In Vain They Worship (David Wilkerson)

God takes the matter of worship very seriously. It is not a light thing to come into God’s house, a place blessed with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified’” (Leviticus 10:3).

The Lord was saying, “I will not be treated as an ordinary person. If you are going to enter into my presence, you must come before me carefully and responsibly because of my glory and majesty.” So many mental distractions can take place during prayer and worship, especially when we are in the house of God. Jesus actually called people hypocrites who came into his presence mouthing words of praise but whose minds and hearts were preoccupied. He spoke directly to them: “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me’” (Matthew 15:7-9).

What about you? Most likely you are present in God’s house for at least an hour every week. So your body is in church but where is your mind? Your lips say, “I worship you, Lord!” but where do you allow your thoughts to take you during praise and worship? To family problems? Business matters?

You may argue that everything your mind focuses on is God’s business — your family, your obligations. Yet, keep in mind that the people Jesus addressed were worshipers who drew near to him with their lips, maybe even raised their hands and praised loudly. But where were their hearts, their minds, as they worshiped? If they were distracted in thought, then their worship was hypocritical — and worthless!

Do not take lightly his holy presence! We need to be mindful of the sanctity of God’s house and enter with a reverent heart.

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

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Be Enthroned (Neli Atiga, ENCS Music)(Guitar Chords)

C          F         Gsus   G
A multitude before You

C               F           Gsus G
As far as any eye can see

C           F            G   Am
In awe of Your wonder

C F     Gsus   G
We sing holy, holy

C               F                 Gsus   G
Every tribe and tongue proclaiming

C           F                     Gsus   G
Salvation belongs to our God

C                 F         G       Am
All the nations bow before You

C  F   Gsus   G
We sing holy, holy

C     F    Gsus   G
You are worthy, worthy

CHORUS:

C               F                         G
Be enthroned in our worship, oh God (x3)

Dm           G
Forever, forever

BRIDGE:

F                             G
Praise and glory, honour and power

F                 G
It’s Yours, it is Yours (X4)

 

© Neli Atiga, ENCS Music

Tips for Worship Leaders Preparing for a Funeral Service

  1. Chose the Songs Early

I have an established working relationship with my pastor that whenever he asks me to lead worship at a funeral service, he would select the same songs.

As a worship leader, you might think to yourself: “It is so boring to sing the same old songs again”, but I can think of a number of merits to this approach, the most important being that it cuts down the need for rehearsals. Indeed, if you have been involved in this role (of leading worship at funeral services) for some time, you would realise that there isn’t much time to prepare for the service. Often time, you get a call, and you go ‘live’ the day or day after, if not the very day you receive the call.

That said, sometimes, the family members of the bereaved may have a special request for a particular song/hymn to be sung during the funeral service. So, shortly after receiving notice that your services are needed, you will need to quickly establish whether the family members of the bereaved have a special request. If they do, you will need to check whether you have the chords to that song, and whether you are able to comfortably play that song. If the family members want to print the songsheet themselves (for example, as part of the entire programme booklet for the funeral service), you will need to give them the version of the lyrics that you plan to sing. That said, NEVER ask the family members to find the lyrics on the Internet on their own, otherwise, the audience could end up singing a different version of that lyrics from that which you are singing!

  1. Always Arrive Early

I always make it a point to plan to reach the wake an hour before the stated time of the funeral service. Firstly, leaving home earlier buffers me from an unforeseen traffic conditions. Secondly, my pastor also arrives early, and we always spend a couple of minutes running through the programme again, even though we’ve been worked together on several funeral services before. Thirdly, you will need to set up your guitar stand and test that you mike is working properly. Last but not least, the bereaved family members may want to have some face time with you; usually, it is to thank you for your time and service, and to check if there is anything you need from them.

