The very first time I set foot on American soil I was 16 years old. I’d never been anywhere like it - a place so expansive with dreams and possibility, ideas and imagination. It won my heart! Of course at that time, I had no idea I would become a worship leader, or ever have the privilege to return so often.
Embedded deep in the foundation of American culture is a powerful notion - that there is a different reality just within our grasp, even if it is yet to be realised; that we don’t have to settle for what has been handed to us - we get to reset the paradigm.
That is exactly what it’s like when we come to lead worship, regardless of geography or demographic, history or present reality. This ‘worship leading’ thing is all about the presence of Jesus - imminent, unchanging, ageless, true. It’s not about the performance of songs, or the place we are leading, or even the people in the room - it is about the presence of the King. As worship leaders, we are the climate changers; the presence carriers. We introduce the activity of Heaven when we sing, and that creates the atmosphere of Heaven in the room; in every room…. wherever we find ourselves.
This past year, our favourite family movie has been ‘Frozen’. There’s a wonderful character called ‘Olaf’, a snowman who longs for summer. At the end of the movie (you should look away now if you don’t want to know :) Elsa gives him a cloud of his own, so that wherever he goes, regardless of the season, he has a little snow flurry right above him all the time.
This is such a helpful image when we come to thinking of carrying His presence; of setting the climate. The authority we have been given by Jesus to bind up broken hearts, to set captives free, to release prisoners from darkness, to heal the sick, to proclaim a new day - it is all wrapped up in the cloud of His presence that we carry with us all the time. When we step into a room, whether it’s to lead worship, or shop for groceries, to have a coffee with friends, or pick up our kids from school, the cloud is right above us. We set the temperature through our conversation, through our choices; we determine the climate when we offer to pray for that stranger in the mall, or lift an instrument to lead others into the throne room of Heaven again in worship. We are partners with the King of glory. And that King is still hovering over the waters of people’s hearts - both inside the church and way beyond it’s walls; in every nation, every social circle, every tribe, every tongue.
Many are asking today, to what extent worship is a cultural reality, and whilst it is true that every language and tongue has a distinctive sound, ultimately worship isn’t cultural - defined by the borders in which we live - it’s spiritual, springing from hearts under the influence of the cloud of His presence.