From the Chief Musician’s Handbook
From the Chief Musician’s Handbook

From the Chief Musician’s Handbook

From the Chief Musician’s Handbook

[Wisdom from the Word for Worship Leaders and Musicians]


The “Come Together” Times

An essential part of our life as born-again, Spirit-filled children of God and members of the Church is our “Come Together” times – a phrase which Paul uses often:

1 Corinthians 11:18
For first of all, when you come together as a church…
1 Corinthians 11:20
Therefore, when you come together in one place…
1 Corinthians 14:23
Therefore, if the whole church comes together in one place…
1 Corinthians 14:26
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

Hebrews also talks about the importance of these “Come Together” times:

Hebrews 10:25
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

We can only imagine what such “Come Together” times may have been like in the early church. They were surely quite different from how we do “church” today, yet, without a doubt, music and singing would have been involved:

Ephesians 5:18-20
…but be filled with the Spirit,
Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

This article focuses on what are usually the beginning parts of these church gatherings — the time of praise and worship.

Encounter with the Chief Musician

“To the Chief Musician” appears 54 times in the titles of Psalms and once in Habakkuk. The Hebrew word is “nasah” [H5329],  which means overseer or conductor. A music conductor must be highly skilled in music theory and composition and with each musical instrument employed.

Historically, many men probably performed this role during David’s reign and beyond. I, however, have always sensed that the Holy Spirit “moved” the Old Testament authors (2 Peter 1:21) to add this title as a way to direct our focus toward our Lord, Savior, Bridegroom, King, and our Great Symphony Orchestra Conductor.

All those who feel called to the ministry of leading worship would do well to experience a fresh encounter with the Chief Musician, much like Joshua did with the Commander of the Lord’s army (Josh 5:13-15).

Joshua had led many battles. The first battle was with Amalek shortly after Israel had crossed the Red Sea (Exo 17:8-16). It was quite an exciting battle. Joshua fought fearlessly, but Israel only prevailed when Moses held up the “rod of God.” When Moses’ hands were tired and he lowered the rod, Amalek prevailed. When he lifted that rod high again, then Israel prevailed. We are not told how many times Moses let down his hands, but just imagine how frustrating that would have been for Joshua!

“We’re winning! Oh no, Amalek is gaining on us! Wow, we’re prevailing again! Uh-oh, the Amalekites are hitting us hard! Hallelujah! We’re beating Amalek again…”

Finally, Aaron and Hur pulled up a rock so Moses could sit. Then they held up his arms until Israel had fully defeated Amalek. Moses built an altar and called it “Jehovah-Nissi,” which means “Yahweh is Our Banner.” I often wonder if Moses ever told Joshua what was really happening on the mountain. And if so, did Joshua believe Moses’ story, or did he just assume it was his warrior skills?

Forty years and many battles later, Israel now stands in the Promised Land. Here, Joshua has his first encounter with the Commander of the Lord’s Army. When Joshua first saw this Man with a drawn sword, he did not have the slightest idea who it might be. But, being the warrior that he was, Joshua blurted out:

“Are You for us or for our adversaries?”

The Captain answered:

NO, but as Commander of the army of the Lord, I have now come.”

In other words, “No, Joshua, that is the wrong question. I am not for you, and neither am I against you. I am the One in charge!”

Joshua fell down, worshiped, and then asked the right question, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”

The Captain proceeded to tell him to take off his sandals as if to say: “Joshua, this is going to be a new season for you. You cannot rely on your many past victories. Take off the footwear of all your previous experiences, put aside your warfare strategies, and surrender your confidence fully to Me.”

As worship leaders, we may have led many praise and worship services. However, for each worship service, we need a fresh encounter with the Chief Musician, who requires that we take off our sandals of past experiences and surrender all leadership to Him, the Great Music Conductor.

Proper Posturing for Worship Leaders

There is a proper and improper “posturing” (a conscious mental or outward behavioral attitude) for those who lead the song service. The posture of a shepherd is never to “drive” or push the sheep from behind like a rancher does with a herd of cattle. A wise shepherd tenderly leads from the front, and his own sheep hear his voice and follow. It takes far more grace, but this is the correct posture for worship leaders, and it will always be the most effective. To emphasize the futility of driving sheep like a rancher, I often (humorously) use this illustration:

“Pulling a noodle is far easier than pushing one.”

