I grew up with worship and music, and learnt the two almost as one; and today I want to articulate some aspects of worship music that I have discovered to be critical to the worship leader.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to GodÃ¢â¬"this is your true and proper worship." (Romans 12:1 NIV) The new covenant took away animal sacrifices, but it didn't take away the concept of sacrifice to God, it simply changed the focus from the actions to the heart. Now it is our privilege and honour to climb onto the altar and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, fully surrendered to God. Complete surrender is the very first thing that a worshipper needs to do, because this initial surrender is the thing that defines the action and thus transforms music to worship.
I love saying things with multiple meanings. This phrase "timing matters" means so many things to me. Firstly, when playing with an ensemble â or even solo â timing is the first musical thing to focus on. Please, for sake of everyone and everyone, stay in time! But by 'timing', I also mean 'the order of events'. In life, in music and in worship, the order matters. I believe one must first surrender to God before worshipping Him. I believe God first makes a change on the inside of a person, before the outside. I believe first you must make sure your heart is right, before you focus on your actions. I believe a worship leader should first focus on worshipping God, before leading others in corporate worship of God. Often it is easy to get distracted by the music or other little things before engaging your heart in worship, but the order is crucial because the heart and intention defines the action. So as long as your heart is not surrendered and engaged, your actions are meaningless.
Live with integrity
The way you live your life will inevitably have an effect on your worship. Your actions are a manifestation of what you believe, "For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." (Luke 6:45b NIV) Now, this is not to say we can in any way control God's grace or His presence. Faith alone is what brings salvation, God's grace is fully sufficient, and there is no formula that can bring God's presence, but "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:17b NIV) If a lifestyle of sin pushes us away from God, likewise a holy lifestyle draws us closer to him. Because where there is grace, transformation must follow â a tree is judged on its fruit. Therefore, a worship leader must always be wary of the life that they live off the stage, not only for their own sake but for the sake of those they are leading in worship.
Relevance is necessary, but transformation is the goal
As musicians, we strive for the best musical product, a sound that will enable open hearts to worship God and His presence to inhabit the praises of His people. We never want to distract people from worshipping God, as bad music (or sometimes really good music) can do. Relevance is just pertaining to the time, culture and context of where you are â so if we're leading people in a musical form of worship, we must always be aware of how the congregation relates to the music. Also, in a constantly changing world we need to be on the forefront of our creative art and work to bring excellence in all that we offer God, drawing people closer to their creator through captivating art. But good music or relevant sounds and genres are never the goal of worship music, it must always be to usher the transforming power of God. There, and only there, is our relevance justified.
Daniel J. Mathew is studying a Bachelor of Music at Sydney's Wesley Institute and serves as a volunteer in the youth ministry of Hillsong Church, City Campus.
Daniel Mathew's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html