When someone stands (or sits) in front of a congregation to lead them in worshipping God, what’s their goal? I believe it is this:
To magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
David invites us in Psalm 34:3: “Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” When people walk into church service, they might be magnifying all sorts of things, from the superficial to the serious – deadlines, unpaid bills, an unkind comment from a friend, a lab test for cancer that came back positive, a “thump-thump” sound the car is making, the championship game this afternoon, a rebellious child, some besetting sin, or a million other details of life. What we magnify tends to absorb our time, energy, thoughts, and hearts. As we begin singing, I want them to help them remember that God is bigger than their problems and their joys, greater than their sorrows and their successes, more significant than their testings and their triumphs. Because we lose perspective so easily, I want to make God “bigger in their eyes.” God doesn’t become bigger – it just seems that way.
It’s like looking up at the stars at night. To the naked eye they appear like small, twinkling, harmless lights hanging in the sky. However, when we look a through a high-power telescope, we find out what they really are: massive spheres of raging fire, millions of times larger than the planet we live on. What a difference in perspective! The stars don’t change, but our appreciation of them does. Of course, knowing how big stars are may not impact our lives much. But knowing how great God is will.
So how do we magnify the worth, value, and significance of God in our hearts, minds, and wills? Following the example of the psalmists, I’ve found it helpful to think of three categories about God to focus on: His Word, His worthiness, and His works.
I had a discussion once with a friend about whether it’s ever appropriate to praise God’s Word. He grew up in a culture where Bible knowledge was an end in itself, apart from a relationship with the Savior it revealed. Bad experiences notwithstanding, God encourages us to thank and praise Him for His Word. God is a speaking God whose primary means of relating to us, outside of the Incarnation, is words. So we join the Psalmist in trusting in the God “whose word I praise; in the Lord, whose word I praise.” (Ps. 56:10) The longest song in Scripture (Psalm 119) is a glorious rehearsal of the ways God’s Word has affected, changed, shaped, encouraged, and ruled our lives.
So a wise worship leader isn’t primarily concerned about coming up with the most creative musical arrangements, the best video images, or some engaging personal anecdote. He makes sure that God’s Word is sung, proclaimed, reveled in, preached, explained, and treasured – all so that God Himself might be magnified in our eyes. Tomorrow, we’ll look at magnifying God’s worthiness and His works.