Lecture 1: Overview of Worship Leadership Training
Course: Worship Pastors and their Teams
Hello, Everybody. My name is Carl Cartee. Welcome to the Worship Leadership Class, Biblical Training.org. My life for the last 20 years has been leading worship for the church, writing songs for the church, and being a shepherd for the congregation that God has allowed me to lead. I am teaching this class, eight-part series, about worship leadership. I am the Director of Worship here at Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, Tennessee. I lead the fellowship worship residency, which is a year-long training and development program for worship leaders. I am a Dove Award-winning songwriter, which is awesome, just kidding. I am a Dove Award-winning songwriter, I have recorded 13 albums of my own music. But my heart and soul beats for the local church and I am most at home when I get to lead worship for my congregation, that I have been walking beside and doing life with for years now. So, a big part of my life is encouraging, helping, training, and developing worship leaders, helping to develop the expression of worship in the local church context. I am super excited to be a part of sharing this information with everyone today.
A. A way of thinking about worship leadership
The class introduction: The overview of these sessions: I want to talk to you about a way of thinking about worship leadership that can help you in any worship context, to better lead the journey of expression in worship. I don’t want to tell you what to do, as much as I want to help you with ways of thinking. I want to engage more thoughtfully the mind, to explore more expressively the affections that are common to every believer.
B. Focus is corporate worship
The way people connect with God through corporate worship is where we will place our focus. Corporate worship in this series of classes will be our focus. There are more areas of human expression in worship to explore, but our work here will focus on the area of corporate worship leadership and other helpful ways that worship leaders can hone their craft.
There is an important point I want to make as we get started. My role is not to say everything. I wish I could, but these classes will be limited in their scope because they are limited in time. But what I want to do is remind you that these lectures can’t carry the weight of worship. It is impossible for them to do this. The best thing I can do is to be faithful to the story of God’s goodness in me; and I have spent my life trying to describe how good God is and doing as much as I can to describe his presence in a compelling enough way that other people will find for themselves an opportunity to try his goodness out, to see how good He is. As well as I hope to do, I confess that this is just a picture, it is limited, it’s clumsy at best. But hopefully, my picture will help you to see another dimension of who God is, because of who He has been in me. I think we fool ourselves when we think God needs us to really do anything other than that.
C. Zion National Park
We are going to have an awesome time together in this class. We are going to paint pictures and we are going to talk about painting pictures of how good God is. My favorite story is about a picture by an artist who was part of the exploration of the early American West. My family and I went on this RV trip a couple of years ago. I took my kids all across America. One of the most beautiful and compelling places to me was Zion National Park. It is a beautiful, beautiful place. I took my boys there and it was one of the things where the palpable presence of God was for me. I saw his presence there in a unique and transformative way, a transcendent way. I learned about this artist named Dellenbaugh. The early explorers of the American West always brought a photographer or painter with them when they were exploring the American West. This was late 1800s. So young Dellenbaugh was a man who was a painter on an expedition to explore what is now Zion National Park and Zion Canyon. He began painting Zion Canyon, he began painting the beautiful mountains there, recording what he had seen with his own eyes. Then he took the paintings back to the East Coast and there he showed them in the galleries of New York City. The people who first saw his paintings thought they were pictures of a fantasy place he had conceived in his mind. He was able to say, “This picture is representative of a real place and you could go there if you wanted to.”
For Christian creatives, a lot of our work is to do our best with the medium that we have; to first go and seek the presence of God for our own souls, see Him for who He is, discover his glory, look into his Word and then try and take the things that we have gotten into our own eyes and our own hearts and use it to paint pictures, the kind of pictures that would compel other men and women to go for themselves and to see how beautiful, how awesome God is. That is one of the jobs of a worship leader, painting a beautiful picture. In his own words, Dellenbaugh said something that was very inspiring to me. He said this about Zion Canyon: “There is almost nothing to compare to it. Niagara has the beauty of energy, the Grand Canyon of immensity, Yellowstone of singularity, Yosemite of altitude, the ocean of power; but this great temple, of eternity.”
I think you and I as worship leaders, we have a chance to paint a picture of eternity. A lot of times we’re asked to do it in four songs or 18 minutes, whichever comes first. But we are painting a picture of eternity and how powerful and how beautiful God is. That is what our job is.
II. Definition of Terms
We are going to need to do some definition of terms really quickly. I want to set into motion some of the ways I want you to start thinking.
Here is a good working definition of worship: The mind’s attention and the heart’s affection expressed. Definition of worship: The mind’s attention, the heart’s affection expressed. This is the working definition of worship of any kind – cash, cars, sex, power, position, fame. You can express your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection towards all of that stuff.
