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“A Brief Theology Of Worship Leadership.”

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Thelogy Course with Dan Wilt

What is worship?

“Worship means: Literally, acknowledging the worth of something or someone. It means recognizing and saying that something or someone is worthy of praise. It means celebrating the worth of someone of something far superior to oneself.”(1) The song being sung around the throne of the Creator and Redeemer in the last book of the Bible is a corporate declaration of all creation to God, recognizing that He is the Creator, and that we are the created. We worship Him because we are his created beings, but especially because He sacrificed his own blood to rescue us from our state of sin.

From a slightly different perspective, Gary Best describes worship as “the love language that nurtures and deepens our communion with God and invites His presence to grow in us.”(2) Human beings are designed to be worshippers. God created man in His own image. Now, as his image bearers in the earth, we reflect all to the earth who God is, and glorify Him in the earth. We reflect our love back to Him in our worship.” Worship is an experience that flows from our heart to the heart of God. It is a heart-to-heart experience.” (3)

What does music and creativity have to do with it?

Creativity is a characteristic born into man, also by God’s design. We can say that we take after our Father, not only because we have been created in His image, but also because we, too, have a deep desire to create. God, being the supreme Creator, can create something out of nothing. Man must start with something in order to create anything.
In song, and in music, we have the opportunity to participate with God in a creative act. He is the inspiration for music and song to the worship artisan, while He is the inspiration to another who makes quilts or another who may research astrophysics. (4) Worship songs celebrate God’s existence, describe His nature, His ways; they honor His acts and declare His Sovereignty. Worship songs draw us into fellowship with God, and to an intimacy with our Maker.

How does worship further the Kingdom Story in the world?

Wright suggests that theology in the worship song will go “right down from the head into the heart and actually form the spirituality and the devotion and the practice in that person”, and therefore, “songwriters ought to be theologians”. (5) He reminds us that hymns are generally filled with theology, and that we are more likely to retain what we sing in a song, than to walk out of a service recalling the words in a sermon. God-songs serve to deliver the story of the Kingdom of God to His creation.

God’s followers are co-heirs in Christ and they are also co-laborers in His Kingdom.

Our lives tell the story over and over to the generations. Dan Wilt talked about the trees, and how their rings are tell-tale of the seasons they have lived through, all the while remaining. They grow a new outer skin, or bark, every year that enables them to endure the current season, all the while bearing the marks from the seasons gone by. We further the Kingdom Story by passing down our worship, much like adding another ring to the tree. We pass down our God songs, rich in theology and tradition, to the generations which follow us. Simple songs of intimacy which tender our souls bring cherished moments to us that sustain relationship with God, but we also need to be good stewards of the God-Story, by passing it on.

How should all of the above affect how we lead worship as worship leaders?

Tim Hughes spoke of not just trying to feed people what you think they want to hear. He invites us to approach God in our worship time by being “honest, heartfelt, passionate, Christ-centered and real”. (6) Mattt Redman advises worship leaders to “keep on bowing down”, (7) In preparing to lead worship, we are stepping into a place entrusted to us by God to lead the people to Him. Humility is a key. Dan Wilt’s advice is to keep our “own saw sharpened” by learning theology from others, finding a pattern for devotional practice that really suits us, and finding ways to fuel our worldview. Studying the Christian calendar of events helps us to pass on the story of God to the people. (8)Working hard on our personal relationships helps us to walk with others through the times an seasons of their lives, and helps us to understand better how to lead them into worship.

1. Wright, Simply Christian, (p. 145)

2. Gary Best, Singing The Song Of The Kingdom (IW Master All, p. 45)

3. John Eldredge, voices ( IW Master All, p. 131)

4. Wilt (The Nature of Man)

5. Wright (Songwriter As Theologian)

6. Hughes (Forms of Worship)

7. Redman (The Entrustment)

8. Wilt (A Theological Synthesis For Worship Leaders)

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