Sunday, January 4, 2009

You can't impart what you don't possess - Clanging Cymbals are the result of UN-Anointed Worship Leadership

I was in Church when the reality of something Matt Redmond wrote long ago was in such stark contrast it was staggering:

The Gentle Persuasion of Authority.
Matt Redman

Welcome to the first in a ten part series on 'Worship Leading Essentials". Over the next few months we'll be taking a look at some of the skills, mindsets and heart standards that are invaluable to leading the people of God in worship through music. This month we start off with the "gentle persuasion of authority."

What is the gentle persuasion of authority? In a sense, we are seeking to define the indefinable. It's a tricky thing to put your finger on, but when someone has it, you know it. It's a God given anointing - a divine hand of favour upon a person that leads to spiritual successes in ministry. It's that something which overrides natural skill levels, and formulas. It cannot be emulated or copied, and it cannot be manufactured. When a lead worshipper is entrusted with it, they seem to effortlessly open doors in worship meetings that might otherwise remain shut. It requires no force from the person ministering - the strength comes from God alone. Not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit.

The prophet Samuel told the newly-anointed Saul, "Now do whatever your hand finds to do, for the Lord is with you." That is the gentle persuasion of authority. Saul did not need to fight for the crown of kingship, or manipulate his way to the throne. The hand of God was upon, easing him into his destiny, and making otherwise impossible accomplishments fall into place easily.

The person entrusted with the anointing of God achieves far more than logic says they should achieve, by the various ways they minister. Often they don't even really know they're walking in this anointing, and assume anyone could do what they are doing, with the same results. I know a few evangelists who just have a certain "way" of evangelising. They possess an uncanny knack of somehow effortlessly opening up conversations about God with those who don't know him. It is not just a technique, nor is it just fantastic social skills, though it may involve these things. It is more than just these natural gifts and personality traits. It is an anointing - the gentle persuasion of the Holy Spirit's hand of authority upon them. He has called them to the task, and backs up the calling with a supernatural sense of favour.

One of the best examples of this gentle persuasion of authority I can think of in recent history is the ministry of Billy Graham. Countless numbers of people have gathered to hear the gospel message preached by this man, and multitudes have responded by giving their lives to Christ. In earthly terms, he is a fantastically successful man. But here is the mystery - he is by no means the best speaker there is around. He is a good speaker yes, but there are, in truth, far more eloquent communicators of the word. Neither does he make an impact by shouting or ranting and raving all over the stage in a blast of charisma. It is an unforced accomplishment - it seems he simply stays faithful and obedient to the calling on his life, and God backs up this incredible calling with a Holy authority upon his life ministry.

So what does this mean for a worship leader? It means we don't need to "strut the stage" or "work the crowd", frantic to make something meaningful happen in a worship time. We are not attempting to stir something up. Of course, we desperately want to see worship stirred up, but it is the Holy Spirit, and not us, who does the stirring. We need to adopt a posture of obedience and trust, and ease into the calling upon us. I've seen worship leaders who are amazing musicians, with mesmerising skills, yet unable to somehow lead the people of God into the depths of congregational worship. Something is missing. It is the gentle persuasion of authority.

It's good to note at this point that there's nothing wrong with being passionate. We're not trying to be so laid back that we don't wholeheartedly throw ourselves into the worship. I once read a worship leader's article suggesting that it was wrong to sweat whilst leading worship. To the writer this implied too much effort being put in, and not enough dependence upon God. To me though, sweating implies passion, and it's essential that we're passionate. The point is, whatever our outer posture is, our inner posture must be one of complete dependence. Knowing that the Holy Spirit's hand of authority and anointing is upon us is the essential ingredient. So, be passionate yes, but never fall into the trap of being "forceful".

Note that God's hand of authority and anointing resting on a person is a weighty entrustment. As Graham Kendrick once noted, "Anointing does not guarantee godly character; in fact it tests it to the extreme." Our character must be strong enough to handle the entrustment of God's anointing. When the gentle persuasion of authority rests upon a person's life, they can become a popular and even powerful person within the circles in which they minister. In a sense, anointing turns the heat up, and it becomes more essential than ever to ruthlessly and constantly check the motives of our hearts.

The Old Testament shows us that God can win a battle through a small shepherd boy with a sling, some stones and a staff in his hand, and he can also win the day through a huge army. The constant is the hand of God's authority upon them. At other times we see the people of God "losing the day" because God has withdrawn this hand of favour. Over the next few months we'll be looking at more practical-based worship leading essentials, but the anointing of God is the starting point. Unless the Lord builds the house, the labourers labour in vain.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Matt Redman: Living Out a 'Heart of Worship'
By Laura J. Bagby Producer – I chatted with the British-born worship leader who is best known for songs "Blessed be Your Name," "The Heart of Worship," "Better is One Day," and "Once Again." When I sat down with Matt, he had just completed his book called Facedown. This August, Matt is slated to release another book on the topic of worship called Blessed be Your Name: Worshipping God on the Road Marked with Suffering (Regal Books).

LAURA J. BAGBY: Describe the connection between worship and revelation. What do you mean by that?

MATT REDMAN: Every authentic response in worship comes from revelation. Something happens on the inside and we express something on the outside. You don’t find any outside-in worship. That’s not how it works. It is always inside out. Jesus said, ‘Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks’. When you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit illuminates Jesus, shows you that He is Lord, shows that He is Savior, convict s you of that in your heart. You see something. Then you commit your life to God. Conversion is a worshipful act. And then from that moment on, everything you see of God, everything that is revealed to you, everything you find in His Word, everything you realize when you gather with the believers, every time you take a walk under a night sky and gaze up at the stars above is revelation. It’s like fuel for the fire of worship. Sometimes I find if my prayer life is not good, it is because I have not been fueling the fire. It is so important to fuel the fire.

