There is one fact about me that my readers who have not met me personally may not know.
I used to lead worship
It is crazy to think that is now a little known fact about me, when only a decade before I couldn’t even imagine myself doing anything else!
The fact is that I am a musician and singer. I have studied music for most of my life and attended a school that specializes in worship-leader training.
Yet for the past 10 years I have led worship only a handful of times and for the past 5 years I have had very little do with music at all.
I don’t know if it was because I was burned out, or if God simply wanted to use me in other areas of ministry…
…but there is one thing that I can see clearer now that I have been disassociated with worship leading for so long.
I used to get very defensive when someone criticized the worship in our church: the music, the style, the quality of musicianship…or modern worship music in general. I took it very personally. Over the years I had picked up a number of canned responses and arguments that I used liberally – and wholeheartedly believed.
Honestly, the past number of years have offered a cleansing of sorts and a re-examination of what my philosophy of worship really is and what I believe the biblical role of worship in the church should be.
This cleansing forced me to revisit those arguments. I took some of them even closer to heart while others I simply stopped using.
3 Philosophies of Worship That I’ve Stopped Believing
1. Exodus 19:16-19 is evidence that God likes loud worship
Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.
And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.”
I have heard this philosophy quite often by many people – not just worship leaders.
This passage in Exodus is part of the story when the Israelites had just left Egypt. God’s desire was to make them a special and unique kingdom of kings and priests. He was calling them to the mountain to consecrate them; but they were so afraid by the thunder and loud trumpets that they refused to meet with Him.
In this instance, on this occasion, He chose to reveal Himself in this way. But it’s not a principle!
Other places and on other occasions God chose to reveal Himself in other ways.
Furthermore, this passage doesn’t have anything at all to do with worship. It has to do with God revealing Himself to His people to consecrate them for service.
In my years of ministry I can definitely say that there have been times when quiet, intimate worship has been quite powerful, while at times loud, thumping music has simply been loud and thumping – and not very inspiring at all.
The volume of music in no way indicates the proportion of anointing that is present.
Quite the contrary.
There is a certain decibel level at which we begin to lose a measure of hearing. Anytime the music stops and your ears begin to ring, you can be certain that you have lost a measure of hearing.
I am of the opinion that it is a sin to subject our congregations to worship at decibel levels that cause them to lose their hearing. That may be a strong statement, but I do not believe that God would lead us to crank up our volume levels and deprive the people of one of their 5 senses just to prove that God is present.
Just leave them at normal levels and let the King of Kings show up and do His work His way.
2. The lack of demonstrative worship reveals a heart that lacks dedication and sincerity
I used to believe that everyone should worship as I do – with gusto! That is, until I married my husband, who is far less demonstrative than I. He has a strong phlegmatic side, and the slightest show of emotion is evidence of a massive combustion going on inside of him.
When I discovered this side of him, something my mom used to say to me came to mind:
Quiet waters run deep
That pretty much sums up my husband.
On the other hand, I have known some who have jumped, danced, wailed and cried on Sunday while Monday through Friday lived very carnal lives.
The same is true for the argument that people jump up and down at ball games and concerts and yet sit like logs on Sunday.
I understand the argument that if people go wild for a ball team or band, they should go just as wild for God. Yet, one can also argue that there are those who react neither at ballgames nor during worship – they are simply not very demonstrative….ever.
I have learned that truly only God knows the heart of man!!
The scripture says that we cannot know our own hearts. If that is true, how can we hope to know the heart of another? The answer is we can’t. And when we pretend we do, we become judgmental.
This is a great trap for worship leaders because we begin to think that audience participation validates our ability to lead worship. We have to reject this lie. And we must remember that what we see or don’t see on people’s expressions may have little to do with what God is doing in their hearts.
3. David used the best musicians in the temple, so we should only use the best musicians for worship.
In 1 Chronicles 25 it refers repeatedly to the sons of Heman as skilled musicians who prophesied on their instruments before the Lord.
I find this passage so very insightful because I believe while many have used it as a foundation for the increased professionalism in today’s worship, it actually lays bare the deception that many have succumbed to.
a) We see that the musicians were separated – consecrated. They were set apart for one service alone – to minister before the Lord in music.
Do we require consecration and sanctification of those who are on our worship teams? Consecration and sanctification should always come first! A worship team does far more than just provide cool music for people to sing along to on Sunday. A worship team – not just the leader – leads the congregation in a procession right into the very presence of God Himself. In order to do so, they must live a life that is set apart. A higher example is expected of them all – every musician, every singer.
b) They prophesied on their instruments.
I fully realize that this statement will cause some to grow nervous because of those who have taken the act of prophesy out of balance. The Hebrew word used in this passage literally means that the Holy Spirit played through them. These were men who understood how to surrender themselves to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to lead them as they played and ministered before the Lord.
This can only occur when we are consecrated for holy service and sanctified in our daily walk with Jesus!
c) They were skilled in their service
I am wholly certain that these “skilled” men knew how to play instruments. But I am even more certain that they were skilled in sensing the direction of the Spirit and living lives that were holy as He is holy!
Obviously some level of musical training is necessary for those leading the congregation into worship. But equally important – perhaps even more important – is a spiritual life that is fully consecrated to the Lord and a musician’s / singer’s ability to allow the Holy Spirit to minister through them.
I wish I knew then what I know now about worship leading. I believe it would have protected me from the judgmental, cynical and snobbish attitudes that I displayed. Because these 3 philosophies that I have stopped believing are philosophies that built walls between me and the congregation.
They are philosophies that argued, “You’re just complaining too much”
They are philosophies that boasted, “I know you’re heart better than you do”
They are philosophies that said, “You’re not good enough for my very special team of professionals”
I hope and pray that if I ever get a chance to lead another worship team, I will build philosophies that invite people into God’s presence, not build walls between them and the altar!