Worship Team Lessons from Ezra

What is our role? guy-worshipping

What is the role of a Worship Team?

I finished reading the OT this week.  Well I didn’t read the whole thing this week, I’ve been reading it since January.  I was totally blown away by many things I am so encouraging anyone to read thru the whole Bible…in fact…as a preview of things to come, in Jan we are going to be launching an emphasis on reading the Bible!  I was so amazed as I chronologically read thru the Bible and saw God’s hand, his sovereign plan of salvation come together.   It was amazing.

One thing I didn’t find?  A detailed description of how God wants us to run worship services, what music he prefers, or the exact role and duty of a worship leader.  Bummer.

But…I did find some occurrences of worship leaders and worship teams.  One of the most famous ones in the Bible was Asaph, and as he passed it on to his coming generations, the sons of Asaph.   They appear in many places in the OT.  One of them is in Ezra and Nehemiah.

Let’s look quickly at this story in Ezra 3:10-13.

10And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD,

“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”

And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.

The Israelites recently had spent 70 yrs in exile in Babylon, driven from their homes, Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple was in shambles.  Persian comes in and kicks Babylon’s butt and has mercy on the Israelites and says that they can go back to Jerusalem and rebuild.  Actually, to be more accurate in Chap 1 it says that the spirit of the LORD stirred King Cyrus of Persia to build him a house in Jerusalem. So, he tells them of this stirring of his heart and the people go back.  They build the temple the best they can, but due to the circumstances, it probably isn’t going to be as extravagently glorious as the old temple built by King Solomon.  Regardless, the people press on.  In v10 it says that after they had laid the foundation…

So we see that after they laid the foundation they call in the worship team!

They even sing Chris Tomlin’s “Forever”  🙂

What do we see here?

1-people stopping to give thanks and praise before the work is finished…don’t fail to give thanks for the small accomplishments GOD has done. Transfer the Glory….like CJ Mahaney says in his book Humility – give the glory back to it’s proper place – God – for anything he has allowed you to accomplish for Him.

2-people worshiping passionately. They sang “responsively” and they shouted with a “great shout”…BECAUSE the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.  They derived their joy in worship because of what God accomplished in step 1, for himself and His glory. It was HIS HOUSE.

3-we see other people missing it.  Others were weeping.  We will have people who miss it. And when I say “miss it” here’s the deal – we have to be faithful to not present ourselves – to present God.  We have to genuinely fixed on his glory in all we do.  Now, people will still miss it…we still have sin and pride here on planet earth and yes…even in Green Pond…

4-we see dedication. The sons of Asaph were worship leaders – that’s what their family did for generations. They were dedicated, they practiced, they improved.  We need to understand if God has truly called us to this ministry than we need to be dedicated to it.  We need to come to weekly practices having learned the songs. We need to come on Sunday morning with all our music printed out and ready to go.  There is a fine line here that many Christians tend to shy away from – the balance between focusing on the method/technique and the message.  We cannot ever obscure the cross with out method, but we must realize that if we aren’t dedicated and aren’t giving it our best that too can obsure the cross.  Tozer, as he usually does has some very strong words – “Oh brother or sister, God calls us to worship,but in many instances we are in entertainment, just running  a poor second to the theaters. That is, where we are even in the Evangelical churches, and I don’t mind telling you that most of the people we say we are trying to reach will never come to a church to see a lot of amateur actors putting on a home-talent show.”  Ouch.

but we have to be faithful like the Sons of Asaph worship team to thank God with passion for HIS glory and HIS purposes.

I’m a consumer of blogs – there is a great blog called Worthily Magnify and I sent it around to the WLs and Stacey and she hit on a great post, the author was talking about singers and instrumentalists in worship  in cultivating that attitude of bringing all glory to God.

“A lot of instrumentalists and singers on worship teams don’t consider themselves “worship leaders”. They see that as the job of one person, and their job is to provide musical back-up to that person as he or she “leads worship”. That mindset leads to worship teams who just stand on a platform, with their faces buried in their music, offering no real leadership to the congregation. My goal is to cultivate members of the worship team who see their role as being a worship leader alongside me. Their musical responsibility is secondary to their primary responsibility of leading the congregation in encountering the greatness of God. When this priority is made clear, the dynamic on your worship team and in your services will change.”

I think therein this post lies our role – “lead the congregation in encountering the greatness of God”.  That’s our external goal, but how do we do that?

It starts in our hearts.

Bob Kauflin says in his book Worship Matters (highly recommended and we’ll talk about resources for you all) – “I want to make it clear from the start that worship isn’t primarily about music, techniques, liturgies, songs, or methodologies. It’s about our hearts. It’s about what and who we love more than anything.  Here was my sobering discovery – I learned that I could lead others in worshiping God and be worshiping something else in my own heart.  God wants us to love him more than our instruments and music.  More than our possessions, food, and ministry. More than our wife and children.  More than our own lives.”  For us to be effective worship leaders, and that is all of us – singers, instrumentalists, tech people – we need to ooze this love for God.”

Isaac Watts once wrote : “The Great God values not the service of men, if the heart not be in it: the Lord sees and judges the heart; he has no regard for outward forms of worship if there be no inward adoration, if no devout affection be employed therein. It is therefore a matter of infinite importance, to have the whole heart engaged steadfastly for God”

That’s the goal.  If you aren’t there yet, and I know that when someone gives this kind of message it usually can be discouraging…that’s OK that makes you HUMAN.  We’ll get there together, and by His Spirit.


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