Many people have the idea that contemporary worship music is of value only to the Church, a coded language to the living God. In fact, as renowned worship songwriter ANDY PARK explains here, worship songs can have a profound ministry in teaching the saved and evangelising the unsaved.
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In 1993 Gary Best took a ministry team to do some conferences and outreaches at a major European city that is known for its sordid red light district. On the team were many teenagers and young adults. One day they did an evangelistic outreach in the town square. Some of the members of the team were doing free artwork - sketches of people's faces and other things - to offer to anyone passing by.
During these activities, the team members were meeting people. Gary met three young men from Morocco. Almost immediately the discussion turned toward a debate over the Bible versus the Koran. So Gary steered the conversation away from an antagonistic tone. "I'm not trying to coerce you into believing anything. But if you're around tonight, come and listen to the music. We have a pretty good band," he said.
That night, in the middle of the town square, the band started off with a couple of worship songs. Then Gary stepped up to the microphone and shared for about three minutes. More than 200 people had gathered to hear the music. He knew that it would take much more than a nice musical presentation to draw anyone to Jesus.
"This is who we are - we're Christians. I know as soon as I say that, your first response is to tune us out. But we really believe what we're singing and we've experienced it. For us, this is genuine," he explained. Then Gary felt that God gave him an insight about the people in that city and their hunger for real love. "Listen to these songs. The love that you're searching for is what we're singing about."
After the band played about three more songs, Gary stepped up and gave some words of knowledge - insight from God intended specifically for a few people in the crowd. These words of knowledge were related to the lyrics of the songs. "There's a couple here - you were on your way to see a strip show. But you stopped to listen to the music and the last song riveted you." Gary could sense people being gripped by these words. There was a ring of truth that people couldn't ignore.
"As the band continues to worship, some of us are going to be walking around; if you'd like to talk to us, we're here." The team members noticed lots of people in tears.
Gary walked up to a guy in his 40s who had tears running down his cheeks. "Do you speak English?" Gary asked. The band had been singing the song "Father I Want You To Hold Me". The weeping man said, "I want to know the Father's love."
Joy, Gary's wife, had a long talk with the couple that had been on their way to the strip show. They didn't go to the show; instead, they talked about God and let Joy pray for them. At the end of the last set of songs, Gary invited people to stay and talk. Lots of people wanted to stay and talk about what they had seen and felt. They hadn't been wowed by a concert; they had been struck by the spirit of worship. It wasn't a performance; it was a heart cry.
At the end of the worship, Gary found the three young Moroccan guys that he had met earlier in the day. He thanked them for coming and realised that they wanted to spend some time with the team. When Gary told them the team was leaving the next day, one of the men said, "I want to know Jesus. How can I know him?"
"You can know him right now," replied Gary. So three of the team members led them to the Lord.
About a year later, Gary found out that two of these men didn't even go back to Morocco. They joined a Discipleship Training School with Youth With A Mission. After taking the course, they went on an outreach trip with the school.
Christians and pre-Christian seekers are drawn to genuine worship. Today more than ever our cultural climate calls for genuine worship rather than glitzy shows or dry recitations of theological truth. People know the difference between a dead religion and a living relationship. So when they see people deeply engaged in worship, they take notice.
They see people expressing themselves as one group, yet individually. One is kneeling, one is sitting quietly and others may be dancing. Someone is crying as a healing word comes to their heart. There is something tangible in the air, yet elusive. People aren't just singing to the ceiling, they are actually communing with God. When a pre-Christian who is hungry for God sees this happening, the light begins to dawn. Jesus came to give light to every person (Jn 1:9). God gives everyone the capacity to know him from the heart. So when the Holy Spirit is mingling with worshipers' hearts, the seeker can sense something divine.
The Engel Scale, developed by James Engel, a noted social scientist, identifies the different degrees of a person's resistance to Christ or acceptance of him. At the extreme negative end of the scale, a person is atheistic and strongly opposed to Christ. As he or she becomes open to Christian truth and entertains the idea that Jesus might be God, the person progresses toward conversion, or zero, on the scale. When the person makes a decision to receive and follow Christ, he or she moves into the positive side of the scale.