My Fellow Worship Leaders: In the short space of this blog post, I’d like to respectfully offer what I see to be the powerful secret at work within the most effective, influential, and impacting worship leaders/songwriters of our generation.
The following is my observation, gathered over 25 years.
Many worship leaders are skilled in leading worship. A smaller number are strongly gifted to lead worship. Even fewer still, in my view, are distinctly called to lead worship as a vocation.
And yet I perceive that even fewer still, of all those leaders, have learned the real secret to the most effective worship leading on planet earth today.
Every shiny red bulb we hang on the tree this season is artillery in the greatest conflict of our time. Christmas is a battle. The modern push to secure a salvation that is essentially human in nature – from crisis to solution – demands that Jesus be anything but God and man. The spirit of our age wages war on Christmas at every turn, even as stockings are quietly hung by the chimney with care. Christmas worship can be used by God to help us win this battle within us, and by extension, in the world around us. Here are 3 ways how.
We Are In A Real Battle – For Our Christmas Allegiance
Every philosophy of our age will fight to keep Jesus man at best, and diminish him to the size of our cultural values, political persuasions, and religious upbringings.
Those philosophies will seek to convert us through virtually all the movies, music, and the media of our time (though you and I can and should appreciate the art of much of them).
The night was seamless. On the stage were 4 of Nashville’s most respected songwriters, and an acoustic house band made up of musicians in their 20s or 30s. They were doing an intimate concert for television. From the first note played it was clear – all musicians on the stage were fantastic in their own right. It was also clear that not one audible mistake was going to occur over the course of 15-20 songs. Here’s the kicker – the house band just received the charts and songs at midnight the night before. How did they do it? For one thing, they had to nail the music. There were no second chances. Mistakes were not an option.
Sure, they brought some gifting and skills to the table that put them on that stage in the first place. Professionals? Yes. Gifted from birth? To some degree. Musical perfectionists? To a person. Yet the music was magical, musical, fluid, and playful.
Advent, the beginning of the Worship Year in the Christian calendar, is the start of our journey toward the celebration that is Christmas. The Worship Year is a way that Christians have ordered their daily, weekly, and yearly spirituality around the Christ event, or Christ’s coming in the adventus (Advent means “the coming”).
We observe the Cycle of Light, which is Advent (anticipation), Christmas (celebration), and Epiphany (proclamation). We then round out the year observing the Cycle of Life, which is Lent (anticipation), Easter (celebration), and Pentecost/After Pentecost (proclamation). As Advent begins, we are each entering a new journey into the meaning, the heartbeat, of Christmas – and today we step across that starting line into the possibility of a fresh encounter with God in the Advent season.
I am deeply grateful for Ed Stetzer, and the profound wisdom and insight embodied in his articles posted by Christianity Today, “A Letter To My Worship Leaders” Part 1 and Part 2. Every worship leader should read them, own them, and keep them in front of them. I have trumpeted similar calls in everything I have ever written or said as a trainer of worship leaders/pastor for 25 years. However, there are just two areas within the letters, one macro and one micro, that unsettle me. They unsettle me not because they are explicitly wrong – they unsettle me because they represent two classic Evangelical approaches to corporate worship that are “in the water,” and are now conventional thinking on the topic. I would like to respectfully challenge them, as one who is within this tribe.
Again, I encourage every worship leader to read Ed’s well-written articles. Thank you for them, Ed. But, as with all reading, we should not take in ideas uncritically like baby chicks, swallowing everything that is delivered to us from an authoritative source (I always suggest my readers thoughtfully and critically approach my writing as well). I resonate deeply with most of the Letter. But I want to challenge two of the unspoken values I see characterizing much of Evangelicalism’s approach to worship.
Note: As always, I’ll go beyond the scope of the Letter to ride my hobby horses when necessary (readers of my blog are used to my “launch-pad” approach to blogging!).