LAURA: In a lot of contemporary worship services, worship is singing good songs, but the heart isn’t there. If worship is inside out, why are we doing it from the outside in?

MATT: Sometimes it is so easy for songs to become old hat or we are just going through the motions. To be honest, I think that is something we need to watch out for. My pastor once did a really interesting thing where he actually said, ‘We just need to strip everything away to check where our hearts are in worship.’ He felt like we were going through emotions a little bit. So he took away the instruments. We didn’t have a sound system for a while. His point was that when you come through the door of a church, what you bring is your offering to God. We have already consumed so much. We’ve, in a sense, been absolutely flooded with the revelations of His grace and glory and His hand on our lives, and now it is time to be producers of worship -- not consumers -- but producers. Out of that whole time, I actually wrote a little song called ‘The Heart of Worship.’ It really described what happened:

When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come.
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless Your heart.
I will bring You more than a song. I am coming back to the heart of worship.

LAURA: Do you feel like you have come back to the ‘heart of worship’ since you wrote that song?

MATT: You have got to keep coming back. That’s the thing I find. It’s so important that we keep saying it’s all about Jesus. When we see the heights of who God is, everything in us wants to get as low as we can in response. He must increase; we must decrease. So often in our worship and in the church, we shrink God down. We make Him like He is one of us. You even hear songs that sound like they could be a normal love song or pop song. I know what people are trying to do. They are trying to be culturally relevant. But there is a bigger value in worship than cultural relevance – it’s the glory of God. Let’s write songs that paint a big picture of God. Let’s have worship services that immerse us in God’s splendor. Let’s not shrink God down. We are the ones who are going to do the shrinking.

LAURA: When you write songs, where do you get your personal revelations from?

MATT: Obviously, Scripture is the biggest place, but more often than not, hymnbooks as well. I love delving through some of the old hymns. I have been collecting hymnals from lots of different streams and ages of the church. I find them so illuminating, because so often, they are helping you get a fresh, new angle on an age-old theme. More often than not, though, a song for me comes from one line from the Bible. You will be reading Scripture, and you have probably seen that line loads of times before, and then it just jumps out at you. ‘Better is One Day’ is from Psalm 84. A song we do called ‘Let My Words be Few’ is from Ecclesiastes 5. We do a song called ‘Undignified.’ It is a celebration song. It comes from when King David said, ‘I will celebrate before the Lord and I will become even more undignified than this.’ We do a song called ‘What I Have Vowed,’ which is from Jonah when he says, ‘What I have vowed I will make good.’ And this ‘Facedown’ song, the word facedown is all over Scripture. My favorite verse, which sort of led to the song, is Leviticus 9:24. The people of God met with God. The fire of God fell. And then it says, ‘They shouted for joy and they fell facedown.’ I see something like that, and I think, There is a song in there. There is a Bible study in every song. Then you start reading through Scripture trying to find more about the theme. Before long, if something is really in your heart, then you pour it out.

LAURA: As a worship leader, people know you. It’s easy to go by what you know and do really good instrumentation. But it sounds like integrity in worship is what you are really after. How do you do that? Is it harder now that you are better known?

MATT: In one way, not really. I love to try to get into the flow of what God’s doing in a worship meeting. The times I love most feel like a dynamic, open-ended conversation, almost like a virtuous cycle in that God has revealed Himself to us and we are singing about the truth of this revelation, so we are responding to Him in worship. But as we do that, so often He inhabits our praise. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us. Before you know it, you are really sensing a strong sense of God. Also I love it when things don’t always originate from up front. I love it when someone speaks something out or prays something and they are leading you. That’s my favorite thing, actually. I can’t imagine in the early church that everything went through one person. It doesn’t feel right somehow. It doesn’t speak of family; it doesn’t speak of the people of God; it doesn’t speak of the Body. Obviously, it is good to have someone up front so that you can somehow all travel together, but the best worship leaders lead strongly enough so that people actually follow and travel together, but not so strongly that they themselves become the focus.

LAURA: There are a lot of different aspects of worship that you go into in your book Facedown. Could you talk about those beyond just singing?

MATT: There is a chapter called Worship with a Price. It just talks about trying to live out worship. The thing about songs is that they don’t often cost much to sing. Actually, there has to come a time when we worship with a price, when we put into action that living sacrifice. Obviously, one of the best examples of that is evangelism and mission. In the book of Heather Mercer [Prisoners of Hope], who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan, just someone like that who while she was in captivity was singing out worship, I love that. I just think, That’s it! Yeah! That’s a costly song. There is just that element of trust in the sovereignty of God, of trust in the father heart of God. Trust is a wonderful expression of worship.

LAURA: How do we see God as awesome when we have grown up in churches where we have seen Him as a friend?

MATT: I think the key is the Bible. That is what has made me want to paint a bigger picture of God, realizing that, wait, these songs that I am writing don’t quite match up to this great big God that I am finding in the Bible. In Psalm 66 it says, ‘Sing the glory of His name. Make His praise glorious.’ That’s what I want to do through songs.

LAURA: Do you have a theme of what you think God is calling you to?

MATT: Reverence, wonder, and mystery. It’s painting a bigger picture of God. It’s facedown worship. Look at the lives of so many of the disciples, those early apostles. So many died horrendous deaths, but they endured to the end because they had seen the big picture. They had lived alive in the power of the resurrection, they lived beneath the shadow of the cross, they lived in the power of the Holy Spirit that came at Pentecost, and they lived with a big view of God. In fact, it says that in Acts. It says that all the people were in awe of God. That has got to be a key. That is where I am going right now, trying to make His praise glorious, trying somehow visually, musically, lyrically to make people realize and recognize the otherness of God.