As worship leaders, we can easily discern whether we are “driving” or “leading” the sheep by observing our use of pronouns. A “cow driver” uses the second person pronoun, “you,” with strong imperatives: “You must sing. Clap your hands! Raise your hands. Lift your voice!” However, a “sheep leader” uses first-person pronouns such as I, me, my, we, us, and our. For example, “Jesus, I lift my voice to You,” or “Let us clap and make a joyful noise to our God,” or “Father, i love and worship You.”

However, we must remember that we are often marvelous imitators. It is very possible to mimic the posture of a shepherd by using the right wording, while on the inside, we are frustrated cow ranchers! The solution? As mentioned before, we must take time to meet up with the Chief Musician, take off our sandals, and humbly realize who should really be in charge. The Church belongs to Christ, the Heavenly Bridegroom. He is lovingly jealous over Her (2 Cor 11:1-3). As the Good Chief Shepherd, He would certainly not appreciate any cow rancher trying to drive and herd up His beloved sheep (see 1 Peter 5:2-6).

There are two portions of Scripture that can be used to visualize what the music and singing parts of our “Come Together” times can look like:

  1. Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple River (Eze 47:1-12)
  2. Psalm 95 which unveils a prescribed pattern for the progression of praise and worship


Ezekiel’s River: The Flow

A river and wind are two analogies we can apply to help us visualize the fluidity that should be experienced in a worship service. When a river stops flowing, it is no longer a river. Similarly, a wind that stops moving is just air.

In God’s Word, a river (John 7:37-39) and the wind (Acts 2:1-4) usually signify the moving and manifestation of the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, Jesus uses a similar analogy to also describe Spirit-filled believers (John 3:8). It is the anointing of the Spirit that will teach and train us (1 John 2:27). When we allow the Holy Spirit to lead and direct, that is when the praise and worship service will become fluid like a river and like a wind.

Years ago, when I was just starting out as a worship leader, an older pastor gave a very vivid lesson on how fluid a worship service should be — a lesson I will never forget. Those of us involved on the worship team and several other younger ministers were present as this pastor began his Bible study. As is my custom, I had my Bible open with pen and paper ready to take notes. (I have always been a chronic scribe.). The pastor told us to turn to a specific verse. We read it together. I wrote it down. Then he said, “Let’s turn to this verse.” We read it. I wrote it down. He did this for about seven or more verses, and I became very frustrated. The verses he shared were totally random. None of them connected in any way, shape, or form. There was no way to tell what it was all about.

Then the pastor closed his Bible, looked around, and asked, “How many of you are confused.” I was the first one to raise my hand!

He continued, “This is how some of you have been leading worship! Just like these verses do not connect, neither do the songs you have been choosing. For a worship service to be fluid, the songs must not be random. There should be something that threads them all together.”

Ouch! What an impact that lesson made upon me about the importance of a fluid song service! It should be a River that makes God’s people glad:

Psalm 46:4
There is a River whose streams shall make glad the City of God,
The Holy Place of the Tabernacle of the Most High.

Ezequiel is given a vision of a river that started as a mere trickle flowing eastward from under the Temple’s threshold (Eze 47:1-12). This trickle becomes a river that widens and deepens the further it flows. The guide leads Ezekiel 1,000 cubits (around 500 yards) further into this river, and the water is up to Ezekiel’s ankles. He leads him another 1,000 cubits, and the water is up to his knees. After another 1,000 cubits, the water is so deep that Ezekiel can no longer touch the bottom.

Ezekiel’s guide brings him back to the river’s bank where Ezekiel is surprised to suddenly see how many trees are growing on both sides of this river. Then, this guide mentions a fantastic fact about this river:

Ezekiel 47:8-9 (NLT)
Then he said to me, “This river flows east through the desert into the valley of the Dead Sea. The waters of this stream will make the salty waters of the Dead Sea fresh and pure.
There will be swarms of living things wherever the water of this river flows. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will become fresh. Life will flourish wherever this water flows.”

Life swarms and flourishes everywhere the river flows—even in the Dead Sea! Life! Healing, deliverance, salvation, reconciliation… This is precisely what every worship service should produce as we flow together with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.


