by Robert Weston Gilliard
(I wrote this entry to go on www.jamielish.com–amazing friends and mentors of mine. check out his site and music. I cherish each time God allows us to worship together. Thanks for your friendship and Godly wisdom Jamie. )
You can prepare a setlist, practice your songs for hours, and have the best band in the world, but ONLY GOD can take your song and break people. ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT can convict people enough to have them on their face at the altar–in a room full of dignified church people. I don’t care how good you think you are…you are not that good. And, I promise, you may be the one singing, but you have nothing to do with a supernatural response like that.
In my 7 years of leading worship, the only common denominators to this kind of experience were OBEDIENCE and BROKENESS on my part. It was the nights I practically crawled on stage feeling unworthy and sinful. Or, it was those nights that God broke down every plan I had for that service and told me to just follow Him. THIS WAS ONE OF THOSE NIGHTS…..
PRAYER & FASTING:
It was to be the last night of a 7-year ministry–and no one knew but me and the administrator. (we didn’t want to stack the crowd with people just coming to “see the last show”) After much fasting and praying, God had told me that He had a plan for me beyond this, BUT I had to take this step of obedience before He would move me or even share it with me. I cannot explain how hard it was to “let go.” This was was the place I learned how to worship and I was already grieving the loss like a death.
BE SENSITIVE TO WHAT GOD IS DOING:
What further made my heart heavy was that my sound guy/”right hand man” couldn’t make it. My drummer broke his hand and all my replacements fell through. If you are a worship leader, your first instinct is to hit the phones even harder. But after leading for 7 years, I have learned when God is at work. He ALWAYS assembles the band he wants for HIS night of worship. So, I surrendered my wants to His will. I began planning an acoustic night with: a real piano, a bass, 3 vocals, a guitar and a “just get through the night” sound system.
WORSHIP IS NOT MUSIC:
God lead me to go to the dollar store and get some items for each audience member:
> 6 notecards,
> 1 pen
> 1 trash bag
“God, this is our last service! I don’t want to do anything weird, and this is just getto!” that was my plea standing in the store aisle. But God had me in a state of complete obedience and faith.
A CORPORATE EXERCISE:
We sang our songs, and it came time for me to say a little something before the last song. I referred everyone to the items that were handed out–still wanting God to release me from having to execute this exercise. One card at a time, I had the congregation privately write things on each of the notecards that held them back from truly worshiping, letting go, or achieving what God has planned for them.
> Card1- Appearance: what physical attribute causes you insecurity?
> Card2- Personality: what is something about the way you relate to people that keeps you from approaching certain people or types of people?
> Card3- Praise: what fear, distraction, thought or person is an excuse for you to hold back in worship?
> Card4- Struggles: what is that “secret” sin Satan uses to shut you up and tell you that you are not worthy to worship?
> Card5- Experience: who is that one person you haven’t forgiven as Christ forgave you?
> Card6- LOVE: What was the one earthly thing that you love more than anything. Children, family, significant other, job, possession….This was where I broke down in tears knowing what I would later reveal and give up that night: I was sacrificing the ministry that had become my life and my service to God. (Still I am choked up as I am writing this.)
One by one, they were to put each of those cards in their trash bag. When all the cards were in, I had them tie the bag shut, hold it tight with both hands and not let go as we sang the words…
“You won’t relent until You have it all…my heart is yours…”
A DEFINING CHOICE:
Half way through the song, they were given a choice. They could keep holding onto that bag and take that trash bag home with them or they could come bring it to the altar, surrender it to God and leave it there.
Before I could get those instructions out, the Holy Spirit took over and the altar was flooded with people on their tear-stained faces before God. People were changed as they realized and let go of all the trash in their life and worshipped without any weights for the first time. “How He Loves” turned into a song of celebration and freedom like I had never heard!
THE LESSON IN ALL OF THIS…
God gave me this exercise, so that I could see that we do not come to worship services free. Distractions can be good things as well as bad things. We come in bondage of all of this trash in our lives. These are the weights that easily distract us from the course we should be running. We cannot lift our hands in worship until we let go of this bag of trash. It is a continual process.
A SONG FROM THIS GROUP:
Here is a link to a song that Leah Taylor and I wrote and recorded as part of a Bible Study we created for this group of worshippers. This song went along with a 4-week Bible study on how to Run to God–a precursor to this night.