Ten minutes before the service officially starts, I am typically on stage singing. I do this to warm up my voice, and to ‘introduce’ the songs to those who may not be familiar with them (of course, not everyone would be paying attention, since typically, people would be sitting everywhere to chat with relatives and long-lost friends, and it is only at the time when the service officially begins that people make their way to front). One reservation I may have about singing ‘impromptu’ before the service officially starts is that it could disturb people who are trying to have a conversation. However, to date, I have never had anyone complain about this. If you still have some reservation about this, one suggestion would be to perhaps lower the volume of your microphone.

  1. Avoid Spicy and Atypical Food Before the Service

You should avoid spicy food before the service, as it could affect your voice. Also, before the service, do avoid any food that you are unaccustomed to. Tthe last thing you want is to have to rush to the toilet mid-way while leading worship!

  1. Check That You Have Everything You Need Before Leaving Home

The items that you need to bring include:

  1. Guitar
  2. Guitar chords (I have all my chords printed on A4 paper, and I have them filed in a white folder)
  3. Songsheets (if it is your responsibility to print them. I’m fortunate – my church uses a songbook, which is my pastor’s responsibility to bring to the service)
  4. Music stand (never assume that the undertaker will provide a music stand. I have been to services where the undertake only provided one and which my pastor needed for his sermon notes)
  5. Portable light source for the music stand (Christian funerals are typically well lit, so I invariably don’t have to use my portable light source, but bring it just in case)
  6. Mint sweets (to soothe my throat after leading worship, but also to mask any bad breath, just in case I need to speak to bereaved family members after the service)
  7. Guitar tuner
  8. One extra set of guitar strings (just in case any break)
  9. A bottle of water (typically, people who attend funerals are served water, but you should bring just in case the family forgets to serve you)

If it helps, you should make a checklist, and check through the checklist before you leave home. This is to ensure that you have everything you need, especially when you are in a hurry, when there is a tendency to forget.

What Songs to Chose for a Christian Funeral?

My pastor sometimes asks me to help him lead worship during a funerals that he conducts, and he typically requests me to sing these three hymns (which would be interspersed between his message):

  1. Amazing Grace
  2. Blessed Assurance
  3. What a Friend We Have in Jesus

These songs are fairly well-known, so I have never encountered an audience that has struggled with these songs.

A few other hymns/songs that I would add to this list (that is hymns/songs that are pretty well-recognised, and which the audience are unlikely to have difficulty singing) include:

  • Because He Lives
  • Great is Thy Faithfulness
  • Abide with me

For novice guitar players, I need to warn you about ‘Blessed Assurance’. Most of the contemporary songs that we sing are played at 4/4 time, and ‘Blessed Assurance’ is traditionally played at 3/4 time. Hence, if you would like to play ‘Blessed Assurance’, you will need to know how to strum at 3/4 (waltz) timing. I learned this the hard way myself the first time I played the song at a funeral service. My pastor sang at the timing that he was familiar with (3/4), which made him seem as if he was singing ahead of me. As you can imagine, that was a rather embarassing experience, and the impromptu ‘solution’ that day was, of course, for me to stop strumming and to lead the rest of the song acapella.

The same actually goes with ‘Amazing Grace’. Traditionally, ‘Amazing Grace’ is played at 3/4 timing, but thanks to modern versions of the song which are played at 4/4 timing, I was able to pull off during the first funeral service that I led. However, these days, I play the song at 3/4 timing.

Incidentally, my pastor pastors the English speaking congregation, but sometimes, when he realises that there are a lot of non-English speaking people in the audience, he would add the Hokkien song ‘Hold My Hands’ (牵我的手).

In case you are not familiar, ‘Hold My Hands’ was written by Pastor Lim Ghee Tiong (a pastor from Sarawak), and a Youtube video of the song can be found here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIUEnY8udKA

Now, if you find the above hymns to be too dated, and wish for something more contemporary, I can recommend the following songs:

The reason I recommend ‘In Christ Alone’, is that there is a particular verse in that song that deals with death, and which goes like this:

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

Similarly, for 10,000 Reasons, the last verse concerns death, and it goes like this:

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Hope that helps.