Risky Business

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I have worship on my mind this morning. I’ve been pondering the nature of worship and worship leading in the context of a congregational service. Here are a few of my thoughts.

Worship is confusing – and yet so simple at its core. Worship at times can feel very private and personal, and yet we do it in full view of friends, acquaintances and total strangers. Worship can give rise to feelings of awe, self-consciousness, love, shame, joy, reverence and a host of others. It can humble us, stir our faith, inspire ideas and silence us.

The central theme of worship is adoration. Yes, worship has a whole bunch of benefits and other purposes connected with it, but at the centre of worship is a heart utterly consumed with love. The core of Christian worship therefore is complete adoration of Christ.

Love comes with risks attached. Ever read the fine print in a contract? Ever read the terms and conditions on your Apple license? (Ok, bad example.) But you get the point: fine print tells you all the potential risks and costs associated with signing up. It tells you your rights and also your responsibilities. It tells you what will happen should the agreement ever be broken.

Love has fine print. Falling in love should come with the agreement: “I hereby surrender all my feelings to the whims of love. I agree to be completely obsessed with this person, no matter how inconvenient. And I agree to be utterly heartbroken if this relationship doesn’t work out.”

Loving God carries risks. He spells them out in the Bible, things like losing ourselves and taking up our crosses. He tells us to trust Him more than our senses and invites us to hold nothing back from Him.

I think worship is an extremely risky act. It exposes our true state to God – He knows our true state anyway – but in worship we become aware of just how exposed we are. It is a state of acute vulnerability.

Of course, the idea of love is that the benefits far outweigh the risks. That is why we pursue love in the first place. The idea of worshipping Christ is that His beauty and glory overtakes our own self-consciousness, and we become swept away in adoration.

Vulnerability is at the core of worship and, I believe, worship leading. To me, worship leading is pretty much falling in love with God in public. It involves a preparedness to be vulnerable in public – to let God overwhelm our souls and senses as we become enamoured with Him again, while letting others watch.

The whole rationale of having a worship leader is to provide guidance and inspiration for others who are seeking to enter into worship. I think such guidance requires a demonstration of falling in love. Otherwise we are just leading people into a place of singing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that – but it’s not the same as worship leading.)

I am all for training and study in matters of worship. I think that understanding God helps us to worship Him. But it is ultimately about the heart. We perhaps need to be careful that the head does not rule the heart when it comes to matters of worship. Otherwise, worshipping without love is just noise.

I once went to a worship conference/training weekend, where we spent time learning about various skills and techniques of worship leading. We also had some wonderful times of prayer and spontaneous worship. By the end of the weekend, the facilitator of the conference said to us, “Look, at the end of the day, forget everything you’ve learned and just worship.”

I think this is the key. Forget about the complexities, the responsibilities, the music – to some degree – and just worship. Be with Him. Love Him. And let others see.

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