“One of the young men said, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who plays skillfully, a valiant man, a man of war, prudent in speech and eloquent, an attractive person; and the Lord is with him.” – 1 Samuel 16:18
There are many great worship leaders around the world today, but the most famous worshipper of all time still has to be David. His life has been a great inspiration to me over the years. From his simple faith in God as a young boy to the honest, relational worship in his Psalms. From his great exploits for God to his downfall in sin and his heartfelt repentance.
This one verse summarizes some characteristics which drew him to the attention of King Saul. I believe if we are to be great worship musicians or leaders people should be able to say the same of us. Let’s look at them in more detail:
If we are to serve God’s people effectively by leading them in worship it is essential that we are committed to becoming skilled in our craft. Skill on an instrument is nothing without the necessary character and annointing. However, without skill you will invariably distract people from God rather than helping them to worship Him. Being skillful is also more than just proficiency on your instrument. It’s about being able to use the instrument in a way that honours God and serves His people.
A valiant man
To actually lead people in worship requires boldness. Frankly, it is not that inspiring if the people who are standing in front of the congregation don’t look like they want to be there! Effective leadership (and good musicianship) requires a decision to be free in worship, be free on your instrument, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
A man of war
We need to realize that leading people in worship is not just a practical thing, it is a spiritual thing. In the Bible victory is preceded by praise, whether it be the musicians and priests leading the Israelites into battle or the New Testament believers singing songs followed by the earth shaking and them being filled with the Holy Spirit. When we step up and sing psalms to God or play our instruments in worship we are engaging in spiritual warfare, declaring to principalities and powers that there is only one God who reigns over all.
Prudent in speech and eloquent
This is an interesting combination. To lead a congregation in worship we must be eloquent: to be able to use words effectively in a way that will inspire and encourage people to God; to capture awesome mind-boggling truths about God and be able to put them into words that people can understand and will motivate them to worship God. However, to be effective we must also be prudent in speech: able to carefully select just enough of the right words to encourage people in worship without distracting attention away from God and to ourselves.
An attractive person
People only follow other people if there is something attractive about them. This is more than mere physical appearance. This is about visibly worshipping in a way which causes people to have a desire to do what you are doing. Psalm 33 says “praise from the upright is beautiful”. The most attractive people I know are the ones who freely express intimacy with God in worship.
The Lord is with him
The final and most important qualification. You can be the most super-talented musician of all time and the best-looking, most-eloquent person in all of history, but if God isn’t with you it means nothing. Worship is a spiritual thing. As such we must be full of His Spirit and operate out of His annointing. Ultimately our ability to lead God’s people in worship is more about our ability to follow Him than anything else. Remember ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5)