Tonight the earth got a glimpse of heaven. Tonight worshipers from countries numbering in the double digits gathered with one purpose in mind – to worship the Lord. A group from South Korea had traveled the farthest – 8 or 9 of them. There was a sense of unity and family as people poured into the sanctuary at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas for the National Worship Leader Conference brought to us by Worship Leader Magazine. I met people from Texas, Idaho, Georgia and Washington State. All were happy to be in our fair city despite the sauna-like temperature. They know what they will experience spiritually far supersedes whatever physical discomfort the weather can bring. They are expecting incredible things to happen in the presence of God. Tonight did not disappoint.
The evening began with Phil Wickham – just a young man and his guitar. He led that sea of worshipers into the presence of God with a sincere humility ending with the thundering praise of How Great Thou Art! It was like we were handling something very old and priceless. (Hymns are still anointed and still for today, folks! They bring a color to worship that nothing else can. They have stood the test of time. Give them a contemporary feel, but use them!)
As he stopped playing the guitar and the voices rang out unaccompanied — it was as if heavens gates had opened. Sweet, strong harmony rang out unashamed as hands were raised in a boldness that felt like an army just stood up. There was a majestic power present that can only be described as supernatural.
Then, Pastor Steve Berger of Grace Chapel in Franklin, TN began to speak about the experience he and his wife had as they lost a child in death. He unpacked Psalm 40 as he talked about the New Song birthed while in the pit. He and his wife held on to God as they went through that horrible ordeal and God taught them some things through His Word about the experiences of life and the unfathomable place their son had gone to – Heaven! Together, they wrote down the things God ministered to their hearts and today it is a book called Have Heart – Bridging the Gulf Between Heaven and Earth.
Although he said many thought-provoking things, there was one statement that cut like a knife. He said we sometimes get tired of waiting, thinking God is taking too long to take us out of our “pit” experience and we look for another way to get ourselves out. The problem is – salvation from anything in our lives only comes from God. Immediately I thought of situations of my own life that I “found” another way to solve and wound up creating another mess bigger than the original situation! It’s like Sara telling Abraham to sleep with Hagar to have a baby that God promised she and Abe would have – but it wasn’t happening fast enough. What a mess that became! This Examiner had to repent. Right then and there!
Then, the Grace Chapel praise team, led by worship pastor Jonathan Allen came out to minister and they were amazing! The audience was enveloped in a blanket of some of the sweetest voices ever heard. They used solos in the worship (to some this is taboo!) and the voices were heard, not just seen – like a lip synching situation. There was total blend, dynamics, style and (dare I say it?) — feeling! There was accuracy in rhythm, harmony and lyrics. There is no substitute for skilled musicianship. It doesn’t matter how many computers and software packages we can “use” to simulate it. There is no substitute for honing your craft. What if David had no skill as he played the harp for Saul who was tormented by spirits? The Bible is careful to make sure the skill level David had is highlighted. It is more than just a notion. Anyway — should we give God less than our best?
The evening ended with Keith and Kristyn Getty of Ireland. They write modern day hymns full of Celtic identity. As the conference choir accompanied them, they sang of experiences with God that define who we are as true believers, the people of God. Hebrews 11 was the foundation scripture of one of the songs and they sang about those that gave their lives, but never got to see the promise. I was suddenly faced with how much my life is still so full of ME! I still live areas of my life as if my life is my own – when in fact, I gave it to Him.
It’s official. The first day of the National Worship Leader Conference is just as the song says – the start something BIG!