I grew up playing worship music in the church. I still remember the first time I played in a service and how nervous I was. It was a Wednesday night before Thanksgiving day and I was nine years old. I had never actually had a drum set in my home, just some boxes that I put together. The only time I had played a real drum kit was when I would sneak in to the church sanctuary when no one was around and play the church drums.
That particular Wednesday night no one showed up to play and someone suggested that I try it out. Our Pastor was the worship leader at the time. For some reason he thought I did a good job and added me to the rotation of musicians on the church worship team. From then on I was there every service ready and willing to play. Eventually I started playing bass guitar as well, and then shortly after that I started playing the guitar.
The church that I grew up in was an “Assemblies of God” church which falls under the umbrella of a Pentecostal church. The word, Pentecostal, causes a lot of interesting responses from different folks. Some people embrace the passion and heart of a spirit filled movement, others get really nervous and have some reservations (usually based on some weird stories they’ve heard or from a televangelist that painted Pentecost in an odd way).
As a child growing up in church, I had no idea what made our church different from any other church that my friends attended. It wasn’t until I became a teenager that I realized that there were some Pentecostal churches that were a lot different than the church that I had grown up in. In some Pentecostal circles the ladies didn’t didn't wear makeup or jewelry and only wore dresses or long skirts. In some Pentecostal circles church would last for hours on end (that did happen at our church occasionally). In some Pentecostal circles the gifts of the spirit moving would be the main priority of the church service… and there’s some things that I’m just not going to bring up in this blog:) I’m not criticizing any of these these things, these are just some of the extremes that I began to realize existed within the Pentecostal expression of the Church.
This was the environment that I learned to play worship music in. I learned early on that if I played certain music I could evoke an emotional response from people in the crowd. I learned what songs got the crowd going and what songs brought the crowd down. What I didn’t learn was how to be still in the presence of the Lord. Not only that, but every time I would stop playing, someone would have a word from the Lord or a tongue and interpretation, or a prophecy (all good things mind you). So there was never a quiet moment that didn’t get filled with some kind of noise. Side note: Sometimes we need to be quiet and listen for what the Lord would say to us personally. Sometimes it’s okay to let the music breathe and not fill up every possible bar with words. Sometimes it’s okay to “be still and know that He is God.”
As a worship leader I went through the season of measuring how good a church service was by how many people were jumping up and down during the praise songs or how many people lifted their hands during the worship songs. It’s only been in the last few years that I have been able to ask the one question that matters more than anything… “God, did that worship service bless your heart?”
You see, at some point we began to believe the lie that worship is about us when the truth is worship has always only been about Jesus. When this revelation became clear to me it stopped being about the “right songs” or the music that would evoke an emotional response… It stopped being about what I needed from the crowd to make me feel better about myself. It became all about Jesus; worshiping him… adoring him… pointing people to him. I even learned how to be still.
Today, I am still leading worship in an Assemblies of God church. I love the fact the we are a Pentecostal church. But I also love being secure enough in who I am and who He is, that I don’t have to manufacture anything. His presence is the most real thing in my life and it is a free gift. I don’t have to do anything to earn it and there’s no special formula to getting Him to show up. My job as a worship leader is simply to make people aware of His presence; not to work them up into an emotion response or get them hyped so they can feel better for a moment. This presence of the Lord is meant to be carried into every part of life. His presence is made real to us through the painful times just as much as through the times of rejoicing.
I’ll leave you with the following quote: "It's actually easier to go to church and do the big production thing - and I'm not putting lights and smoke machines down, but it's so easy to hide behind the hype and to convince ourselves that we're helping God out. When the truth is, we're actually doing the hype because it is easier to do the hype than to be vulnerable and put your heart out there - but the real goodness is in that." - John Mark McMillan