Worship Ministry: Responding in Praise
Gratitude for Who God Is and What He Has Done
Key Verses on Praising God:
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." Ps. 100:4-5
Key Attributes of God Leading to Praise:
God is good, gracious, merciful, loving and kind, giving us what we don't deserve. He is mighty, doing great things in and through us. He is faithful, staying true to His promises.
Key Issues in Worship:
- It's about what God has done and will do, not what we do.
Jesus contrasted two worshipers in Luke 18:9-14 -- one who was self-righteous and the other who was humble. He made it clear in those verses that the worship God accepted was from the one who fell on God's mercy, realizing that in himself he could do no good.
- It all gets back to what God has done, even if He uses you to do His work.
Jesus reminded the seventy-two of this when they returned from a missionary trip and reported, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." Jesus acknowledged the spiritual victories but added, "However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." They could only do what they did because of the work God had first done in their lives. (See Luke 10:17-20.)
Key Focus in Praising God:
What can we thank Him for?
Responding in praise is only fitting when you consider who He is and what He has done. "Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!" (Ps. 147:1)
Thanksgiving, however, is not merely a good thing to do. It is commanded that we praise God, even in suffering. "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:18).
Responding in praise to God is not a matter of feelings. It is based on the reality of who He is and what He has done and will do. Circumstances do not dictate praise. It is a heart response to a God who is good, to a God who is mighty, to a God who is faithful, and can therefore be trusted to have our best interest at heart regardless of appearance.How is it that Job was able to say, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him?" In the early stage of his suffering he affirmed God's sovereign rights when he fell to the ground in worship saying, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job. 1:21).
Implications for the Worship Leader:
- In planning the worship service, consider and incorporate what it is that might generate a response of praise. Scripture gives us some possibilities: 1) God's Word (Neh. 9:3; Ps. 119:7, 164, 171); 2) learning of answered prayers (Ps. 28:6-7); 3) testimony of what God has done (From Genesis through to Revelation, God's Word shows people and the heavenly host responding in praise to the works of the Lord.)
- Praising God should never become routine or mechanical. It should issue forth from the heart so be careful you don't lull people's hearts to sleep. Use a variety of means to lead people in praise. Singing is not the only expression of worship.
- Guard against measuring success as a worship leader by how expressive people are. While we find references in Scripture of praise expressed by shouting, dancing, lifting up hands, and even clashing cymbals, not all instances of praise in the Bible manifested itself in these ways.
Remember, God looks at the heart, not merely the outward expression. People can look the part but their hearts can be far from focused on God.
Remember, praise is about attributing worth and thanksgiving to God, with or without feelings in any and all circumstances. People can be emotionally and socially caught up in a worship service much the same way they can be at a secular concert. But, what are they doing in their heart of hearts? Is it about the experience or about God?
Implications for the Individual Worshiper:
- The whole of your life should be a doxology of praise to the Lord, not just attending a weekly worship service or when you are around other believers. Spontaneously issue forth in praise throughout your day. Guard against compartmentalizing your life into "God time," "family time," "work time," etc.
- Watch that you do not fall into the subtle trap of using praise to lift your spirits, though that often is a byproduct of praise. The true motivation for praising should be a response to a God who is worthy of praise simply because of who He is. Guard against praising in order to get something in return. Can you praise God even if it doesn't pull you out of depression, even if it doesn't make you feel better, even if your circumstances get worse instead of better? Keep the focus on Him and you will be able to do that. If you focus on feeling better because you are listening to praise music or reciting everything you can thank God for, you will soon find yourself doing it less and less if it doesn't make you feel the way you think it should.