Psalm 95’s Progression of Praise and Worship

It always amazes me that, even after 3,500 years, this psalm is still relevant to our worship services today. This is true because the Bible is the “Living and Abiding Word of God”—it will always be relevant for it is the same “yesterday, and today, and forever” (1 Peter 1:23; Heb 13:8).

In Psalm 95, we see the “Invitation” and three progressive “Movements” that are to flow together so that each successive movement is enriched by the previous one.

I like to compare this idea of a progression of praise and worship to the shifting of gears in a standard transmission car. If we skip gears or upshift too soon, the vehicle will stutter and stall. Downshifting too quickly can be quite jarring. I have experienced (and led) my share of “upshifted,” “downshifted,” and total “stall” worship services. This is most definitely something we want to prayerfully avoid at all costs—especially for the sake of the precious people of God gathered together.

Let’s take a look at these various sections of Psalm 95.

The Invitation:  “Oh Come…”

The phrase, “Oh Come…” is used in Psalm 95 as a preface to each of the first two movements (Psalm 95:1; Psalm 95:6). This invitation is important for it identifies a vital Scriptural Truth: we cannot come by ourselves!

John 6:44
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

How blessed we are to be invited!

Psalm 65:4
Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, of Your holy temple.

Here are two more “invitations” in God’s Word:

John 7:37-38 (KJV)
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
Matthew 11:28
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Just consider how amazing that God is inviting us into His very throne room, where we are surrounded by a myriad of angels who have been worshiping God from the very beginning. And yet He invites us to stand front and center on that majestic stage to offer Him our praise and worship with our feeble bodies and voices. How can it be? What a fantastic privilege! As David rightly declares:

Psalm 8:3-4
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?

A “Fixed” Heart

Realizing what a great privilege this invitation is should produce in us a passion for wanting to be prepared before the service starts by casting our personal cares upon the Lord (1 Peter 5:7; Prov 16:3) and gathering up all our thoughts and emotions in order to set all our affections on Jesus in worship.

See how Psalmist David prepared and “fixed” his heart:

Psalm 57:7-8 (KJV)
My heart is *fixed, O God, my heart is *fixed:
I will sing and give praise.
Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp:
I myself will awake early.

The word “fixed” in Hebrew is “kûn” [H3559] which means “to set up, to prepare, to be fixed, to be steadfast, to set in place, to be ready, to establish.”

The pre-service time is important “fixing” time for the worship leader, musicians, and also the whole congregation. When possible, playing simple instrumental music during those pre-service moments can transform the atmosphere. Encouraging people to come early to pray quietly and wait upon the Lord is also helpful. This is a vital time to step out of the flesh and into the Spirit. But, oh, how the flesh can distract us!

The Garrison of the Philistines

There is an Old Testament story about Saul that can uniquely depict this battle we have with the flesh. Samuel anoints Saul to be Israel’s first king. Then Samuel gives some very specific details of what Saul needs to do, who he will meet, and what will happen to him:

1 Samuel 10:5-6
After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying.
Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.

Samuel sends the newly anointed King Saul to the “Hill of God,” but there is a Philistine garrison (a group of soldiers defending a town or building). The Philistines can represent our flesh – the flesh that “sets its desire against the Spirit” (Gal 5:17 NASB). Each time we head off to our church’s “Gathering Together” times, we will always find ourselves face-to-face with an ugly “garrison” of flesh ready to resist us. Thank God for the Holy Spirit who empowers us to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8:13-14; Gal 5:16-25).

One way in which people can break through this “garrison” is with the help of the “group of prophets” (the praise and worship team), who have already been on top of the hill of God and are “coming down” to the people. They “prophesy” (sing, praise, and worship) both with their voices and with their instruments. Yes! Spirit-anointed musicians can prophesy musically with their instruments:

1 Chronicles 25:1-3
Moreover, David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophecy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. And the number of the skilled men performing their service was:
Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah; the sons of Asaph were under the direction of Asaph, who prophecied according to the order of the king.
Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp to give thanks and to praise the Lord.

Once King Saul meets this group of musical prophets, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him, and he begins to participate by prophesying with them. Note that Saul’s participation is critically important. A praise and worship service is not a spectator sport. Spectators will always leave the service the same way they came in. For those who participate, life-changing miracles will happen!

A praise and worship service is not a spectator sport.

