Earlier this week I asked a good friend and fellow worship-leader, Tom Baker, to write a guest post for my blog. I always enjoy conversing with Tom on facebook/twitter/blogs about music, theology, and Christian life. I respect his thoughts and opinions and think more people need to hear what he has to say.
Recently, I wrote a blog on how daily discipline (specifically in prayer and scripture reading) is beneficial for weekly worship. (This post can be read here: http://reluctantjonathan.blogspot.com/2010/12/disciplined-worship.html) I’m glad to have Tom write this as sort of a follow-up to that post because Tom is one of the people that I think best exemplifies time spent daily in the Word of God. His blog is proof of this: http://tombakerguitar.blogspot.com/) Now I’ll shut up and just let you read this wonderful post Tom was so kind to write for me:
My name is Tom Baker and I’m a worship leader. I am in charge of the praise band for the contemporary service at Trinity Hill United Methodist Church in Lexington, KY. Jonathan kindly asked me to share a bit about how I approach worship and I have eagerly agreed to do so.
One of the issues I have when it comes to worship, with regard to my role in the church, is that I am responsible for the logistics. I’m in charge of the band. I need to make sure all of the music is presented well and that all of the equipment properly works. Everything has to be in place. Things need to go smoothly so nothing distracts the congregation or prevents them from being able to connect with God.
This is what we do when we worship - we connect with God. The logistics aren’t that important. We connect with God - that’s the “what”. The “how” doesn’t matter much except insofar as it facilitates the “what”. Since I’m responsible for the logistics, they do matter (at least to me) so they don’t become an obstacle for anyone else preventing that connection to God. However, if my primary (or, too often, singular) focus is on the logistics then I cannot lead worship because at that point, I’m not worshiping. I’m just bogged down in the logistics. I get distracted from my primary purpose (worship) and get fixated on that which is less important (my guitar, the monitors, the words, a wrong note, feedback, etc). These things can distract me from my primary purpose of worshiping God and get me bogged down in the logistics of what is physically happening and what I’m physically doing.
Distractions are all around us. Our lives are filled with things that affect our connection with our Creator/Sustainer and hinder our worship. In worship we connect to God, that which is greater than us, acknowledging our dependence on God, praising what God the Almighty has done for us, surrendering our will to God, and offering ourselves as a living sacrifice. Yet, too often, this sacrifice has not been well prepared. We’re distracted. We lack focus and commitment. We’re not much of an offering.
I don’t say this to be mean. It’s just a fact I am no less guilty of than anyone else. But I’m working to correct this issue. One of the ways I do this is by reading Scripture daily. There’s something to be said for getting up in the morning and starting off your day in the Word. It helps focus attention on God before the day-to-day worries and distractions in this life beat you down. I know it helps me, at least. While the material conditions of each day may be unchanged by this act, I find myself far more at peace with them when I begin each day in the Word. Or, to put it another way, life doesn’t improve from a worldly perspective, but I’m better prepared Spiritually to deal with it.
Also, I very intentionally prepare myself for congregational worship each Sunday. I know the logistics of the Sunday service are going to distract me. I have to prepare myself to be able to focus entirely on worship in a very intentional way or I find that it is impossible to do so. Worship doesn’t (no matter how much we would like to think otherwise) “just happen”.
What I have found helps prepare me for worship the best is reading and meditating on a Psalm each Sunday morning before I pack up my guitars and gear to head off for church. The Psalms are wonderful because they help us to connect to worshipers thousands of years ago. It’s truly amazing to read what the Psalmists wrote for worship and compare and contrast them to what we do in our own services. One of the things that draws me most to the Psalms is seeing, within the context of worship, the presence of not only praises but also declarations of belief, concerns for God’s justice, and even lamentations. Worship has not always been exclusively done in a major key, so to speak. Sometimes I fear we conflate praise and worship, making shallow and superficial offerings of praise only, denying God our entire selves. We are to worship God with our entire beings, our whole selves.
Everything we do can be an act of worship, but we have to intentionally worship. As I said earlier, worship doesn’t “just happen”. We worship in an active, not passive sense. To do that requires intentional preparation and consideration. But when we do worship we don’t want to get bogged down with the logistics. The logistics don’t matter that much, only the connection. I urge you to intentionally connect to God in worship every day.