acts 2.  Their response to his message didn’t result from “good reasoning” but from the Holy Spirit confirming the truth in Peter’s message with power in their hearts.

When the Holy Spirit reveals and confirms truth externally, we often refer to it as “signs and wonders” (Acts. 14:3), “miracles,” or “gifts of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12) etc…

The point is this:  Whether edifying the believer or convicting the unbeliever, the Holy Spirit is committed to revealing and confirming truth with His power, both internally and externally.  In a world swirling with different ideas, opinions, beliefs, lies, voices, etc… the confirming power of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that will shine a light on the true path, saying, “This is the way!  Walk in it!”

Back to worship.  There’s power on and in our worship when the Holy Spirit is active among us, revealing and confirming with power the truths we are singing, declaring, and praying.  Corporate worship is the place where doctrine becomes experience.  We believe we are forgiven of sin, but when we come together and sing about the cross and God’s forgiveness, the Holy Spirit releases His power on those truths and we can actually experience forgiveness in our hearts.

Worship is only as powerful as it is true.

Worship leaders, how much truth does the Holy Spirit have to work with in the worship experiences we design?  Is there room for more?

4 Ways “You Can All Prophesy” In Worship

The Apostle Paul makes an incredible statement in the fourteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthian church: “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and be encouraged” (v. 31). Wow. All really does means all.

So, how do we all prophesy when we come together? I’m sure there are hundreds of answers to this question but I’ll share four here.

However, before doing so it may be necessary to explain my use of the word “prophesy” in this post.

The word “prophesy” and it’s derivatives are used hundreds of times in the Bible. The “container” and the “content” of a prophecy in the Bible varies from use to use.

For instance, as far as a prophecy’s “container,” sometimes it’s sung, spoken, written and sometimes even acted out. Sometimes it’s straight prose and other times it’s in poetic form.

As far as “content” goes, sometimes it’s correction, prediction, direction, encouragement, comfort, praise and so on.

Regardless of its “container” or “content,” I believe all prophecy boils down to this: God-inspired communication.

Now on to the four ways we can all prophesy in worship.

1. Sing the Script.

To the extent that our worship songs are full of truth and our hearts are full of faith in those truths, we are prophesying when we sing them.

For instance, if we are singing the words “You are good, good ohhhhh” (John Mark McMillan’s “King of My Heart”) and we’re singing them from hearts that have experienced God’s goodness, it’s prophecy.

Jesus said, “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27). According to Jesus, the only reason we can sing the truth of God’s goodness from hearts that know and believe in His goodness is because Jesus has revealed His goodness to us. Us singing that song is “God-inspired communication.”

Similarly, if we are declaring Jesus’ lordship through a song like “Great Are You Lord” (All Sons and Daughters) from hearts that believe He truly is Lord, we are prophesying. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12:3 that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” In other words, we are incapable of declaring Jesus’ lordship from believing hearts without the Holy Spirit having first revealed this truth us. Thus, “God-inspired communication.”

May this reality spur us worship leaders and songwriters on to ensuring that the worship “scripts” we provide for God’s people are chock-full of God’s truth.

2. Go Off-Roading.

The next way we can prophesy in worship is by occasionally leaving the “beaten path” of the song we’re singing and do a little “off-roading.” As wonderful as worship songs are, I like to think of them as “conversation starters.”

Using our “King of My Heart” example, declaring generalities about God’s goodness is powerful but it’s even more powerful when, in addition to this, we move into a place of declaring specificities of ways we’ve seen His goodness.

We can do this by singing our own words, making declarations etc… The goal is simply to bring the Lord something out of the storehouse of our own hearts.

The book of Psalms is actually a collection of David’s (and it’s other contributors) “off-roading” adventures. Those songs came out of his own heart and in response to his own personal revelations of God. These “adventures” were recognized as prophecies by the apostles and as a matter of fact, no other Old Testament book is quoted more as prophecy in the New Testament. (Someone smarter than me calculated the following: Psalms has 79 quotations & 333 allusions in the NT. Isaiah comes in second with 66 quotations & 348 allusions).

As worship leaders, we can both model this as we lead as well as provide “space” (through vamps, instrumentals, silence…) during our worship times for worshipers to leave the beaten path.

The great thing about these first two ways is that you can do these regardless of what type of worship tradition or context you find yourself in.

3. Dare to Share.

One of my favorite things about small group worship is the opportunity to hear everyone. Prayers, spontaneous songs, scriptures, encouragements, declarations etc… can all be interjected at various times and everyone can hear them and be encouraged.

With a group of 100 or more and a full band with a sound system makes this a bit more difficult and requires a bit more coordination though it is possible.

Next time you are in a small group time of worship, or in a large group time of worship where there’s space for such contributions, and you experience revelations and responses bubbling up within your heart, express your heart to the Lord in a way that others can hear and agree and thus, be encouraged as well.

As worship leaders, we can create space and invite people to pray aloud or share at various times during worship.

“I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the congregation!” (David in Psalm 40:10)

4. Pray for Someone.

A fourth way we can prophesy during the worship portion of our gathering is to ask the Lord to show us someone we can pray for right then and there. Or, just go find someone. Depending on who it is, it might be necessary to ask permission or at least inform them of what you’re about to do.

Just begin by thanking God for them and praying whatever comes to mind. I find that when I take steps of faith like this the Lord meets me with specific Scriptures or “words” to share with them. It can be really quick it doesn’t have to be too long. I can almost guarantee that they’ll be encouraged.

I’m sure there are many other ways we can “all prophesy” in worship but these are a few for you to press into if you aren’t already doing so. Please share additional ways in the comments section if you have some!