Then we went to Egypt and saw the ancient precocity of human civilisation, witnessing incredible structures testament to man's prowess. We delved deep into the styles and traditions of the people, embracing our inner tourist and doing as many activities as we could. The locals were incredibly hospitable, warmly welcoming us into their way of life and teaching us their unique history. It was after immersing ourselves into these two cultures that we entered "the holy land" and spent a week in Israel then 3 days in Jordan.
Having grown up in mostly Australian Pentecostal churches, the Old Testament promises of God's undying love for Israel were just that â an old testament. I didn't learn much about it and when I read it, I gave it little thought. But encountering the promise land and the Jewish people, I now realise that God didn't just forget those promises that he made, He remembers every single one; He dearly loves Israel, the land and the people, He still blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who curse it. It was truly a holy land, and I pray for God's chosen people to know Jesus, realise their birthright and claim His promises.
That was a huge revelation to me and I couldn't write this article without mentioning it, but its not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about some things I learnt mostly on this trip about worship from a musicians perspective.
Any performer knows that to be on stage, one must be fully animated and lively. I think we can learn from that and translate it into the church. When we worship in a modern musical context we have worship leaders on a stage; they are actively leading the congregation in the mechanics of musical worship. I don't think what they are doing is any more profound than what someone in the congregation is doing spiritually, but it is simply a necessary practicality in the natural for the maintenance of order as a large crowd sings the same song.
So we can use techniques that benefit the mechanics of music used in worship for God. For someone on a stage, being animated and lively can lift the spirit of the congregation and help them to praise God, as long as it is superseded, immersed in and entirely exceed by being genuine. The outward expression should only be a reflection of what is in the heart. What is in the heart matters most, but as a worship leader one should be purposeful and conscious of the outward expression as well. If you're happy about praising God, then show it! That's why God chose you to lead people!
In Egypt we got to see a wedding reception take place in our hotel. There was a whole procession of musicians, singers, friends and family; hundreds of people walking through the lobby of our hotel, and they were all dancing, singing, shouting, laughing and playing their instruments with such joy it was utterly contagious. People were dressed up in their finest clothes for the occasion and no expense was spared in the lavish celebration of the young couple. I stood there in the foyer in awe of this beautiful culture, so loud and expressive, as people poured all there energy into celebrating love, and they did it in their own style; it was a natural expression of their joy, a pure manifestation of love.
A Reflection of this image
I thought to myself, if that is how people can react to earthly love between two people, how much more should we give our best for our God! How much more joyful should we be when we are the bride and Jesus is the groom, coming soon to take us with Him! God loves it when we get dressed up, when we play, sing, dance and shout in the freedom that He prayed such a dear price us to enjoy. Also, when we let it out this joy is contagious, it brings people and when our praise is genuine it points them to God. When Jesus is exalted, He will draw all men to Himself. (John Chapter 12 verse 32)
The limit to this is when the expression becomes a distraction to the purpose â praising God. One must always be wary to not let our flesh creep in to what we do. The nature of the music industry is a very egotistical, me-centred practice, and worship leaders should never think of themselves a rock star. You're not a rock star, you're a worship leader. It's not about you. In armies, in governments, in ministries, all throughout history God uses people to stand up and lead. They get a 'stage' and sometimes lead tens of thousands of people, but they are most effective when they know it is not about them, but merely them directing the people and pointing them to God.
As a worship leader, our objective is to get people's attention only as much as we can direct them to God.
So let's take a lesson from the Egyptians, let's sing and dance with uninhibited joy, unadulterated pleasure and organic expression, celebrating in the freedom and praising God for the freedom that He has given us.
Daniel J. Mathew is studying music at Sydney's Wesley Institute and serves as a volunteer for Hillsong Church, City Campus.
Daniel Mathew's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html