Featuring Dennis Jernigan Posted on March 4, 2008
'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven."
Matthew 6:9-10 NASB
I am a worship leader. Actually, the more precise term for what I do would be lead worshipper. I have been leading out in worship for well over 26 years now. Having received my college bachelor's degree in Church Music, I was well equipped in all things musically technical, but ill-prepared for the real world of ministry to the body of Christ by the time of my graduation. Due to the very nature of my own testimony (deliverance from same-sex attraction), I had never personally experienced leadership that helped me approach God in worship from my specific needs. In other words, there were no hymns addressing my needs. There was no one who ever even spoke of my needs in a way that seemed redemptive. In fact, as a little boy I overheard men in my church, that I respected, describe what they thought of someone like me. They didn't know they were talking about me – but I did. The last place I thought I could find help was in the church. After I graduated from college in 1981, I felt so hopeless and had a very real need to know the Lord intimately. Someone finally led me to that place of having my needs met during a time of worship outside of the local church. It was during a time of real, intimate worship with the band 2nd Chapter of Acts that I was finally introduced to a Jesus who could truly meet my deepest needs…and love me right where I was at the time…and love me enough to not just leave me there!
When I was first given the opportunity to lead others in worship, in a corporate setting, I was also given the freedom, the mandate actually, to see the people as my own flock. If those I lead are a flock, then I need to approach them as their shepherd. A good shepherd leads his sheep by example and never beats them into submission. A good shepherd leads his sheep to fresh pastures and deep, refreshing water. A good shepherd leads his sheep through hard times and prepares a feast for their nourishment. A good shepherd constantly reminds his sheep of who they are and of Whose they are! With that shepherd attitude in mind, I quickly developed a way to help me follow the Shepherd as I lead others in worship. When I prepare to lead others in worship I simply ask two questions.
"Lord, would you give me a sense of the specific needs of this group I am about to lead in worship?"
"Father, would you help me feel what You feel towards them?"
In these two questions I find great peace whenever I am preparing to minister to the body of Christ. What I have found to hold true, for these past 26 years (and which I suspect will hold true until heaven), is that there are always needs in the body. Born out of my own desire for freedom and because there were no songs that I knew of that addressed my needs for intimacy and healing, I began to simply seek the Lord with the desire for songs that addressed the needs of my people. As I walked in relationship with others while seeking the same intimacy of relationship with Christ, I began to hear songs that addressed the needs of my flock. These songs seemed to strike a chord deep in the hearts of hurting souls and seemed to aid the body in their own individual journeys toward wholeness in Christ. As healing came to a specific area, freedom came. As freedom came, worship was, and is, the natural by-product!
During this time (and I still do this), I was praying daily through the Lord's Prayer, praying over the needs of the body. One phrase that has always stuck with me that I think is vital for every lead worshiper to grasp is this: Your Kingdom come. Your kingdom come, Lord. As I prepare to lead others in worship, I seek to know God's will (clue: His kingdom come in our lives) for those I am leading. Sometimes I sense a particular group is dealing with shame. I simply ask the Lord to show me songs to help lead my flock out of shame and into cleanness of soul.
"Lord, what does Your kingdom coming to those in shame look like?"
There have been times when I sensed that some I was leading were considering suicide. On one particular occasion I asked those who were thinking of taking their lives to stand…and over 50 stood! But I was prepared to lead them to truth through worship. Recently a friend told me they had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, someone I consider much too young for this malady. They were weeping and in obvious anguish and fear.
"Lord, what does Your kingdom look like as it comes to someone who is dealing with Alzheimer's?"
What did I do? I asked the Lord to allow me to hear what He was singing over my friend…and a song was born. As I ministered that song to my friend (and about 400 others gathered in worship) two weeks later, many stood for ministry and freedom came. Open, unashamed, demonstrative worship exploded as a result. I really didn't do much leading that night. Just reminded those I was leading that the Lord was there. He was intimately concerned with every detail of their lives and that He is able to bring His kingdom to pass in each and every area of their lives.
What does the kingdom look like to someone who is depressed? What does the kingdom look like in a person's finances? What does the kingdom look like to marriages that are on the verge of collapse? Are you leading your people to the Kingdom or are you leading them to what feels good and seems to be popular for the moment? As a lead worshiper, I must be more concerned for the condition of my flock and passionately seek to meet their needs rather than doing what is popular or easiest. And I must become transparent as I lead. Remember, sheep follow a confident leader. What does the kingdom look like in your own life? Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and your needs will be met. Lead your people out of your own need. Let them see you need Jesus right before their eyes. Let them see you need Him just like they do. And let them see you walk with Him confidently in the midst of your own need.
Tag: Worship Leading
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