Lessons I've learned in worship leading - Presence, Identity, & Authority
I've had the privilege of leading worship for almost 20 years now. I remember starting off as a very frightened, unsure twenty something - wondering why on earth I was even trying to lead other people in worship, when I felt like I had no clue what I was doing. I can't tell you how grateful I am for people around me who have believed in me and gave me the tools I've needed to do what I do now. They have done it through loving me, through giving very honest feedback, and through encouraging me to keep trying even when I've not quite hit the mark yet.
I want to share three things I've picked up along the way that have been life giving to me as I've learned to lead more effectively over the years. I pray they encourage you too.
The first and most foundational is that there is nothing more precious than the presence of Jesus. As worshippers, before we even begin being involved in bands or thinking about leading worship, we get this - it's why signed up. The thing is, once we start serving in teams the relentless nature of leading from week to week, coming up with sets, trying to find songs that serve our congregations, can steal away our first love. That is, unless we intentionally continue our personal pursuit of Jesus. His presence is what will refuel our own souls, and it is what will fill our worship sets to refuel the souls of those we serve. Nothing else will do. Don't get so caught up in chasing the latest songs, or trying to get in on what the next cool thing is - find out what the presence of the King is on, and sing those songs (whether they are brand new or ancient, whether they are on everyone's lips or just giving voice to your community). His presence is everything.
Secondly, who you are is enough. Don't allow the subtle voice of insecurity to become the voice you trust. As musicians we all struggle with wondering if we are good enough, if what we bring to the table is enough. Know that you are chosen. Your identity as a son, as a daughter is totally secure. What you do is simply an overflow of that, and it's a beautiful thing to Jesus. That means we can serve out of who we are - free from the pressure of trying to prove anything. But it also frees us up to bring our best. Excellence in what we bring in terms of musicianship and writing, and intimacy with the Father are two sides of the same coin in this worship leading thing. When we know that who we are in Him remains unchanged by what we do, then what we do can change everything in the room when we lead - which leads me to the third thing...
We have been given authority for a reason - don't be afraid to use it. Sons and daughters carry authority to release the kingdom of their Father wherever they find themselves. When we grab a solid hold of our identity, we start to understand that things are meant to shift when we show up. I vividly remember The Lord starting to lead me into this.
It had been bothering me that not a whole lot of kingdom activity was happening in the room during worship. John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard used to teach that where the presence is, so is the power. I knew the presence of Jesus was all over the room during those worship times, yet there was no power to release the oppressed, to see healing come to the broken, sight to the blind... and all that shows us the Kingdom is among us. Sometimes the things that bother you the most are the things The Lord is leading you into next. I love that!
Right in the middle of a set, The Lord spoke very clearly to me and told me to release what I saw Him on (in other words, I sensed that Jesus was there to heal the sick in that moment, and had always assumed He would just do that as I sang, but now He was asking me to 'action it' as it were). I simply sang out something about The Lord being ready to heal, and as I did all heaven broke loose! Not, honestly, what I was expecting, but it's what I've done ever since.
When Jesus commissioned us and gave us authority, that was the moment we were called into this Kingdom business with Him. We are called as partners. Paul uses the language 'co-heirs with Christ'. This starts with identity, but it's more than that. This is about knowing who we are AND what we carry.
This will keep me going the rest of my life! His presence is all I need, now and always. His adoption of me into His family is what has set me straight on a brand new path. His authority has given me a mandate to spill the Kingdom of heaven, in the fulness that is available now (remembering there is some that is still not yet, but there's way more for now than I dared believe before) everywhere I find myself - whether in a coffee shop, at the school gate, or behind a keyboard leading worship.