I recently watched a documentary that discussed the nutritional famine that many people are facing in the world – but not in the way that one might expect.
In general, people have more access to food than ever before. Despite the average person’s body weight being on the rise, our bodies are actually starving to death because the so-called “food” we are taking in is completely void of all nutrients. It looks like food, smells like food, tastes like food, and fills our stomachs like food, but it is not nourishing us.
I have personally prayed over meals, “Lord, nourish our bodies…” knowing full well that the fried stuff with cheese that I was about to partake in was not going to provide any nourishment to my body at all. I was just hoping that God would take my bad choices and turn it for my good, for the glory of his name. Amen.
Of course stepping on the scale the next day, I realized that it didn’t work and I needed to go work twice as hard at the gym to undo the harm done to my body. Our bodies need food to nourish us. Real food. Not just stuff that resembles it. Similarly, our spirits need true nourishment from real spiritual food. Not just experiences that look like, sound like, and feel like spiritual food, but leave them malnourished at the end of the day.
Jesus drew this parallel when he quoted scripture saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Later in John 4:32, he told his disciples that he had food they didn’t know about, speaking of how time with his Father was nourishing him and sustaining him. Again, in John 21, in one of the final accounts Jesus has with his disciples, he tells Peter that if he loves him, he will feed his sheep.
Still today, the same call echoes out to all who have surrendered in obedience to the call of God to shepherd his people.
Worship leader, this is your charge. Not to sing songs that are void of spiritual nourishment, but to offer real spiritual food within the context of corporate worship in song.
Feed His sheep.
I grew up in churches where most sermons were accompanied by a clever acrostic so that congregants could more easily remember the message. This quickly turned into fun little bracelets and shirts that said things like “F.R.O.G”, which stood for “Fully Rely On God”. It didn’t matter to us that the “On” shouldn’t have been in the acrostic, because “F.R.G.” just didn’t have the same ring to it.
So for old times’ sake, here is one for all the worship leaders out there who desire to more effectively offer substantial nourishment to the congregations they are leading.
4 ways to F.E.E.D. people in corporate worship.
Formative: Music is formative in nature. It powerfully shapes us as we listen to it and sing along with it. It takes words where they cannot go on their own. It helps us to remember facts and fuses truth and experiences into our hearts and minds in a very unique way.
Because of this, we must guard right doctrine in our songs with all diligence. We must champion it in our churches, not only by choosing songs that are saturated in beautiful, gospel truth, and overflowing with scripture, but also ordering our songs in the most effective ways to narrate the gospel story in our worship services each week.
As we do this we are shaping our people’s view of who God is and what he has done, as well as who we are in light of these truths.
Expressive: We are all naturally expressive people, it just depends about what.
Our bodies were created to naturally express the enjoyment of our hearts. We saw this just recently in different ways as millions of people across the country gathered around their TVs to watch the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If your team was winning, you were shouting with excitement and clapping your hands or doing some kind of fist pump in the air. If you were losing, you were pounding your leg, booing, groaning and jumping up with disgust while wringing your hands. If you found a commercial amusing, you laughed loudly, slapped your knee, and maybe even rolled on the floor a bit. Or if you were fond of a certain type of you were eating while you watched, you may have grinned a bit bigger than normal and let out a bit of an ecstatic “Mmmmmmm.”
What we do with our bodies is not only shaped by our hearts, but it also shapes our hearts. It is not only putting on display our affection for God, but is actually stirring up new affections for God. Encourage your people to express their adoration and praise to the Father bodily. The Bible is full of examples and commands to do this; from lifting holy hands, to kneeling in humility, clapping, shouting loudly, dancing, and more. Of course this will look different for every person, personality and context, but encouraging your people and giving them permission to express themselves to God in worship with their bodies should be a regular part of your leadership.
Excellent: God deserves our very best and people are easily distracted. Striving to use your talents as best as you possibly can for the glory of the Lord is not only incredibly spiritual, it’s also overwhelmingly practical.
As worship leaders, we should shoot for excellence in both our music and our character and choose team members who are strong in both areas as well. Talent doesn’t matter much if you lack character. God is not pleased with how well you can play an instrument if your heart is far from him. People will have a hard time following you if you are not following after God with all you are. At the same time, having a team of people full of integrity, who love God with all their hearts, but are terrible musicians will end up distracting people from the message. Strive for excellence on your team, both in character and talent. God is big enough to give you both if you ask in humble prayer and are diligent to pursue it.
Diverse: Jesus will be praised for all eternity as The Lamb that was slain to redeem for God people from every tribe, tongue and nation. (Revelation 5:9)
Heaven will not be a sea of English-speaking Caucasians who love Hymns and acoustic folk music. They will certainly be there, but they will be sprinkled in amongst an ocean of other nationalities, languages and musical preferences. We will all gather together around the throne of our Savior to sing a new song. If this is what eternity looks like, why would we not want to start preparing for it? All the rest of the world is melting together and folding on top of each other in new ways every day, but Sunday mornings in our churches remain what Dr. King called “The most segregated hour of the week.” Pray and ask God how you can lead out in displaying his love for diversity. What does your leadership from the platform look like? Do you need to add a few songs or change some arrangements? What needs to change? If we love Christ, we will love his people. We will work hard to serve and lead them in the best way possible by refusing to offer spiritual snack cakes when they’re starving for true nourishment.
We will hold high the inspired word of God in the songs we sing. We will artfully give a vocabulary of praise to our people. We will help them behold Christ, and in doing so, we will help them become like him.