Examining the praise and worship phenomenon
Here I am to worship,
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that you’re my God
you’re altogether lovely
Altogether wonderful to me
Here I am to Worship – Tim Hughes
In April, eyebrows were raised at an advertisement in The Gleaner seeking the services of a trained praise and worship leader for the Harvest Bible Chapel in Spanish Town.
Some believers were of the opinion that worship should be voluntary and people should not be cajoled into doing so, while others questioned the genuineness of the person conducting the session, because they felt that it would be just another job for them.
Regarding the right or wrong of paying someone to lead in this dynamic session of ushering the congregation into the presence of the Lord, Family & Religion reached out to the Rev Carlene Bryan of the Dominion in Christ International Ministries Church, who said there is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring a worship leader for a church.
“It is not the norm, but given the fact that the church’s Helper – the Holy Spirit – is there in His office as Counsellor, a pastor can still find a suitable worship leader, if that is the only option open to him/her. The Holy Spirit is the greatest asset to the Body of Christ,” she said.
With the assistance of the Holy Spirit and some basic criteria, a pastor can tell the difference between a worship leader with a pseudo-spiritual front as against someone who maintains a consistent lifestyle of holiness, Bryan pointed out.
She said the qualifications of a worship leader will vary from church to church, but for her, there are some basic guides that must be adhered to when choosing one.
“The first criterion is that he or she must not be a spiritual novice. Instead, he/she should be a worshipper with the ability to lead other people into worship. The second requirement should be that the chosen worship leader should possess a deep and proven spiritual walk. A real worship leader should be one who is in the habit of daily surrendering his/her life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, regardless of prevailing circumstances or emotions. If a pastor is being led by the Spirit of God, this is not difficult to detect,” she said.
Bryan had a word for those who have negative comments regarding the payment of worship leaders. She said before criticising ministries that adopt the practice of hiring worship leaders, we should see what was done under the Old Covenant.
“Singers, musicians and temple workers, who were the Levites, were compensated through the tithe (Numbers 18:21). If they were paid under the Old Covenant, why should a ministry be berated for hiring a worship leader under the New Covenant that is based on better promises? Of course, it would be easier for the pastor to raise up people within the congregation to take on the role since they already know how to flow with the pastor and the people,” she suggested, adding that there is, however, no guarantee that volunteers would be any more committed.
The truth, she said, is that many church volunteers are quick to withdraw their service or attendance once a pastor does not capitulate to their demands or preach what they want to hear. In addition, she said it can be devastating for a church when someone in such a visible position leaves under negative circumstances.
“A worship leader who knows his/her bread and butter are connected to the position may be more committed to stay in the role. In this way, a pastor can demand the type of excellence that he cannot demand from a volunteer group,” Bryan pointed out.
She said too much emphasis is being placed on the worship leader to get us into the mood to praise and worship God. For her, every child of God is called to praise and worship God (1 Peter 2:9). Extolling the virtues of praise and worship, Bryan said praise is to be declared or manifested (Psalms. 66:8) and must be vocalised. She said it cannot be done with our mouths closed. She said the will must be exercised in praising God as there will be times when you don’t even feel to do it. Praise, pointed out Bryan, takes believers into a right relationship with the Father because it changes them.