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Failure as the Starting Place for Worship

The pressure to be a worship leader today is intense! If someone who does not go to church started looking around at worship gatherings today, I think a general statement they could make would be that worship leaders are rock stars. I think that’s an easy assumption to make because I could make the same statement as well! But is that the goal? Is being a worship leader equal to being a rock star? I sure hope not. And Zac Hicks has a few things to say about this topic.

In Zac’s book, The Worship Pastor, Zac challenges this notion by sharing his own personal journey in this area and by digging into the Scriptures to give us a solid, biblical picture of what it means to be a worship leader. In this brief excerpt, Zac gives us a glimpse into where we should begin in our new venture into understanding what it means to be a worship leader.


Failure as the Starting Place for Worship

For the same reason, failure is the great and perpetual starting place for worship too. The worship of God begins only when the worship of ourselves ends, and acknowledgment of our failure hastens that ending. I imagine this is why hymn writer Joseph Hart (1712–68) included this verse in one of my favorite call to worship songs:

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
is to feel your need of Him.4

What does God require of His worshipers? What is our entry ticket into wor- ship? What’s the password? It’s “I need you, God.” As C. FitzSimons Allison said, “Restlessness, uneasiness, and dissatisfaction with ourselves is the only qualifica- tion for worship.”5 We can properly look up only when we are flat on our backs. Failure leads to a life-giving shift in posture, a change from looking downward and inward to looking outward and upward. And then the very hill that we know we can’t ascend becomes the mountain on which our hope lies:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord.
– Psalm 121:1-2

It is atop that same mountain that the angel took a despondent apostle John when he was weeping over the unworthiness of the whole world. And as their eyes ascended the hill, an elder cried, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able.” And John turned, lifting up his eyes to the mountains, and saw “a Lamb, looking as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:5–6). Atop the hill we could never ascend, the hill of Calvary, hangs the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world—the One with clean hands and a pure heart.

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? The Lamb answers, “I.”
And suddenly, our failure is swallowed up in worship.

4. Joseph Hart, “Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” (1759). Public Domain.
5. FitzSimons Allison, Fear, Love, and Worship (New York: Seabury, 1962), 27.


Taken from The Worship Pastor by Zac Hicks. Copyright © 2016 by Zachary M. Hicks. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

You can get this book from Zondervan and Amazon:

Zac Hicks is Canon for Worship and Liturgy at Cathedral Church of the Advent (Birmingham, Alabama).

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