- 2008 1 May
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin (Crossway Books).
Chapter 1: The Important Things
It was my dream job. I’d just become Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries. After pastoring for twelve years, I was now studying worship and training worship leaders full-time.
I was leading worship at a conference and should have been exhilarated. After praying with the worship team I headed up the stairs to start the meeting. The room was overflowing, the atmosphere electric. Every heart was ready to praise God.
Well, almost. From the outside I’m sure no one could tell what I was thinking. That was a good thing.
As I made my way to the stage, I suddenly found myself battling
What difference will this make tonight? Will it have any eternal value? People will sing, raise their hands, get excited . . . and go home. And I’ll do this over and over and over again. For the rest of my life.
Suddenly it all seemed empty. Dry. Pointless.
Ever been there? Have you found yourself wondering where your joy went or if what you do really matters?
A friend of mine confided that one of his greatest struggles in leading worship is fighting the feeling that he has to “get up and do it again” for the two-hundredth time. He has to resist going through the motions and simply “mailing it in.”
I don’t think he’s alone.
IS THIS WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR?
Don’t get me wrong. I think leading God’s people in worship is one of the most fulfilling, enjoyable, exciting, sobering, life-changing jobs on the planet. We’re helping people connect with the purpose for which they were created—to glorify the living God. We’re pointing their hearts toward the Sovereign One who is greater than their trials and kinder than they could ever imagine. We get to display the matchless Savior who died in our place, conquering sin, death, and hell in the process.
We watch in amazement as the Spirit of God transforms lives and gives people a fresh encounter with God’s faithfulness, love, and power.
At times like these we think, I can’t believe I get to do this. (And if you’re on a church staff, you might add, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.”)
But then come the times we’d be happy to pay someone else to do this.
- Your lead vocalist is sick, your bass player’s out of town, and your keyboardist slept in. And no one called to find a sub.
- A small but influential group in the church just informed your pastor they don’t like the songs you’ve been teaching.
- After two years in your new church, you still don’t have a drummer who can keep steady time.
- Your best singer just told you she’s not coming to this week’s rehearsal unless she gets to sing the solo.
- For the fifth week in a row, your pastor e-mailed to say the music went too long and you talked too much.
Moments like these make you think that leading worship would be a joy if it didn’t involve working with others.
But just as often we struggle with our own hearts:
- No one seems to appreciate or even notice that on top of a full-time job you put in at least ten hours each week for the worship team.
- The last time you taught a new song was eight months ago, and CDs are piled on your desk that you still haven’t listened to.
- You put off confronting a guitarist whose critical and proud attitude is affecting the whole team.
- You can’t remember the last time you prayed more than five minutes, and you feel like a hypocrite as you lead on Sundays.
- You never have enough hours to plan, prepare, study, practice, or work with the music team. Which makes you wonder what in the world you’re doing with your time.
And yet . . .
Despite these and other difficulties, you believe the joys of leading worship far outweigh the challenges. You wouldn’t think of giving it up.
You just want to do it better. More effectively. More skillfully. More faithfully.
I’m guessing that’s why you picked up this book. I hope so because that’s why I wrote it.
But I have to confess something.
I didn’t write this book simply to help you be a better worship leader. There’s more at stake here.
After thirty years of leading worship, I’ve realized that worship isn’t just an opportunity to use my musical gifts. It’s more than a heightened emotional experience or a way to make a living. It’s way more than what we do on Sunday morning.
Worship is about what we love. What we live for.
It’s about who we are before God.
This book is filled with practical ideas for leading worship. But we don’t start there. These initial chapters are about the way we think and live. I want to challenge, encourage, and inspire you to live your life for the glory and praise of Jesus Christ. Holding nothing back. Giving no ground. It’s the only kind of life that makes sense for someone who leads worship.
But first, a little background.
HOW I GOT HERE
My first experience of music in a church context came as a Catholic, when I played the organ for Masses, weddings, and funerals. There wasn’t much “leadership” involved. I just played what I was told. When I could, I’d sneak in “sacred” versions of Beatles tunes, college fight songs, or nursery rhymes to make it interesting.
In the early seventies, I majored in piano at Temple University in Philadelphia. I became a Christian during my first year and started visiting a Baptist church on campus. When my friends and I noticed we were the only people in the church under sixty, we tried starting our own church in the dorms. That lasted two meetings.
Then someone invited us to a charismatic church in Center City Philadelphia. We heard the meetings were pretty lively, especially when they broke into line dancing around the pews. I helped with the worship team there and eventually was asked to lead, to use the term generously.
Between my junior and senior years at Temple, I came across a small, humble group of Christians in rural Pennsylvania who claimed Scripture as their only doctrine. The women wore head coverings, the men had beards, and they sang without instruments.
My worship world was diversifying.
After getting married and graduating from college in 1976, my wife, Julie, and I spent eight years with the Christian music group GLAD. We traveled across the U.S. learning what worship meant to Baptists, Assemblies of God, Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and a host of nondenominational churches.
Some churches followed centuries-old liturgies. Others were “Spiritfilled” and looked for God to show up in prophetic words, tongues, or some other spontaneous event.
In too many churches we detected a disconnect between the God they worshiped on Sundays and the one they seemed to follow during the week.
I continued to lead worship in my local church when we weren’t traveling. But in 1984 I said good-bye to life on the road. I thought I might be called to be a pastor.
The following year I joined the staff of a church related to Sovereign Grace Ministries, led by C. J. Mahaney. I led the worship team there for six years, then helped plant what’s now Crossway Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. I experienced firsthand the challenges and joys of overseeing a worship team in a new church.
In 1997 C. J. invited me to Covenant Life Church, a congregation of 3,000-plus members near Washington, D.C., to serve in my present role. As you might guess, leading worship in a large congregation is different from a church plant. More people to organize, more songs to learn, more meetings to work around, more equipment to deal with, and more potential problems.
But the important things haven’t changed.
This book is about the important things.
WHAT REALLY MATTERS?
Maybe you’re just getting started as a worship leader or think God wants you to be one. Perhaps you’ve been in music ministry for decades and are feeling a little weary. You might be part of a music team or a worship planning committee. Maybe you’re a pastor and want to understand more clearly what worship is supposed to look like in your church. Or it could be you’re the kind of person who wants to get your hands on anything that feeds your love for God.
Whatever your situation, I want to help you avoid going through what I described at the beginning of this chapter—when I stepped up to lead worship, and it all seemed empty, dry, and pointless. It isn’t.
But the Lord graciously reminded me, “That’s exactly what it would be like without me—pointless.”
Worship matters. It matters to God because he is the one ultimately worthy of all worship. It matters to us because worshiping God is the reason for which we were created. And it matters to every worship leader, because we have no greater privilege than leading others to encounter the greatness of God. That’s why it’s so important to think carefully about what we do and why we do it.
Discovering what matters in worship is a journey I’ve been on for thirty years, and one I’ll be on for the rest of my life. I’m glad you’ve joined me.
And if you don’t feel adequate for the task ... you’re in the perfect place for God to use you.
Copyright © 2008 by Sovereign Grace Ministries; Published by Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers; 1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, Illinois 60187. All rights reserved.