It is while prophesying with these musical prophets that Saul is miraculously turned into another man. He is now ready to step into a brand-new season in his life – one that he would never have imagined. In a single moment, Saul was transformed from donkey care to Kingdom care! Hallelujah! Samuel tells him confidently:

1 Samuel 10:7
And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you.

In a single moment, Saul was transformed from donkey care to Kingdom care!

That should be the purpose of our “Gathering Together” times, right? We want our lives and the lives of those who come to our worship service to be completely changed. It is without doubt worth it to break through that “garrison” of the flesh so that we all may have a life-metamorphosis experience on the Hill of God!

2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being *transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The word, “transformed,” in the Greek is “metamorphoō” [G3339] which is where we get the word “metamorphisis.” Metamorphosis does not occur because of the tadpole or caterpillar’s efforts or learning. Metamorphosis is built into their DNA. Likewise, those who are born of the Spirit have a new DNA being formed within them (Gal 4:19; 1 John 3:9) by same Spirit who supernaturally formed the baby Jesus within the womb of Mary! For us, it is “Christ in [us], the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).

Now, let’s examine the three Movements to which, incredibly, we have been invited.

Movement One: The Praise

Psalm 95:1-5
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.

This movement focuses on God’s mighty works. It involves *shouts of joy, singing, clapping, dancing, jumping, and loudly proclaiming what God has done, is doing, can do, and will do. There is nothing quiet here! Here is another psalm that is akin to this movement of praise. [Note: This wonderful psalm is easy to memorize – something all worship leaders and musicians should long to do when they recognize that they are employed by the Chief Musician and not some human institution.]

Psalms 100
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

The phrase “shouts of joy” or “joyful noise” (KJV, ESV) in Hebrew is “rua” [H7321], which literally means “to split the ears with sound.” It is translated as “make a joyful noise, shout for joy, sound an alarm, blow a trumpet blast, make a battle cry of triumph.” It sounds like Movement One needs to have the volume turned up a lot!

Remember that the Great Commandment also includes loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and STRENGTH, and this also includes all of our emotions (Mark 12:28-34). How sad it is that in many churches, people consider that a sign of spirituality is the repression of emotions, and their worship services reflect that error.

Praise should be expressive, creative, loud, and even emotional! Even God is emotional:

Zephaniah 3:17 (KJV) [Songbook #374]
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty;
He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy;
He will rest in His love, He will *joy over thee with singing.

The phrase “joy over” is the Hebrew word “giyl” [H1523], which literally means “to spin round (under the influence of any violent emotion).” It is used to describe any vigorous, enthusiastic expressions of joy. Imagine that! God is so in love with us that He sings songs and dances over us, spinning around with vigorous and enthusiastic expressions of joy! Hallelujah! How much more we should dance and lift up shouts of joy!

Being the finale of God’s songbook, this psalm is the “loudest” of all:

Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!

Praise from the Hebrew Perspective

Various Old Testament Hebrew words are translated as “praise.” Below are some of these Hebrew words to help us better understand what God actually means when He commands us to praise Him. Here is a mind-blowing concept for worship leaders: Praise is NOT just singing fast songs!

Praise is NOT just singing fast songs!

  • Shebach [H7623]
    • to address someone in a loud tone, to silence an enemy by shouting loudly (c.f. Compare Psalm 8:2 with Matthew 21:16), to flatter, and to praise extravagantly.
  • Yadah [H3034]
    • to extend the hand, to hail, to signal to capture someone’s attention.
  • Halal [H1984]
    • to shine, to shout, to rave, to celebrate, to boast, to be clamoursly foolish, to act crazy (c.f. Psalm 34 title and 1 Samuel 21 “madness” or “insanity”]. Hallelujah comes from Halal. It literally means “Halal to Jah.”

The deeper we engage our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength in this first movement of praise, the more fully we can submerge ourselves in the deeper waters of the next movement. This is how the River gets deeper and wider.

Movement Two: The Worship

Psalm 95:6-7
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand…

This movement focuses on God’s character and who He is. It is more thoughtful, passionate, and personal. Here, the waters flow deeply, just as the river became for Ezekiel when his feet could no longer touch the bottom. At this depth, the river’s current will have more and more sway over our lives and in the time of worship. This is precisely what we should want.

The best songs during this movement have lyrics spoken directly to God rather than to one another. In other words, instead of “Let us worship the Lord,” it should be “We worship You, Lord.” Sometimes, during the last song of the praise movement, I will slow the chorus down and change lyrics to direct them toward the Lord with second-person pronouns (You) rather than third-person (Him) to usher in this time of worship.

