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How to Birth Worship Leadership
David Crabtree

More than 3000 years have passed since King David paused from his dancing to make a sacrifice as he transported the Ark of God—the place of God’s enthroned Presence—from its place of isolation to its place of prominence in the nation’s capital.

However, history’s course has been marked much more by sacrifice than by praise. There is an interrupting parallel between the sequence of events in the two books of Samuel and the events that constitute our worship history since the birth of the Christian church. Historically we have come out of the period of "ark isolation" into a time where in worship-God’s authority, provision and presence is being reestablished.

David, the man who became king, first became a man by discovering the heart of God in the context of worship. God, however, had already moved prior to David by raising a prophetic leadership voice that called for the rule of God’s heart. Samuel "prepared the way" for David as centuries later John "prepared the way" for Jesus.

Worship has always been the means by which God has sought to reestablish his rule and restore relationship with His people. The context of 1st & 2nd Samuel does concern itself with the immediate and intimate details of the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel, but it also carries potent illustrations pertinent to worship and worship leadership. It is with this worship leadership emphasis that we look again at the story.

The first book of Samuel opens with the account of Hannah, the despised one, yet doubly loved by her husband (1 Sam. 1:5-6), going before God, who she believed had caused her barrenness (v.6), and with unconscious emotion pours out her petition for a son.

In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD:   And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life" (Sam. 1:10-11).

Hannah is accused of drunkenness by Eli the high Priest and told to go and sober up! She stands her ground and is promised that she will receive what she asked for. Samuel is born, and Hannah, true to her word, returns her God-given gift back to Him.

I prayed for this child and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD. (1 Sam. 1:27-28)

I have often wished that God would "think ahead" and grant me what he wants for me before I have to struggle for it. It is only in hindsight, and sometimes only with "loud" hindsight, that I could have discovered that the very purposeful pursuing of what I believe God has laid on my heart has, in its tough passage, provided me with the heart of what it was all about. It is this very characteristic we call "heart" that is the focus of God’s intentions, and the source of relationship. In Hannah’s case, God was not just interested in the birth to a servant-hearted prophetic kingdom.

I was in two-day pastors’ gathering not long ago in Melbourne, Australia. Our purpose was solely to ascertain what God was saying about church leadership coming together to pray. One of the pastors made a comment that I will not forget. He said, "We’re not here to launch another program, we’re here to see what god is birthing&ldots;if we merely launch another program it will simply die, but if God births what is in His heart, what comes will bring life!"

Giving birth is an arduous and painful process, but the joy in what has been born puts pain behind. Hannah, with better tears cried out for a son. Ridicule resulted. Her perseverance paid off. She not only gave birth to a son, she mothered a prophetic leader "whose words never fell to the ground." Samuel, whose name means "heard of God" inaugurated a new kingdom era for Israel that led to the greatest king they ever had.

His birth brought to an end the "vision-drought" (1 Sam.3: 1) and opened up the nation’s "hearing heart." His first ministry call however, was to give a direct judgement word to his mentor and guardian, Eli.

Eli was not corrupt; he was weak. Corruption flourished under his weakness. His sons were flagrantly immoral and impervious to correction (2Samu. 2:22-25). Despite warnings (2:27-36) they continued to "treat the Lord’s offering with contempt" (2:17,29). In the midst of all this, Samuel continued to faithfully "minister before the Lord" (2:11) and continued to "grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with Men."

It is not easy ministering in situations where leadership is not perfect. It is even harder when leadership is weak or defective. In many situations our growing sensitiveness to the Lord can cry out for holy justice.

However, the chief lesson we can learn from Samuel is that despite the vulnerability of his youth and preciousness of his purity he chose to serve both the Lord and Eli with gracious humility, choosing to allow God to again "birth" the next step of kingdom action. As Samuel was obedient at each step, his faithfulness, rather than his enthusiasm, allowed for a greater favor from God.

In any ministry, and particularly the ministry or worship, the integrity of humble faithfulness is the key for the provisioning of the power of the Spirit. A servant’s heart in the context of trustworthiness is what God looks for in the endowment of spiritual authority.

"The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. And Samuel’s word came to all Israel."

The Christian church body hungers for the genuine heart of the Lord. Any substitute based merely on enthusiasm will deliver disillusionment. Worship leadership that carries with it unresolved relationship issues will bear its fruit of bitterness.

The sacred responsibility of every worship leader coupled with a humble one-heartedness with his or her leadership, is to draw the congregations into that place of one-heartedness with God.

Whether we like it or not, whether we are prepared for it or not, every time we lead worship we invite people to enter the intimate place of our relationship with God. We run that risk of having people actually looking into our own hearts. This is the very real issue of vulnerability.

If people feel uncomfortable with that exposed place of the heart, or sense that there is the existence of unresolved issues, they will either withdraw from entering into worship, or be very guarded during the worship experience. If your people trust your secret place with God as you lay it open before them in worship leadership, they too will enter that intimate place with you with openness, unity and joy!

In his book Worship His Majesty, Jack Hayford comments on the powerful process involved in restoring Adam and Eve. He makes the following statement&ldots;God’s redemptive program is found in worship.

There is an impressive symmetry in this. Man’s relationship and rule under God has been rooted and sustained in worship. Now, just when both seemed irretrievably lost God set forth a received plan. With unsurprising consistency, yet with an amazing simplicity, this plan also centers on worship! There is no show of power. No display of cosmic almightiness. No instant smashing of the serpent. No fury leveled at the guilty.

Instead there is an introduction to a humble act of worship. The redeemer’s grace seems to exceed even His power as he sets forth the recover for His beloved creature all that had been lost. Yet the program is not as one might expect. For its hidden power is in the reinstatement of worship rather than in a demonstration of might. The mightiness will flow from worship.

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