Before you skip this article thinking it will be dry theology worthy of a 19th century seminary, take a little time to pray before you read on and read more about the biblical basis for praise and worship.
Praise and Worship is a common thing in churches these days, but we need to know that is has a Biblical basis, because we do not want to be doing things that are not part of what God is doing. If we sing songs in church then we must know and understand the reason we do this, rather than simply singing for the sake of singing.
There have been volumes written about the biblical basis for praise and worship, so I will not attempt to cover the entire subject, and for that many of you will breathe a sigh of relief. If you are really into this area, please feel free to go and buy a gazillion books on the subject, but for those of you who want to keep it more practical, please read on. If you truly want to know and draw close to the heart of God, don’t skip this chapter, but take a few moments to plunge your roots deep into the foundation of Biblical knowledge and history.
What is Praise and Worship?
Praise and Worship is not the warm up to the main event of preaching, it is not the support act and it is not something we do while the late people are trying to arrive. It is, or at least it should be, an intense time of communion with God. It is fellowship with other believers as you gather around the throne of your great Daddy and it is a foretaste of what Heaven will be like. If you don’t enjoy worshiping God here, then Heaven may be long and boring for you!
Praise and Worship was always part of God’s plan, from before the beginning of time.
Creation praises Him: (Is 44:23; Is 52:9; 1 Chron 16:32; Ps 98:8; Ps 66:4).
Angels praise Him: (Job 38:7; Rev 5:11).
Indeed, Lucifer (Satan) was created to praise the Lord as well, and seems to have been somewhat of a music leader in Heaven, until He fell (Ezekiel 28:11-19). This might give you a hint as to why Satan uses music to access the minds of people, especially youth, to direct them to Himself. As is typical of musicians, and I say this as a musician, we love directing people towards ourselves. To completely but truthfully destroy a beautiful song, “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about MEEEE!!!!!” (Apologies to Matt Redman for that one!)
The saints also praise the Lord (John 4:23; Revelation 4:11) and they sing the song of redemption, blessing and praising the Lord.
Throughout the Bible mighty men of God have loved to worship Him, people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and so on. The best know worshiper is, of course, King David, and for anyone truly seeking the heart of God, he is an excellent person to study and learn from…
David was an awesome king, but you may not realize the place that worship had in his heart. God described him as a “man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), and even though he sinned big time, God still delighted in him because of his heart of worship.
In fact, David designed and produced 4000 instruments for temple worship (1 Chronicles 23:5). String, wind, brass, percussion and the like, and he designed the format for a lot of the worship in 1 and 2 Chronicles. They worshiped 24 hours a day in shifts, so that the Lord’s altar constantly was covered in the praises of His people. We might remember David for his tussle with Goliath, or his sin with Bathsheba, but I tell you this guy really knew how to worship!
Solomon, David’s son wrote over 1000 songs. God gave him wisdom and wealth, and worship. Unity was a key theme as they all worshiped with one voice (2 Chronicles 5:13). When they worshiped in unity, suddenly the cloud of God’s glory filled the place. No flesh glories in His presence.
Singers and Musicians
Obviously the basic building blocks of a music worship ministry are singers and musicians. They were appointed, ordained and equipped for this ministry (1 Chronicles 15:16-28), separated and under supervision (1 Chronicles 25:1-7) and instructed in the songs they would be worshiping with.
David’s tabernacle had 288 singers (1 Chronicles 25:7) and a music director, Kenaniah, who had the favour of God (1 Chronicles 15:22,27). He was described as skillful, challenging those of us who follow in his footsteps to be the same. We need good ability but also good anointing. He led various ranks of singers (1 Chronicles 15:16-18; 16:37-41), was chosen by name and recognized for his gifting. The music team in David’s Temple were skilled and they were honoured for this skill.
They were employed in their work of worship (1 Chronicles 9:22, 36 and on) and conducted song services (1 Chronicles 6:31-2). They had to wait for their office (2 Chronicles 7:6, 35:15) just as we sometimes have to (Romans 12:7).