Again, the deeper we engage our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength in this movement, the more fluently we can engage in the final and most important movement.

The Manifestation of the Spirit

In my experience, it is during this second movement of worship that the Holy Spirit of God often begins imparting His Nine Gifts to edify the Body of Christ gathered in that place.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
To another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
To another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits,
To another different kinds of Tongues, to another the Interpretation of Tongues.
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

Notice that these Nine Gifts are referred to as “manifestations” meaning that, through these spiritual Gifts, the Spirit is manifesting or revealing of Jesus to us just. This is exactly what Jesus said the Spirit would come to do:

John 16:13-14 (Amplified Bible)
But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future].
He will honor and glorify Me, because He will take of (receive, draw upon) what is Mine and will reveal (declare, disclose, transmit) it to you.

I have always encouraged worship leaders to pray often in Tongues. This is one of my favorite verses:

1 Corinthians 14:18
I thank my God I speak with Tongues more than you all.

Paul is not boasting about some unique ability he has. God would never allow pride like that! It is vital to see that this gift is available to all the dear children of God. Therefore, Paul is simply encouraging them to follow his example.

Prior to this verse, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 14:14-17
For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.
What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.
Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks he does not understand what you say?
For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.

What is the gift of Speaking in Tongues? Paul says that when a person speaks in Tongues, he is NOT speaking to men, but rather his spirit is speaking to God (1 Cor 14:2). What does it sound like when we speak to God? It sounds like prayer! Praise and worship are all about speaking and singing prayers to God and leading the whole church into communion:

1 John 1:3-4
That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

Paul seems very excited to tell the Corinthians about how and how often he uses this wonderful gift. He explains that sings with the spirit (in Tongues). I can just picture Paul and Silas singing in Tongues in prison:

Acts 16:25
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

Singing with the spirit (in Tongues) is something I love to do whenever and wherever I can!

Consider this: Would it not be wonderful to know what prayers the Holy Spirit was speaking through us in that unknown language? It certainly would be! And we can! Paul says this:

1 Corinthians 14:13
Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.

Hallelujah! The companion gift to Speaking in Tongues is the Interpretation of Tongues. If we are open to being used like this, imagine the wonderful prayers the Holy Spirit would be able to pray through us as we are leading the church in times of praise and worship!

I have experienced this while leading the praise and worship service. I usually pray in Tongues between songs (not directly in the microphone). At times, I have felt the Holy Spirit’s “prompting” (sometimes I may sense this as a shift in my prayer language – almost as if the language changed). When that happens, I may pray and ask for the interpretation of what I was saying in my prayer language of Tongues. On many occasions, I have been amazed at the unique prayers in English that just rolled off my tongue – prayers that are the result of the supernatural interpretation of what I had been praying in Tongues.

Worship – A Deeper Definition

Notice that there is a different kind of activity taking place in Movement Two. The call to worship also involves our body:

“O come let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”

In the New Testament, this is a clear connection between worship and bowing or kneeling. This can be discovered in the Greek. Look at this familiar scene with the wise men from the East:

Matthew 2:1-2
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,
Saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to *worship Him.”
Matthew 2:11
And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and *worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Greek word for “worship” is proskuneo [G4352], which is a compound word. “Pros” means “toward.” “Kuneo” comes from the root word “kyon,” which means “hound dog.” Together, they render this meaning: “to prostrate one’s self in order to kiss like a dog licks its master’s hand.” That sure paints a different picture upon our minds, right?

This Greek definition of worship reminds me of the woman who came asking Jesus to set her daughter free. Because she was a Gentile, the disciples (and even Jesus) kept turning her away. Finally, with her “great faith,” she comes and worships (“proskuneo”) Jesus:

Matthew 15:25-28
Then she came and *worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Worship does that! It poses (and humbly) presents us before our mighty God and Savior, and then there is no limit to what God can do!

So, with the image of a hound dog licking its master’s hand, here is what could be a ground-shaking truth for many of us worship leaders: Worship is NOT just singing a slow song!

Worship is NOT just singing slow songs!


