“I think many Christians are more interested in chasing a feeling about Jesus that pursuing Jesus himself and reviewing and thinking about the truth of who he is…[in the Christian spiritual life] if you want to feel deeply, you have to think deeply. Too often we separate the two. We assume that if we want to feel deeply, then we need to sit around and, well, feel.
“But emotion built on emotion is empty. True emotion – emotion that is reliable and doesn’t lead us astray – is always a response to reality, to truth. It’s only as we study and consider truth about Jesus with our minds that our hearts will be moved by the depth of his greatness and love for us…Knowing Jesus and feeling right emotions about him start with thinking about the truth of who he is and what he’s done. Jesus never asks us how we feel about him. He calls us to believe in him, to trust him.” (Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep)
It’s strange for me to start a devotional with such an extensive quote from someone else, particularly in regards to such a weighty topic as the doctrine of the incarnation, but this statement sums up so much of what I strive for in planning and leading worship every week.
I view my job of worship leader as both leader and teacher. In particular, it is my job to empower people to worship Christ (this goes back to the mission statement for the choir, too). When it comes to empowering people to worship during the service this is as “simple” as leading the worship service (I put simple in quotation marks because it is far from an exact science and anything but simple!) But it is empowering people to worship when they leave here that is much more difficult, and this is where the role of “Teacher” comes it to play. I must equip people to lead a lifestyle of worship throughout the week when I am not even present, and that is quite different than leading worship when we are together.
So how do I do that? In a very real sense by doing with this quote says – by focusing people on Jesus and who he is. Remember that worship is our response to God and what he has done for us. If worship is our response that means that God initiates. How does God initiate? Well, in a very practical sense (and for our purposes in this discussion), he initiated through sending Jesus to die for us. Which is why it is so important for me to focus people on Jesus and his work on the cross.
Remember what Jesus said in John 12:32 – that when he is lifted up he will “draw all men unto myself.” John goes on to elaborate that this is a direct foreshadowing of the cross. So my job is to give people a constant view of Jesus and the work he completed on the cross.
This is why the words of the songs we sing are the primary criteria for inclusion in the service – more than musical style, melody, and even familiarity (for a further discussion of this you can read back over the devotional “Music Selection in Worship” on the website.)
Which brings us back around in this discussion to our quote at the beginning of the devotional. Worship is often an emotional event – as it should be – but it is an emotional event that happens as a response to a God-initiated relationship. Every week I pray that God would overwhelm us with the truth of who He is – and as we are overwhelmed we will, naturally, begin to worship further.
Songs (both congregational and choral) are selected for very specific reasons, and those reasons fall under the broad categories of “Leader” and “Teacher” (and sometimes songs fall more into one than the other). While I am the “Worship Leader” every week, the choir also serves the congregation by leading in worship. Think about the words you sing every week, let the truths found within them sink deep within your heart and soul. And then let that truth, and your response to it, be reflected in your attitudes, postures, and even facial expressions that the congregation sees. As we lift Jesus up, he will draw them to himself. And as people are drawn to Jesus they will respond to him one way or another (hopefully by moving closer to him and not running away).