They received their portion (Nehemiah 7,10,11,12,13) and functioned in their allotted courses or shifts (1Chronicles 25:1-21).
Take Home Message for Us
The above list of scriptures is by no means exhaustive in any study of the biblical basis for praise and worship. These are just a few that to whet your appetite, and hopefully cause you to see that we as musicians, singers and worship leaders have a responsibility to live up to. We have to wait on God, seek God and be both skillful and teachable (Ps 33:3). We need to work hand in hand with the pastor and seek to serve him, and the congregation. We desperately need to avoid the ego displayed by Lucifer, choosing to remain humble, lest God humble us.
If we need humbling at some point, remember that God can humble a person without degrading him, and exalt a man without puffing him up.
Music: The Powder Keg!
Music is unbelievably powerful. It changes attitudes and opens hearts to engage directly with the Lord. Music can sooth the savage beast, rev up excited teenagers at a rave party, or inspire soldiers on their way to war (such as the Nazi march, “Deutschland Uber Alles”).
Music is so powerful that it can add to any experience, good or bad. Try watching a few movies, and pay attention to what the music is doing, and you will see my point. From the short, stabbing pulse of “Psycho” to the long, gentle Gaelic lilts of “Titanic”, music effectively reaches into our hearts and caresses, even manipulates our spirits.
I clear and unashamedly make this statement: We MUST learn to harness the power of music so as to more effectively lead our people. Now, before you hop on your high horse and accuse me of manipulating the emotions of gullible people, bear in mind that this same tool is being used constantly in relaxation music, inspirational music, advertising, gyms and a host of other places. You know that feeling you get as you listen to a favourite love song and it brings back pleasant memories? Same mechanism! You see, music bypasses our minds and appeals directly to our emotions, and that is why it is so powerful.
Music can also be destructive, even within the church. In society, many psychiatrists recognize that music can powerfully stir emotions and drive addictions, and it has been well documented that some heavy metal music has driven teenagers to suicide or murder.
Within the church, music can be hugely divisive, the cause of church splits, and a constant source of misery for the pastor and leaders. The young want their style, the oldies want theirs, and sometimes it can degrade to all out war!
So, as a worship leader, you need to find the style which suits not only yourself, but your people as well. No style is right or wrong, but you will find that Thrash music is not a huge hit in a traditional Presbyterian church (in the same way the 16th century hymns don’t go over big at a U2 concert!)
“Let’s Not Become Too Emotional, Brother!”
In the Western church we have somehow achieved elevated levels of paranoia regarding emotions in the church and, in particular, church worship. Following the Greek model, we attempt to analyze and intellectualize all aspects of church life, fearing anyone and anything that appears too “emotional.”
Now, let’s be very, very clear about this. My Salvation is a Scriptural fact, and not in any way dependent on my emotions, or how I feel. The basis of my assurance is 1 John 5:11-13, John 5:24, Romans 10:9. However, I cannot deny the fact that I am an emotional being. I feel emotions, I express emotions, and my interaction with others, and with God, is emotional.
It seems silly to me that the same people who sit like stones in church, void of any emotion, go as crazy as the next person when their team scores the winning goal. Guys, if you can get that excited outside of church at a football match, why not let yourself go and get that excited about the Lord! You can really see the heart difference when we stand like statues worshiping, while David stripped down to his jocks and danced about the place.
How’s Your Serve?
Leading in worship is a huge responsibility which requires a serious commitment on the part of all those involved. It has a Biblical basis, but that does not mean it has to be a mechanical, unemotional or boring experience.
The Bible teaches us that music ministry, like any other ministry, is all about serving. To become worship leaders, we should have some real, genuine skill and talent, but these must be offered as gifts to God, and not used to build ourselves up. Moving into music ministry is moving into front line service, and we must serve the Lord, the Pastor, the Church leadership, the people and each other with gladness and humility. That’s why we need to know the biblical basis for praise and worship!