1.29.2014

we are all worship leaders

There are a few worship songs that will bring me to my knees, time and time again. God uses these particular songs in my life to bring conviction, joy, surrender. I think everyone has a song like this. It's amazing how he can use music and words to draw people closer to him. How we can sing the same lyrics over and over, but when we ask, "Lord, teach me something new," he does, willingly. Something so new, out of something heard so many times.

One of these songs for me is Revelation Song. I'm sure you've heard it. It has touched millions of hearts. I know it is one of those songs that is annointed... more powerful than just the simple singing of a few words. The lyrics come right out of the book of Revelation:

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come! 

When we sing these words, we are singing what these powerful beings are singing in their praise to God in his throne. Night and day, they never cease, because that is the worship of which God is deserving. These words are straight from heaven. These words praise God perfectly, completely, powerfully.

I've been leading worship for a while. I feel like it's a part of my DNA. I can't write great songs, and I've never been a good performer. I can't look people in the eye and I hate being on stage. But when I lead people in musical worship, my heart is opened... I still struggle with anxiety attacks every single time I am about to go on stage, but once I am there, that anxiety translates to an utter and complete dependency on God. It's no longer nervousness -- it's a feeling of being overtaken by his power and love. Suddenly, I am there for one purpose only: the glory of Christ. But there's something about leading worship that strikes me harder than even the lyrics of a powerful song.

In the modern day church in protestant America, it is too bad that often, the worship leader becomes a mini-celebrity in their church family. That's not how it is at my church where I am currently involved, and I am very grateful for that. But I have been to churches where the worship feels like a performance. The worship leader's hair is just right, their jeans are the perfect cut, the people crowd 'round to shake hands after the service, heck, their solo CD is even sold in the church bookstore (don't forget to get an autograph), and they're singing secular-songs-turned-Christian every week (Bono is a big hit... you know, he went to Africa and all. Does anyone even like U2 anymore?). You're hard pressed to build any kind of meaningful relationship with said Mini Celebrity Worship Leader, because between shaking hundreds of hands every Sunday, they don't really have time for you, and besides, the awesomeness of their hair (or hipster-beard and v-neck t-shirt) is like a force-field: only the really esteemed churchy people can get in: pastors, youth pastors and youth worship leaders.

I've never felt like a mini-celebrity, no matter where I've lead worship. I've always felt like the awkward girl who doesn't know exactly where to look and is always on the verge of forgetting her lyrics (and has, many times). I would sing behind the curtain on stage, if I could. Better yet, can we just get a wireless mic and let me sing in the other room? Maybe someone could pretend to be me. Yeah. And anyway, I've never been a part of the "cool crowd," in the youth group or among the adults in church (even adults have cool crowds).

And I can tell you this -- my "duty," as a worshiper on stage is no more important than yours, as a worshiper in the congregation.

And that's where Revelation Song hit me hard and taught me something new. Last Sunday, right as I was singing the lyrics, "With all creation I sing, praise to the King of kings. You are my everything, and I will adore you," I opened my eyes and saw the hands of a hundred people lifted up in praise. Tears sprung to my eyes. My heart did that jumpy-palpipating thing.

Every time I've sung the part about creation singing to the King of kings, I've pictured the moon, the stars, the trees, the mountains, the lion laying with the lamb -- and thought, "Wow! All of creation, praising God. Pretty awesome." It's a picture I've seen many times before. But this time, creation was... us. We are the creation praising. And that thought -- that we are the creation of an ever-creative, almighty God, a God who is much bigger than us, stronger than us, yet loves us so deeply, and adores our praise to him -- was so powerful, a sob caught in my chest. I, the created, was singing with his other creations in that room. With all creation I sing, praise to the King of kings...

Here I am, just an awkward girl. Here we are, just a room full of the created. With hurts, failures, stories, brokenness, joy, families, forgotten lyrics, and panic attacks. Just simple, yet complex, created beings made by our loving God, worshiping him.

Even as a "worship leader," I am led into worship by the worship of fellow worshipers. We are all worship leaders. With hands raised, voices raised, we welcome the Spirit. He's already there! He's already shown up! It's our job to welcome him. And in the words of Kim Walker, "Without him, these are just songs, these are just lyrics. Without him, we would just be up here, just making noise."

Of course, the job of a worship leader is important. The job of a pastor is important. They are spiritual leaders. But if they are just up there in the spotlight and the glory isn't being given to God, what good is it? What does it even matter? Your worship makes just as much of an impact as my worship. The lights, the stage, the microphone, the lyrics on the screen behind me -- that doesn't make anyone special. That day, and many, many days, I was led into worship by the people standing there with me, worshiping Christ. Sometimes, I stop singing, and just listen to the voices praising. Your worship -- our worship -- that is what is pleasing to God. That's what is beautiful. He delights in us. He delights in you.

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