It would be so simple if praise and worship only involved the singing of songs, but it is so much more than that. We have been created and redeemed to proclaim God’s praise:

Isaiah 43:21
This people I have formed for Myself;
They shall declare My praise.
1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Whole-heartedness is important, especially during this second movement of worship. It is so easy to allow our minds to drift off to all kinds of places even while we are in the very throne room of the God of the whole universe. This is why David often used the expression “with my whole heart” during his times of worship:

Psalm 9:1 (Psalm 86:12; Psalm 111:1; Psalm 138:1)
I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart
Psalms 103:1
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Jesus scolded the religious leaders for not being sincere in their worship (Mark 6:6-7), and He quotes from Isaiah:

Isaiah 29:13
Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.

The whole of Isaiah’s prophecy is quite frightening. It shows what happens when men do not worship God with their whole heart:

Isaiah 29:10-11
For the Lord has poured out on you
The spirit of deep sleep...
The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, “Read this, please.” And he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.”

Here is a thought: Could it be that this lack of whole-heartedness is why people fall asleep in church? Is this why people are forgetful hearers of God’s Word (James 1:22-25)? Or is this why the Word does not bring deep conviction?

However, the opposite is also true. When there is wholehearted praise and worship, people will be alert, attentive, and responsive to and doers of God’s Word.

Spiritual Service of Worship and a Renewed Mind

For this reason, worship should involve our whole being as we lay ourselves before the Lord as living sacrifices just as Paul told the Romans:

Romans 12:1 (NASB)
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

The very next verse explains that by this worship and giving of ourselves as living sacrifices, we will be enabled to hear God’s Word and understand His will from a renewed mind.

Romans 12:2 (NASB)
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

And that segues us directly into Movement Three.

Movement Three: The Word

In our “Come Together” times, this Movement is the most important of all:

Psalm 95:7-11
Today, if you will hear His voice
“Do not harden your hearts…
And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
And they do not know My ways.’
So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My Rest.’”

The promise we are given is that, if we hear His voice, we will enter into a realm of His Rest – a resting place of trust and the faith which “comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17). God fills with His glory that place of faith-rest in His sanctuary and at His feet:

Isaiah 60:13
The glory of Lebanon shall come to you,
The cypress, the pine, and the box tree together,
To beautify the place of My sanctuary;
And I will make the place of My feet glorious.

Having ears to hear “what the Spirit is speaking to the churches” (see Rev 2:7; Rev 2:11; Rev 2:17; Rev 2:29; Rev 3:6; Rev 3:13; Rev 3:22) is the end goal of our time of praise and worship. It is the time in which we cry out:

Psalm 85:8
I will hear what God the Lord will speak,
For He will speak peace
To His people and to His saints;
But let them not turn back to folly.

During the first two Movements of Psalm 95, we “mounted up” (Isa 40:31) with our wings of praise and worship to soar high in God’s presence. Now is the time to let our wings down to listen:

Ezekiel 1:24-25
…and when they stood still, they let down their wings.
A voice came from above the firmament that was over their heads; whenever they stood, they let down their wings.

This is the Movement in which we can be fully tuned in to what that “Voice” – the Voice of the Almighty – wants to say! Those who truly soared in worship will easily recognize that it is not the “pastor’s word,” but rather, it is the Voice of the Living and Abiding Word of God. When people listen with this kind of sincere faith in their spirit, that’s when the Word can work effectively within them:

1 Thessalonians 2:13
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

Serving at the Pleasure of God’s Word

Worship leaders must realize that the song service is not about singing the latest and greatest songs, nor is it the time to sing everyone’s “favorites.” Worship leaders must serve at the pleasure of what God wants to speak to His people!

Worship leaders serve at the pleasure
of what God wants to speak to His people.

I can recall how, on many occasions, I have been asked to preach. I spent time in prayer and had a message prepared to share, but just before the service, I was not fully sure about it. However, during the worship service, the songs that were chosen confirmed the message I was given, and I was able to share with the assurance that it was God’s Word and not mine.

There have been other times when I felt sure about a message I had prepared, but right during the time of praise and worship, the Lord completely changed up the message. So, while it is true that the worship leader serves at the pleasure of what God wants to speak, it is also true that the messenger of the Word needs to submerge himself in the Holy Spirit’s River of praise and worship. It must work both ways.

Power Line Poles

During the message, mature musicians and worship leaders should never feel that they are now “dismissed” from their duties. They should continue to carry the burden of prayerfully upholding the messenger and personally ingesting the Word.

