CityWorship song leaders, Teo Poh Heng and Amos Ang taught a workshop on developing a heart of worship and gave some tips on leading worship.
John 4:23-24 reads, “But the hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
In these verses, Jesus teaches that Christians are to worship God “in spirit and in truth”. This shows that worship is more than an outward act—it is something that begins from the inside of our hearts.
At a virtual missions conference organized by City Harvest Church’s The Harvest Network in November last year, CityWorship song leaders Teo Poh Heng and Amos Ang conducted a workshop on developing a heart of worship.
1. Worship God with our hearts
Worship must flow from within our hearts. It is not just an outward casual act of singing, our hearts must engage with God. When we sing the words of the song, it must move us and stir our entire being to love God more.
That is why we must not be distracted by our phones or allow our minds to wander off, preoccupied with concerns and things we want to do. That is not worshipping God with our hearts. Matthew 5:8 tells us, “ Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” “Pure in heart” here means that you are single-minded during worship, and your heart is focused on loving God and nothing else.
Worship cannot be mechanical or formalistic—it must be infused with a heartfelt commitment to the Lord.
2. Encounter God’s Presence
When we encounter God, we meet the person of God and experience Jesus. Every encounter with God draws us closer to Him and causes us to grow in our hunger for His presence.
Encounters are a beautiful part of our journey in developing spiritual hunger for God. It fuels our desire and our passion for His presence.
3. Read God’s word to cultivate lasting hunger
We discover God’s ways and His character by reading and studying His Word. When we read the Bible and soak in His Presence every day, we establish a lasting hunger for God.
4. Worship must be honest, sincere, and real
“Honest worship” is not based on how you feel but on who God is. Our God is great and greatly to be praised. Even if you are facing an enormous situation, God is always greater than that (Ps 147:5). We must acknowledge God’s greatness, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
5. Learn an instrument to worship God
When Christians get together to worship, there’s always music. So learning an instrument will help you to enhance your worship life.
Poh shared that he started out playing drums for the church in the early days. His cell group leader encouraged him to learn the guitar because they did not have a guitarist in the cell group so they were worshiping without music during cell group meetings. He decided he would plug that gap, so he picked up the guitar, not knowing that God was setting him up for his destiny. From that time, Poh started to develop a heart of worship and today, there is no way he can stop playing music and worshiping God.
He started as a cell group guitarist, and in time, became a cell group leader. He went on to lead a zone of 300 people, after which he became a music director, a songwriter, and eventually a worship leader in the church. He also oversees the church’s Guitar Ministry and serves as a mentor to the worship teams in the Chinese Service and the School of Theology (SOT). By the grace of God, Poh receives invitations to other countries to share about worship. Learning an instrument to worship God has totally transformed his life.
4 EFFECTIVE WORSHIP-LEADING TECHNIQUES
Singing well is only one of the many things a song leader must do in order to be effective. Poh shared four things a song leader can do to lead the congregation well.
1. Choose the songs way in advance
How early should it be? At least two weeks before the rehearsal. This is for the rest of the music team to spend time practising on their own.
Work out your sequence. You need to ask yourself, “What is the direction and goal for each song?” Working out your sequence means going into details of the time signature, tempo, key of the song, and how you want the song to progress.
Next, provide a YouTube link for the band. By watching the YouTube video, your band immediately gets the vibe and feel that you desire. A picture is worth a thousand words—a video produces a similar result. It will reduce rehearsal time and make the session more effective.
2. Avoid excessive talking
The congregation wants to focus on God, not what you want to say. Say the bare minimum to lead the congregation into singing.
3. Vocal signalling
Vocal signals like “sing it again,” “from the top,” and “from the beginning” are useful in song leading. If you want to repeat a portion of the song, you can pre-empt the congregation by saying, or singing, the first line of lyrics. This will lead the people to follow the song seamlessly.
4. Hand signalling
It’s useful to use your fingers to signal to the band which verse or chorus you’re going to sing next. You can also use hand movement to signal the change of key or when you want to move to the next song.
OBEYING THE HOLY SPIRIT THROUGH SPONTANEOUS WORSHIP
Spontaneous worship is singing something outside the words and melody of your chosen songs. It could be a melody or a portion outside the structure of the song. It is an outflow response of our worship toward God’s love, goodness, kindness, mercy and forgiveness. Even if you think you’re not so musically inclined, or maybe you are worried that you might sing off-key, you can worship God spontaneously and worship God with your own words.
Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church in Corinth because they were facing issues regarding worship and he questioned if they were doing it in a way that was edifying to the church body. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, he wrote, “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” Spontaneous worship testifies to the goodness and greatness of God, and it encourages and builds up fellow saints in the congregation.
Amos shares that many times while he is commuting from place to place, he would worship God. Sometimes he plays no music, he simply sing whatever he wants to tell Him.
How do we obey the Holy Spirit and move in spontaneous worship? To obey is to follow the commands or guidance from a person. When we engage in spontaneous worship, we learn to recognise God’s voice and be sensitive and aware of the leading of the Holy Spirit
We also learn to have faith and be bold to release or to act upon God’s given command. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “Without faith, It’s impossible to please God”. If we recognise His voice but do not do anything, we are not obeying. Therefore, we must be quick to follow His leading.
Jesus says that His sheep know His voice (Jn 10:27). We need to learn to recognise the Master’s voice and tone. That happens when we spend time daily in His presence, listening to Him and telling him our feelings about Him through a song, and hearing His response.
Psalm 40:1-3 reads, “I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in Him.”
All words and melodies should come from our hearts and our experiences. Our stories and testimonies will never be wasted. If we search our hearts deep enough, we will be able to find words that can truly express our love and thanksgiving to Him.
2 THINGS TO DO TO PREP AND SONG LEAD
Amos gives two pointers for song leaders
1. Listen to the song!
If it’s a new song, you will need to internalise the song. Ask questions! What is this song about? What are the lyrics talking about? How can the words bring about a revelation to the worshiper? Does any part of it relate to you?
If it’s a song you already know, then, what is God saying to you through that song? Sometimes, we feel that we have sung the song so often that we can get through it without thinking. However, God wants to give you a word in the season as you lead your church or your cell group.
2. Practice the song!
Worship God alone with the song again and again. Plan the flow of the song and write it down. Amos noticed that when Poh goes to band practice, he always has his lyrics printed out and he would have made notes all over it. He makes markings where and when he wants to give a vocal command or the line where God speaks to him. He noted that it is one thing we can all learn from.
While you listening and practicing the song, the song leader should also think about whether the key good is good for the group they are leading, and whether the length of your song is appropriate. Ask God if He has a word for the church, or what He wants to do in church that week. Finally, it is always a good idea to ask your fellow singers for their opinions.