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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I see worship as a major factor in bringing people along this continuum from unbelief toward knowing God. With the added factors of hearing biblical truth and having friends who can personally interact with them, worship is a powerful tool for convincing and convicting people of God's existence and his love for them. Many people have told me that their crucial turning point of becoming Christians has been during worship times.
Walter Heidenreich, the leader of a Christian movement in Germany called FCJG (Freie Christliche Jugendgemeinschaft), has visited Mongolia many times on missions trips. He tells the story of a Mongolian woman who heard a worship tape and unexplainably began to cry:
"In 1991 and 1992 I went to Anaheim, and John Wimber gave me quite a number of worship tapes. Some of these I took with me on my first journey to Mongolia. The story as I remember it was as follows: The very, very, very primitively furnished hotel that we stayed at on that first journey to Mongolia also had a very, very, very primitive red light bar in the basement. The lady working there was bored as she stood at the bar and we gave her your worship tape. Immediately she stopped the music and put in your tape. Never before had she heard of Jesus or Christianity at all, thus she didn't know that the tape contained Christian music. The atmosphere in the bar changed immediately when she played the worship music and the lady started to cry. Our co-workers talked to her and after that prayed with her. I can't remember if that lady became a Christian, we haven't seen her ever since. However, what I can surely testify is that she experienced the love of God in such a strong way through your songs that she was deeply touched and moved."
Here's another crosscultural example of evangelism through worship. I've had the privilege of going to the Vineyard church in Madras (Chennai), India. Every time I go, we conduct worship events in public venues and invite anyone who will come. Leaflets are passed out in the shopping centers and posters are put up all over town. We've been to several cities - Bombay, Pune, Goa and Bangalore. Amazingly, non-Christians come by the droves to these events. In North America, it's like pulling teeth to get non-Christians to a Christian concert. If you have earned the trust of a pre-Christian person, they might consider coming to hear Christian music.
But in India it's not like that at all! They love to listen to any kind of music, especially if it's a band from North America. There is a cultural bridge that has been built through the secular media. The Indian people are enamored with Western rock music. So we use that bridge for evangelism.
Many people who first joined the Vineyard in Madras came because they had attended one of the many worship concerts. After an evening of worship, a Hindu remarked, "It seemed as if that guy (the worship leader) knew God personally." When we sing to God as a loving Father, it is a refreshing picture for the Hindu who has only known of a distant god who is appeased by impersonal rituals.
King David was both a shepherd of Israel (see Ps 78:71) and "the man anointed by the God of Jacob, Israel's singer of songs" (see 2 Sam 23:1). This combination of gifts applies to us today.
Having a pastor's heart is essential for a worship leader. We care for the flock through our song service. We choose songs out of our desire to see people filled with God's love, walking under his protection and filled with his comfort.
When there is a tragedy in the church, we give people a musical language to express their grief. The lament is an important color in the spectrum of worship. We see many laments in the Psalms and many occasions for laments in the real life of our loved ones in the church. At any given point in time, a significant percentage of church members will be going through difficult times. Conversely when the church is celebrating a victory, we launch the congregation into joyfulness with jubilant songs.
The hands-on work of relating to people, counselling people and discipling people is a role that many worship leaders fill. Some worship leaders lean more toward a pure artist gift mix, while others are gifted pastors - they naturally gravitate toward spending lots of time encouraging and caring for others. Whether you are a people-person or a private person, you have to love people! Some of the caregiving issues for worship leader "pastors" are covered in other chapters of this book.
In summary, worship leaders have multiple functions - we invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit; we teach, prophesy and evangelise through the lyrics of our songs. Seeing worship leading through this multicoloured lens heightens our awareness of the breadth and depth of our ministry through song. Through our music, the Holy Spirit writes on the hearts of men, women and children eternal truths of many colors and hues.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.