- Amelia Carling
In His Presence
Some of our worship leaders have been going back to school recently! We are delighted to share another Guest Blog post this week, this time from worship leader and church member, Amelia Carling!
Several of our worship leaders and I are currently on a year-long training course with South West School of Worship. Based out of St Matt's in Plymouth, it aims to equip and train worship leaders from across the South West to enable them to take that knowledge back to their settings and hopefully make it the best it can be. (If you would like to talk to us about any of that, please do feel free.)
I wanted to share something with you that arose out of our first session. It has been on my heart ever since we met and has been challenging me in lots of ways. I hope that perhaps, there may be something in what I say that you can connect with too and encourage you in your walk with God.
Our first session was hardly a gentle introduction; 2 hours on the 'Theology of Worship!' But it was such an interesting time, with the speaker raising and discussing questions that were both relevant to us as worship leaders but also just as applicable to us all as everyday Christians. And this is the place from which I wanted to share with you.
Sung worship is a ministry that I feel is so important. It is central to my faith and is a special and essential thing for us to do as a church family. But I was challenged as to whether I had ever really thought about what sung worship does and how does it foster our relationship with God and His presence?
I think we will all agree that music has this incredible ability to stir our hearts and allow us to articulate emotions which very often we have no other way of expressing. But sometimes I wonder if we can be guilty of almost unconsciously relying on that, or the preacher's words, or the set-up of the service, thinking that this ushers in God's presence, forgetting the simple truth that God is there, in full, all of the time.
God is not 50% with us at the beginning of our services, holding back the rest, to see whether we play worship music in a particular style, say those particular words, or get to that really juicy bridge in that new song, with the great guitar riffs and drum beat, at which point He suddenly appears in full. No, He is here, 100% ready to meet with us before we even step foot into the door. Whilst we are all taught that God's presence is everywhere and is available to us at all times, it can be easy to forget this reality.
It is often not helped, when we are not in the right place to receive it. We can be mentally checked out, thinking about what had happened earlier that day, or what we're doing later on. A song may then be sung which starts to work within us to "realign and reposition our hearts to come into an awareness of God's presence. But it is our awareness of God's presence, not God's actual presence which is increasing.
The speaker said something that has stuck with me since. He said "Ultimately, GOD DOES NOT HAVE A PRESENCE PROBLEM, I DO!" He explained how the only person who can reposition our hearts to recognise His presence is us. Now there is a freedom in that for those of us leading worship, almost in that whatever we do (and we will always do our best), God's presence does not change, but far more importantly that for us, God makes himself fully available to us at all times!
In order to access Him, we don't need external factors, like fancy lights and music, or set prayers for that specific day. It's the simplicity of this that really struck me. God just seeks our hearts and for us to give whatever we have to Him. He just needs for us to be there, ready and willing.
What if my heart and your heart was in that place to receive right from the get go? What if each time we stepped into church, we were able to be fully in God's presence before we started? How amazing would it be if we could adopt that attitude in all our lives? To live with an expectancy of God's presence.
As we meet in church, may I suggest we take time to be in the stillness, to recognise the fullness of God's presence before we start singing. To take the opportunity to realign our hearts and try and build our awareness of God's presence now, so that we don't use the sung worship to 'warm up' or to hold back until we see if it ticks our boxes, but to stand fully in God's presence, knowing that all He wants is us and all we need is Him.
If that feels particularly difficult for you for whatever reason, can I encourage you to bring whatever you are carrying before the Lord and lay it at the feet of Jesus. He knows exactly what is on your heart today.
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