E.M. Bounds (1835–1913), who wrote nine books on the power of prayer, said that mature church members who continue in prayer during the message are like Power Line Poles that hold up the electrical current wires so that the electric power reaches each home.

«Men in the pew given to praying for the preacher are like the poles which hold up the wires along which the electric current runs. They are not the power, neither are they the specific agents in making the Word of the Lord effective. But they hold up the wires, along which the divine power runs to the hearts of men…»

—“The Weapon of Prayer,” 1920.
[For more, see this article: ]

Mature musicians and worship leaders should want to be those Power-Line Poles throughout the entire meeting.

Sometimes (at the messenger’s discretion), there may be a musician who can skillfully accompany the message with non-distracting background music. This is Scriptural as well:

2 Kings 3:14-19
And Elisha said… “But now bring me a musician.”
Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches…’”

Remember, as we already discussed, a Spirit-anointed musician can prophesy upon their instruments!

Massage the Message

The ending of Movement Three during our “Come Together” times has but one simple purpose: to massage the message deep into the fibers of each hearer’s heart. Massaging is the key, for If the balm of the Word is simply squirted upon the surface, it can easily be rubbed off.

Remember the Parable of the Sower and the Seed? The first place Jesus mentions where the precious Seed of the Word fell was by the roadside. Here is what happened:

Matthew 13:4
And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.

Jesus says that those birds represent the “wicked one” [Satan] who “snatches away what was sown in his heart.” (Mat 13:19). The messenger of the Word can share a most powerful Word, but there are a whole horde of demons just waiting to snatch it away. This is why massaging the message is so important. It is the time to securely “bind up” and “seal” the Word deep within each heart so that, as Jesus’ disciples, we can become blessed “doers” (Jam 1:25; John 13:17) of God’s Word:

Isaiah 8:16
Bind up the testimony,
Seal the law among My disciples.

The manner and method in which this message-massaging actually takes place would be at the discretion and direction of God’s messenger. It could be as simple as ending in prayer, or there may be an altar call. In either case, the right background music or song can be very important to assist in the flow of the River. For this reason, taking time to massage the message into each heart should be a prayerful burden not only upon the messenger but also upon the musicians and worship leader. Then, as the anointing rests upon the musicians, they will be able to prophesy with their instruments to enable that River of God to continue to flow!

Psalm 46:4
There is a River whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.

Because of that River, “Life will flourish,” even in the deadest of seas! Hallelujah!

Ezekiel 47:9 (NLT)
There will be swarms of living things wherever the water of this river flows. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will become fresh. Life will flourish wherever this water flows.


Heavenly Father, You are seeking for those who will worship You “in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). We want to be the kind of worshiper that would catch Your attention as Your eyes “run to and fro throughout the whole earth” (2 Chron 16:9) in search of true worshipers. Father, we worship You for You are worthy, and all these things are created for Your pleasure:

Revelation 4:11 (KJV)
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Father, we recognize that the church’s “Come Together” times are extremely important in the grand scheme of Your “Eternal Purpose” (Eph 3:11). It is in those precious times that we can learn to breathe in Heaven’s glorious atmosphere. It is through these times that the River of Life can flow and cause Life to flourish both in us and in all those gathered in that place.

Dear Jesus, thank You for saving and redeeming us. We are the “redeemed of the Lord,” and we will “say so” with shouts of joy (Psalm 107:2)! Hallelujah! You have purchased us with Your precious Blood, and we want to glorify God in our body and spirit, which are God’s (1 Cor 6:20). We believe in You! We love You and rejoice with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

Be our Chief Musician, dear Lord! Direct us into new and creative ways of praise and worship. We submit ourselves and the talents bestowed upon us unto You. We are Yours!

Holy Spirit, thank You for raising up and anointing many God-fearing praise and worship leaders who will creatively lead the people of God – the Church – into fresh and new realms of encounters with God. Lead us ever deeper into that River of Life and allow it to flow through us to bring life to whatever and whoever it touches. Work in us “both to will and to do of [God’s] good pleasure.” Prepare us and adorn us as a loving Bride waiting for the Bridegroom at His glorious appearing when You will rapture us into Your eternal Kingdom where will praise and worship and love Jesus forever!

In Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.

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