B. Biblical worship
That is when your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection is expressed towards the Living God of The Bible. John 4:24 talks about “Those who worship the Father in spirit and in truth, those are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” Further still, Biblical worship is defined across a spectrum in the Bible, beginning with the concepts of individual worship, reaching all the way across the divide to our gathered corporate worship expression. Both spectrums are clear in the Bible.
Individual worship. 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” 1 Peter 4:11: “If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever.” An understanding of individual worship: how you individually as a human being, express your mind’s attention and heart’s affection to God.
The Bible also encompasses a corporate understanding of worship, where the unified body of believers comes together across the spectrum, God’s people in specific places and times and seasons, in which the collective of his people corporately expresses a unified mind’s attention and heart’s affection to God. Exodus 7:16: “Let my people go, that they may worship.” The captivity in Israel obstructed corporate worship. We see examples of this kind of worship built into the Jewish calendar, the Jewish year, where God’s people gathered to remember his works and honor him in expression; Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles, big ones for the Jewish year, for The Old Testament. Even carrying through today, others are all representative of a corporate expression of God’s design for our worship. The Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is a corporate gathering of Christians. Theologian Edmund Clowney says of this day, “The worship of the new age had been ushered in.” Acts 2: The Church, the assembly for worship was praising God. That is exciting.
This is where we are headed with all our discussions in this series. All of these parts will come together under this banner: How worship leaders can best help the church do the thing that we are all made to do, glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Your mind’s attention and heart’s affection in practice takes on so many forms, but often it takes on the forms and themes that have been common in Christian worship for centuries. Psalm 96 says, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord and bless his name; day after day declare his salvation. Proclaim his glory among the nations and his marvelous deeds among all the people. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all other gods. All the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in the sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, ye families of nations, glory and strength.” This is a comprehensive view of who God is and how we express our feelings about who he is.
III. Outline of the Course
This class is going to take shape over eight studies, broken into a couple of groups. The first part is this: We will cover foundational components of worship leadership – who you are; your heart, the position from which you must launch every endeavor as a Christian worship leader, every aspect of your ministry. We have to start there because every other aspect and perspective for worship leadership must rest on the top of these beginning foundational principles.
The second part will cover more technical aspects of worship, leadership, communication, musicianship, preparation, ideas to help you bridge the understanding gap and experience gap for you and your congregation. We will answer some practical questions and offer you some best practices to help you.
A. The call to worship leadership is to be a shepherd and a servant
We will end every one of these sessions with answering these questions: What is the one thing we need to know? The call to worship leadership is a call to be a shepherd and a servant. It is not the pathway to anything else. If you have said “yes” to Jesus, if you have said “yes” to his calling to be a worship leader, then you have said “yes” to being a shepherd and a servant. That is the one thing you need to know. Why do you need to know that? The call is often confused with a call to perform, a call to significance through fame or a call to being celebrated for your art. Those things aren’t wrong, they aren’t bad. If that happens to you, that’s fine. They are just not part of your calling to be a servant. That is why you need to know the one thing.
B. Engage with this material and the Holy Spirit
The next thing we’ll answer: What do you need to do? I always want to leave you at the end of each of these talks with something to do – a thought to follow, a question to answer, an action to take. What do you need to do? You need to engage with this material. Where you disagree, find out why. Where you are convicted, respond to the Holy Spirit speaking in your heart. If you grow by it, thank God that it happened by his grace. That is what you need to do. Why do you need to do that? This material, as I have already said, is limited. I simply can’t cover in one class everything you might need to be a faithful worship leader.
What I can do is get you pointed in the right direction. This is a short-term class, you are a long-term project. I cannot fix you. I can give you tools. I am here with a few loaves and fishes that I offer to Jesus, to take it and bless it and multiply it and use it to feed his people.
How can I help you remember that? That is the final question we will answer every time. I use this little poem in my own life a lot. I read it all the time. Let me share it with you. It is a way poetically to express what it might feel like for God to use you as a worship leader.
“When God wants to drill a man and thrill a man and skill a man
When God wants to mold a man to play the noblest part
When he yearns with all his heart to create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch his methods, watch his way.
How he ruthlessly perfects whom he royally elects
How he hammers him and hurts him and with mighty blows converts him into trial shapes of clay,
Only God understands.
While his tortured heart is crying out and he lifts beseeching hands,
How he bends but never breaks when his good he undertakes.
How he uses who he chooses and which every purposes fuses him,
By every act induces him to try this splendor out.
God knows what he is about.
My encouragement to you is to remember, as we take this journey together, all of this is put in the hands of the Lord; that as we try his splendor out, we also trust his plan, his process, and his work to grow us from where we are to where he would like for us to be. By faith, by grace, through the power of The Holy Spirit, work in us.
We will end every one of these sessions like I am going to end this one now. I am going to read this prayer over you. Ephesians 3, starting with verse 17: I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how high and wide and deep and long is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Jesus Christ throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.