During our time in Mumbai with the family over the Christmas break, I made a wonderful discovery as I was rummaging through my old boxes of treasures looking for certain items of the past- from decades long gone. Neatly tucked away in a box of books was an old red Hymnal that belonged to my father (who had passed on 23 years ago). I was ecstatic with joy as I thought it had gotten lost in our moving from one city to another. It’s a hymn book I have always loved and cherished. A special touch is that it has his signature in his own beautiful handwriting !
What caught my attention this time is the Preface, (much to my shame, I admit) that I have never read before. I was stunned by the clarity of intent and purpose and the clarity about what the content ought to be and why. I thought to myself as one who does not have a casual interest in worship but had devoted a large portion of my life to, that this is a great Preamble for any worship leader. This has provoked me to pen my thoughts on what I believe the shape and structure of worship ought to be.
We all have many ideas about worship but at the end of the day we need to ask a fundamental question – did it please the heart of God, was it scriptural, was it Trinitarian , did it exalt Jesus above all? I have at times been in Church meetings where one is not certain who is being worshipped. What do I mean by this? Often I have found the focus has been on man and his needs and his desire – even the desire to worship but worship is not actually given to God Almighty. Song after song is sung about a desire to worship and love God but it is not done. Or the focus has been on how much we love Him and not on how much God has loved us by sending His son to die on a cruel cross. The focus almost exalts man feelings and emotions more than the exalting the different attributes of God and worshipping Him for who He is. Sometimes you never hear the Cross being mentioned at all and the Holy Spirit is almost totally ignored. Most of us do this unintentionally, I know. Maybe this will help us to be more alert and focused when we decide what songs our congregation will sing. Let’s look at our lists and see whether they are well rounded in content. A good question to ask you when preparing for a meeting is,”if an unbeliever attended only the worship in a meeting, would he hear the gospel come through the lyrics of the songs?”
So what should our songbooks and Set lists look like? Here are my thoughts: ( These points have been taken from the Preface of the Redemption Hymnal and adapted for our purpose)
- Songs that emphasize the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and the glory of His cross as central in the redemption , his blood , of sinful men.
- They provide for the worship of the Father in spirit and in truth and express the aspirations of those who long to be Holy as He is holy. Their basis of doctrine is belief that the Bible is the Word of God that lives and abides forever, by which men are born again and through which they grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.
- All these truths have glowed with new and deeper power and beauty through the baptism of the Holy Spirit received as a definite experience with scriptural evidence.
- The Songbook should combine rich devotional songs in abundance with stirring revival songs that present the Gospel in all its depth, winsomeness and simplicity. It should be equally suitable for regular life and work of the local church, for large gatherings and evangelistic outreaches.
When our set lists begin to reflect these features I have no doubt that we will begin to experience a Pentecostal revival among those who worship and they will leave our meetings with thoughts of “were not our hearts burning when sang His praise?” And the unbeliever’s involuntary response will be “surely God is in this place”.
This is my desire for 2012 – for me, the band members in my church. I am passionate about seeking His presence, His outpouring and anointing so that Jesus may be lifted up high above all.
( Navaz is the Band and worship leader at Word of Grace Church. She has been a musician committed to worship for over 3 decades and even serves at city , and national worship Events.)