King David is often presented as a great Biblical example of a worshipper, perhaps due to his composition of dozens of psalms. However, this “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) reveals some essential attributes of effective worshippers that are important for us today. In environments that offer the time, leadership and engagement needed, worship becomes a powerful vehicle for helping people connect with God. These five important elements of effective worship help to cultivate such an experience.
They come to us from a story in which Saul recruited David as a musician when he was troubled by an evil spirit, so that David’s playing could drive it away. They were, however, the observations of Saul’s servant who clearly understood the significance of the five traits described in 1 Samuel 16:18. Of course, this resume led David to ultimately succeed Saul as the ruler of the nation of Israel. Effective worship flows from a heart that expresses these same characteristics with intent.
1. Skill. The word here is the same as for knowing God intimately. There was an intimate knowledge of David’s musical craft. Similarly, we can’t expect our playing or singing to be optimised if we are content with our opportunity and fall short of offering our best. Sadly, many settle for being good, without becoming great, because of false modesty, a lack of vision or the mediocrity of others around them. As with spiritual mentoring, musical mentoring, will require discipline which needs a purposeful investment of time if we are to give our best.
2. Strength. David was a man a valour; another translation is ‘might’. His ability to conquer Goliath as well as to see an evil spirit driven from Saul through his music was because of his anointing. For us, the power of the Spirit energises our skill and makes it a powerful praise weapon in the hands of God. I have seen demonic deliverance, physical healing, Spirit Baptism, prophecy and salvation happen when leading worship or just playing music, because God uses me as a conduit through which His Spirit will move. Purposeful praise showcases the strength and power of God in Spirit-filled worshippers to see lives changed.
3. Spiritual Warfare. When we have musical skill and spiritual anointing, we need an active application of faith that confidently expects God will do great things (just as when we pray Scripturally for needs). David was a man of war and our spiritual warfare is active, not passive. Songs with words based on Scripture are a source of faith for people to respond and believe for breakthrough in personal struggles and needs. Musical worship, too, is offered in faith so that the Spirit’s presence in us and in those we lead will develop a unity of passion and an engagement with God’s manifest presence to see lives changed. A praying worshipper who is conscious of their leadership responsibilities will create an atmosphere of responsiveness to God in which spiritual gifts will flow.
4. Speech. The servant noted that David was “prudent” in speech. Being discerning, careful and well-considered is not only reflective of a godly heart, but it also presents that heart in the best light. Avoiding exaggerations, generalisations, over-simplifications, negativity and criticism needs us to be mindful of holding to a positive, optimistic and faith-filled attitude to life. This backs our playing and singing with the lifestyle to match and it also helps to foster camaraderie, unity and leadership. In worship leading, especially, our wisdom, faith, soundness and sensitivity all help to engage participants.
5. Shine. The notable appearance of David speaks to us of the need to present ourselves, or to shine, well. Great body language, good preparation and smart dress will engage people. Soo, too, will the integrity and excellence with which we present the overall package of a worship experience, especially in public. Remember, Spirit-filled people are naturally charismatic! We shine more naturally and more brightly, when we simply reflect Christ in us outwardly to others. Being professionally proud of what we bring is a key component of godly submission, where humility allows no room for smugness. Pride can too easily beset a team, where talent can override the need to elevate Jesus, rather than ourselves.
Admittedly, the larger a worship experience, the greater the need to work within parameters set by leaders. Our respect of other team members, including those above us or working under us will help them – and us – to excel, too. These five keys to effective worship can, however, transform any praise context and facilitate a better and healthier experience of God who is, after all, the object of our devotion.